In this guest post from one of our board members, Associate Editor Felicity Matthews discusses the importance of ethical responsibilities to our sources, and offers advice for researchers trying to navigate these tricky waters.
In May 2014, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) launched a legal challenge to secure all of the recordings that were a product of the Belfast Project, a programme of oral history conducted by Boston College in the US intended to provide an account of the Troubles. Recorded between 2001-06, the ‘Boston Tapes’ comprise a collection of interviews with over fifty paramilitaries from the IRA and Ulster Volunteer Force. Crucially, interviewees were promised lifelong anonymity; and with the safety of this promise, many interviewees were candid about their involvement in a range of illegal acts. One such act was the murder of Belfast woman Jean McConville by the IRA in 1972; and in 2011, the PSNI launched a legal bid to gain access to the relevant recordings. Continue reading