BELFAST (Reuters) - Northern Irish police are seeking to obtain all the material compiled by Boston College about the province’s conflict, some of which was used by police during the shock detention of nationalist leader Gerry Adams this month.
Police questioned Sinn Fein leader Adams after arresting him under an investigation into one of the province’s most notorious murders, a move that stirred fierce political reaction in Britain and Ireland.
Adams, who was released without charge, said material from the archive known as the Belfast Project was used by police during his questioning in the 1972 death of a mother of 10, Jean McConville. Police were able to gain access to material relating to McConville’s murder after lengthy legal action.
Most of the archive remains sealed and Boston College has offered to return interviews to the former militants who provided them, after some expressed concerns about their safety or legal exposure.
“Detectives in Serious Crime Branch have initiated steps to obtain all the material from Boston College as part of the Belfast project,” the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said in a statement on Thursday.
“This is in line with PSNI’s statutory duty to investigate fully all matters of serious crime, including murder.”
The arrest of Adams was among the most high-profile political events in Northern Ireland since a 1998 peace deal ended decades of tit-for-tat killings between Irish Catholic nationalists and mostly Protestant pro-British loyalists.
Adams was held for four days and police said they were sending a file to the Public Prosecution Service for it to decide whether he should be charged with the murder.
The Sinn Fein leader denies any involvement and it is expected to be several months before any decision is made whether to charge him or not.
On his release, Adams played down suggestions his arrest could threaten the power-sharing government or undermine confidence by Irish nationalists in police neutrality.
Researchers at the Massachusetts university interviewed 26 Irish Republican Army members and 20 members of the opposing Ulster Volunteer Force in an oral history project that ran from 2001 to 2006. All were promised confidentiality until their deaths.
Adams called the oral history project “an entirely dubious project” by “disgruntled, anti-peace process individuals who represent no one whatsoever.”
Reporting by Sam Cage, editing by David Evans