for handover and the effect of DP's interviews will undoubtedly be compounded by their contents.
First of all there is the likely human cost. People are likely to go to jail for things done in a conflict that we were all told was over and which had been ended by an agreement. That is important because the Troubles ended not in victory or defeat for one side or another but in a draw, a compromise and in that situation it is usual to draw a line under the past and move on. That was suggested and agreed during the talks that led to the final deal. Someone on this site made reference to the agreement at Weston Park which allowed for a general amnesty for all offences prior to 1998. Whatever happened to that pledge?
Second, the same people, as well as the researchers, are also likely to face violent recriminations from the IRA for talking to Boston College and thereby breaking IRA rules forbidding, on penalty of death, revealing secrets outside the organisation. So imprisonment and death are the immediate consequences.
Thirdly there is the political fallout. Anyone who has studied the case at the centre of this affair, the disappearance of Jean McConville, knows that all the paths lead in one direction, to the door of Gerry Adams. Now Adams has been the dominant force in Provisional politics since the early 1970's and the peace process is, without doubt, largely a product of his efforts.
But he has made enemies along the way, not least recalcitrant elements left over from the old RUC who deeply resent the policing reforms that became part of the peace process and they particularly resent the loss of the old Special Branch, the RUC's political force which was seen as Unionism's front line in the fight against the IRA. I have reason to believe that it is these elements in the new force, the PSNI, elements that some call jokingly the Continuty RUC, who are behind these subpoeanas.
If these interviews are handed over I can say, without compromising the contents, that there is no way that the authorities will be able to prosecute junior players in the McConville disappearance without including Adams on the charge list.
If Adams is charged think about the implications. The peace process was made possible because Adams was able to lead the IRA into a series of huge ideological compromises. For instance the Provisionals now de facto accept the principle of consent, which says that N Ireland will remain British as long as a majority of its people want it. The traditional republican stance on this has been that the consent principle is overridden by the principle of national self-determination, i.e. the will of the Irish people as a whole to break with Britain and to establish an independent entity on the whole island of island.
This will was expressed twice, once in 1919 and again in 1921 when in island-wide elections a majority voted for complete independence. The IRA got its mandate to wage war against N Ireland on the basis that these votes were flaunted in favour of the principle of consent on a small part of the island, i.e. the North which opted out of the new arrangements to stay British. In other words the IRA claimed its right to use violence because partition, justified by the consent principle, overturned the will of the people. It claims the right to kill and bomb in the name of democracy and it is why, despite the passage of time, that the physical force element in Irish politics has never gone away.
Abandoning all this, as Adams & Co did during the peace process, was a very big deal indeed and it caused ructions inside the Provisionals and a split in the ranks which still festers, But without this compromise the peace process would not have worked.
So now we have the prospect of Adams being put in the dock by the same government with whom he made this hugely significant compromise deal. This prospect goes to the heart of the age-old debate between constitutional and physical force nationalism in Ireland. Constitutionalists argue that peaceful negotiation is the way forward and this is the path now followed by Adams and his allies; the physical force wing argues back that you can't make deals with the devil; the devil will always betray you and so you can only trust the gun.
The sort of outcome that I have described above is manna from heaven for the physical force camp and should Adams be indicted for the McConville disappearance, as is a distinct possibility, the consequences for the Good Friday Agreement are obvious: it would be impossible for Sinn Fein to stay in government if their leader is dragged into court by a police force and a government with whom he made this compromise because the loss of face would be too much to bear; and the dissident IRA argument, the theologists of continued armed struggle would claim vindication for their central argument which is that you can never, ever trust the Brits.
The extraordinary thing about the BC subpoenas is that both Boston College and the US government are fully aware of all these implications. Boston College effectively opted out of the legal fight months ago in what has to be one the most shameful shows of academic funk in recent American history (in fact if I had not leaked the story to the New York Times I suspect the interviews would have been quietly handed over with no fuss at all) while the US government has been impervious to the argument that by supporting the subpoenas unconditionally the Obama White House is putting in danger an agreement that its two predecessors, the Clinton and Bush administration, put in place. Go figure!