Riverdalian in the thick of global privacy fight

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Riverdale resident Ed Moloney dedicated his 2010 book Voices from the Grave: Two Men’s War in Ireland to “all those who shared their memories with the researchers from Boston College.”

But now he is concerned that paramilitaries from both sides of a decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland may be at risk for sharing their tales with the group. 

More than 3,000 people died during what is called the Troubles, a conflict between British loyalists and Irish republican groups that began in the 1960s and led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. 

Starting in 2001, Boston College set out to document the war with oral histories in what it called the Belfast Project. Anthony McIntyre and Wilson McArthur, two activist-turned-researchers from opposing sides of the conflict, conducted interviews with what is estimated to be dozens of participants. 

“These are the guys that went out to do the bombing, the killing. What did they think?” Mr. Maloney said in a recent interview, describing the question the Belfast Project set out to answer. 

They conducted their interviews in utmost secrecy. They promised not to reveal their subjects’ names until after their deaths and even Mr. Moloney, who ran the project from 2001 to 2006, said he does not know their identities. 

But in May, British authorities, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, subpoenaed Boston College for two of the recorded interviews. And now Boston College is fighting back. 

The institution, long known for being at the forefront of collecting and studying Northern Ireland’s history, has refused to hand over one of the recordings on the grounds that it violates an agreement between the college and the interviewees and poses a risk of serious harm to those individuals named in the tapes.

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