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9 May 2014
• Wee Oscar’s Twitter account: https://twitter.com/Wee_Oscar
Five-year-old Oscar Knox passed away on Thursday
Oscar Knox, the County Antrim boy whose long battle against an aggressive form of cancer captured the hearts of many people in Northern Ireland, has died.
Oscar, who was five, died on Thursday after a two-and-a-half year battle with neuroblastoma.
His family launched the Oscar Knox Appeal campaign during his illness.
On Friday they tweeted: “Our beautiful, amazing and much loved son Oscar James Knox gained his angel wings yesterday afternoon. Sleep tight little man.”
In a full statement, his family said: “Oscar has brought unimaginable joy to our family with his smile and his infectious personality.
“Our little superhero achieved so much in his short life and inspired so many people throughout the world to do so many amazing things. It is something we are incredibly proud of.
“We wish to take this opportunity once again to thank all of Oscar’s followers the world over for everything they have done for us and for the wonderful kindness and generosity that has been shown.
“We also want to thank the teams at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and NI Children’s Hospice whose kindness and compassion has been nothing short of amazing.
“Nothing can ever take the pain away but knowing we were supported so much and that Oscar was loved so much, brings great comfort.”
The family have asked for privacy in the coming days.
A ceremony, described as a “celebration of Oscar’s life”, will be held in St Bernard’s Church, Glengormley, on Sunday, 11 May.
“We welcome friends, family and supporters of Oscar to join us in procession from the NI Children’s Hospice at 10.15am on May 11 and onwards to St Bernard’s Church.”
A strictly private cremation will follow.
Oscar was first diagnosed with the disease in November 2011.
After intensive treatment, ‘Wee Oscar’ was finally given the all clear in April 2013, but it returned in August 2013.
In October 2012, he received specialist treatment in America after his family reached their £250,000 fundraising target to pay for the immunotherapy treatment.
After his initial diagnosis, his parents set up the Twitter account so they could update friends and family on Oscar’s condition each time he was in hospital.
However, the account quickly attracted thousands of followers.
Among them were families whose children have the same condition.
The Twitter account became a phenomenon in June 2012, after a group of Irish football fans posed for pictures in Dublin airport before heading off to the European football championship with a flag saying “Angela Merkel thinks we’re at work”.
Oscar – who had been allowed to stay up late to watch the matches – and his father Stephen, made their own flag saying “My ma thinks I’ll be in bed early” and then tweeted a picture of it.
The ‘Merkel lads’, as they became known, were so touched by the picture they decided to auction their flag to raise money for the toddler.
When they arrived back in Dublin they drove straight from the airport to Mallusk to meet Oscar
Oscar, was a fan of Glasgow Celtic and the football club joined in the fundraising campaign.
Last July, when Belfast side, Cliftonville, went to Glasgow for their UEFA Champions League qualifier, Oscar donned his green and white shirt and led Celtic out before the game as team mascot alongside captain, Scott Brown.
In a statement on Friday, Celtic said: “This is absolutely devastating news and our thoughts and prayers are with Oscar’s parents, Stephen and Leona, and his little sister, Izzie, at this desperately sad time.
“We can’t even begin to understand the pain of their loss, but I hope that there will be a small measure of consolation in knowing that there was genuine love and affection for Oscar from the Celtic family throughout the world.
“Oscar’s courage throughout his illness was truly inspirational, and it was a real pleasure for everyone at the club to meet Oscar when he was our team mascot last July.”
Belfast boxer Carl Frampton said it was very sad news.
“I’m kind of in shock, because with the wee man, I knew he was very, very sick, but you always expected him to get better because he is such a fighter,” he said.
“It’s just heart-breaking.”
by Peter Coulter
I was walking down a street in Belfast city centre about a year ago when a mother was walking along with her young child.
The child stopped and looked at a picture of Oscar Knox in a shop window and asked his mother why that little boy had no hair.
She explained that he was very sick and told her son he was being treated for cancer and that had made his hair fall out. The child nodded and asked a few more questions with this new understanding of cancer.
It was two years ago when BBC News NI first met Oscar Knox and since then his family has tirelessly campaigned to raise awareness of high risk neuroblastoma and the importance of blood donations.
