DUBLIN (Reuters) - Dolours Price, one of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) bombers convicted of the 1973 attack on London's Old Bailey and later a vocal critic of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, died in her home in Dublin overnight, a family friend said on Thursday.
Price, along with her sister, served eight years of a life sentence for the car bombing outside the Old Bailey Central Criminal Court in London that wounded more than 200 people, part of an IRA campaign to try to force British forces from its province of Northern Ireland.
Price and her sister went on hunger strike in a British prison in a 200-day campaign to be moved to a jail in Northern Ireland. They were force fed and eventually repatriated to the province to serve their sentences.
The IRA disbanded after a 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of conflict between Catholic Irish nationalists seeking union with Ireland and Protestant loyalists determined to remain part of the United Kingdom. More than 3,000 people were killed.
In recent years, Price was caught up in a dispute over a confidential interview she gave to researchers from Boston College, one of dozens given by former fighters from the Northern Ireland conflict.
Interviewees were told their words, believed to give details of possible roles played by current political figures during the Northern Ireland conflict, including Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, would remain sealed until their deaths.
Her death clears one obstacle for the release of the material she gave to the archive to police in Northern Ireland.
However, U.S. authorities would not immediately comment and Boston College said it was inappropriate to speculate on how her death would affect proceedings.
The researchers - journalist Ed Moloney and historian and ex-IRA member Anthony McIntyre - insisted the interviews would not be immediately handed over to police, describing Price as a friend and a valued participant in their project.
"The interviews are the subject of a stay imposed by the Supreme Court of the United States and that stay remains in place until that court, the highest in the land, decides otherwise," the pair said in a statement.
"There are other subpoenas outstanding and as far as we are concerned the same issues affect them as they did Dolours Price's case and we look forward to continuing the fight with renewed vigour to stop the remaining Belfast Project interviews from being handed over."
NOTHING TO FEAR
Exactly what Price may have said about Adams for the archive is unclear.
Another IRA figure interviewed for the archives, Brendan Hughes, died in 2008, paving the way for Boston College researchers to publish a book in which Hughes connected Adams to the 1972 death of Jean McConville.
The widowed mother of 10 was killed by the IRA on suspicion of being an informer.
The book was published in 2010, and that year Price also tied Adams to McConville's death in a newspaper interview.
The Boston College researchers to date have declined to discuss what Price may have told them for the archive project, however.
Adams, a member of Ireland's parliament, told reporters on Thursday he has nothing to fear from the college's material and offered his sympathy on Price's death.
Irish police, not naming Price, said they were investigating the sudden death of a woman in her 60s in Dublin late on Wednesday evening. They said there was no initial indication of foul play.
Price had two children and was once married to Hollywood actor Stephen Rea.
(Reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin and Ross Kerber in Boston)