Court battle over Troubles stories

The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to settle a legal dispute over the release of the tape recorded interviews of people involved in violence during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

The case involves the governments of the United States and United Kingdom, as well as Boston University, and the perpetrators and surviving family of a 1972 IRA killing.

Here’s a quick summary of the details from the Boston Globe. Here’s a video report from the PBS NewsHour.

There is some irony here. The case has been working its way through the courts at the same time Ireland’s Bureau of Military History has made available online more than 1,700 witness statements from the revolutionary period 1913-1921, as we detailed two posts below.

Were there any legal attempts to have those statements released to prosecute events that had happened decades earlier? Is there a secondary issue of considering these matters as crimes or as war-related?

I certainly understand the surviving family members desire for justice. And as a journalist I have frequently argued for the release of any material that sheds light on public events. But I also understand the BU researchers’ desire to keep their word to the people who came forward to give statements, just as I would want to protect a source. I also have some sympathy for the witnesses who shared their stories in the belief their remarks were being kept secret until after their deaths.

It’s an interesting and thorny case.