"The Belfast Project at Boston College has collected an enormous archive of material on Northern Ireland over the past 40 years. Its most controversial project is a research programme that has seen people directly involved in the troubles give recorded testimonies of their experiences.
The interviewees are primarily from a republican background but also includes some loyalists. The recordings were carried out by former IRA volunteer and prisoner Anthony McIntyre in conjunction with the journalist and author Ed Moloney. Those interviewed participated on the basis that the tapes would be stored in the archives of Boston College and published only after their deaths.
This caveat of publishing posthumously was the basis of the project as the interviews were for the main about illegal activities. The first glimpse of the historical significance of these recordings was evident in the release of “Voices From the Grave” a published account of loyalist David Irvine and republican Brendan Hughes’ testimonies. These were first hand accounts not only of activities but also the motivations of two key figures in their respective movements. While at times they make very unpleasant reading, from a historical point of view these testimonies are a great insight into why people got involved in paramilitaries and how the troubles not only began but evolved. This project has the possibility to bring our understanding of the troubles to a new level given these direct testimonies of those involved."
So? Isn't this just great? Well, no. The British government wants the documents as well as tape recordings and they collaborated with the US Department of Justice as well as US Federal Appeals Court to get them. The implications? Well, if you do research on any topic, which is in part gathered with a promise of privacy, anonymity and care, at some later date that deal might be off. More implications (click more)!
What's a scholar of contentious politics to do?