POLICE attempts to access a secret vault of interviews with scores of Troubles terrorists have been delayed after a renewed legal attempt to block the PSNI.
The police, who are reinvestigating the IRA murder of Jean McConville in 1972, have already won a series of legal challenges to their request for access to interviews held at Boston College in Massachusetts.
Detectives believe that the interviews contain details of how the mother-of-10 was murdered and came under pressure to reinvestigate the atrocity when it emerged in 2010 that former IRA commander Brendan Hughes had told researchers that Gerry Adams personally ordered Mrs McConville’s murder.
The Sinn Fein president, who denies ever being a member of the IRA, has denied Hughes’ claim.
Journalist Ed Moloney and IRA man-turned academic Anthony McIntyre were responsible for most of the interviews, which were given by former paramilitaries on the understanding that their sometimes candid contents would not be released until their death.
The PSNI initially requested access to the vault last March and since then has faced a series of legal challenges to its request, initially from Boston College and then from Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre.
After a series of court battles, the First US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that the interview tapes should be handed over.
That decision was criticised by leading Irish American figures and by Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre.
However, it was welcomed by both unionists and the family of Mrs McConville who have not given up on their quest for justice.
At the time of that court ruling it was expected that the tapes would be handed over within weeks.
However, a statement released by Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre said that two attorneys acting for them had filed papers on Monday in the First Circuit Court of Appeal.
The legal papers requested a rehearing of their case “en banc”, that is before the entire bench of the court rather than a panel of judges.
Such rehearings are only permitted where there is an issue of great public importance at stake.
Among Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre’s arguments are that the case has significance in that it gives a foreign police force greater power over US citizens than American law enforcement agencies.
Their submission also argues that as the PSNI is about to get access to the tapes through a mutual legal assistance treaty between the UK and USA, the case has implications for other subpoenas from any of the 62 countries which have similar treaties with the US.
Mr Moloney said that the lawyers were working pro bono on the case.
A PSNI spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment while legal proceedings are continuing.”