Belfast Project: UK Supreme Court to Hear McIntyre’s Appeal

Boston College St. Ignatius Gate

The UK Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of Anthony McIntyre, the former IRA member and principal researcher for the Belfast Project, the oral history project gone wrong that I covered extensively over several years. I’m not going to review the history of the case here. I’ll just say that after the UK authorities made a request for tapes that, one speculates, include McIntyre’s confessions of participation in crimes during the Troubles, and after the United States obtained and produced the tapes, McIntyre sought relief in the UK courts. So far he has been unsuccessful, although the courts have so far kept the tapes under seal until appeals are exhausted.

Since it has been a while, I’ll refer you back to a post from more than seven years ago that gives my basic view: at least in a criminal case, there is no “oral historian’s privilege,” and therefore the project was flawed from the beginning. There was a lot of historical interest in the oral histories of participants in the Troubles, but the organizers of the Project got the interviews by making promises the law wouldn’t let them keep. That said, the UK Supreme Court decision may end up focusing more on errors McIntyre says the Northern Irish police made in the request for judicial assistance than on the privilege questions.

I will keep my eye on the UK Supreme Court case, which I think might well be the last decision having to do with discovery (unless the European Court of Human Rights weighs in).

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