His parents Stephen and Leona began their Twitter account to provide a support network for other parents whose children had the same condition.
Raising awareness has always been top of his parents list. Blood donations in NI and understanding of high risk neuroblastoma did increase during their campaign.
Oscar Knox was a normal five-year-old who loved pizza, Sugarpuffs, playing with his sister Izzy, Scooby Doo and Spiderman.
Oscar loved his doctors and nurses and they adored him. It will be a tough time for the medical staff who have supported him over the last two and a half years.
As most of you know, today marks the 33rd anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands on hunger strike. I had a reader ask if he might post his poem on my sites for Bobby, and I also noticed that Carrie Twomey posted her own poem on The Pensive Quill, so I would like to link you to both poems:
• The Source of Our Anger by Carrie Twomey
• Sands on the River Road by Ron Lay-Sleeper
Ron’s poem can be found on any of the four sites devoted to Bobby.
04 May 2014
Gerry Adams, Madge McConville and former PIRA chief of staff Joe Cahill
Pat McGeown photographed beside Gerry Adams.
THIS is Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams with two members of the gang that dragged Jean McConville from her screaming children to be brutally beaten, murdered and disappeared.
Madge McConville (no relation to Jean) was the head of the women’s wing of the IRA in the lower Falls Road area at the time the widowed mother of 10 was murdered. She died in May 2009 and was eulogised by Sinn Fein as representing “what republicanism was about and … the embodiment of our history”.
The photograph was taken in January 2000 at a ceremony to mark the re-burial of Belfast IRA man Tom Williams, who was hanged in 1942 for the murder of RUC constable Patrick Murphy. Williams had been buried in the grounds of Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast after his execution. He was disinterred and re-buried in west Belfast, with Adams and Madge McConville as lead mourners.
In the other photo, Adams is alongside Pat McGeown who was also part of the gang that abducted Mrs McConville.
McGeown, who died in October 1996, was a 17-year-old member of the junior wing of the IRA at the time. He subsequently became a Sinn Fein councillor in Belfast.
McGeown and Adams are together with a group of Sinn Fein leaders after the count in the May 1996 elections to the Northern Ireland Peace Forum. Adams and McGeown were close associates and shared the same prison hut in the Long Kesh internment camp outside Belfast in the early Seventies.
Republican sources in west Belfast say it was the 17-year-old McGeown who shot Mrs McConville through the back of the head as she knelt in front of her burial site on Sheeling Beach in Co Louth.
On his death the Sinn Fein newspaper An Phoblacht reported McGeown “was a political prisoner in the infamous Cage 11 along with such notables as Gerry Adams and Brendan Hughes”.
Brendan Hughes was the first IRA man to publicly name Gerry Adams as his “officer commanding”, alleging that he was the one who gave the order for Mrs McConville’s murder and disappearance. Adams continues to deny this.
McGeown was one of the republican hunger strikers in the Maze Prison in 1981 and spent 47 days without food before it was called off. His period of starvation led to ill-health and his early death at the age of 44 from a heart attack. After his death, Sinn Fein launched a community endeavour award in his name and Adams described him as “a modest man with a quiet, but total dedication to equality and raising the standard of life for all the people of the city”.
Madge McConville was given the job of stopping young women fraternising with the British soldiers who were initially welcomed by Catholics after they stopped the invasions by loyalists mobs in the area.
The soldiers held discos in a factory they had commandeered as a barracks. Young Catholic women who were identified as attending the discos were abducted and beaten up. Several were also tied to lamp posts, their heads shaven, and covered in black paint and feathers in the same way French women deemed collaborators with the Nazis were tarred and feathered after the Allied invasion.
A decision was made not to kill any of the young Catholic women, many of whom were driven out of the area, because of their local family connections. But according to local sources, Mrs McConville was sentenced to death because she was a Protestant who had married a Catholic, Arthur, who had died in 1971 leaving her alone to bring up their 10 children. She had no family connections in the Falls area.
Mrs McConville was allegedly targeted because she gave a cup of water to a soldier who had been injured outside her maisonette in the Divis complex in the lower Falls. A gang of up to 20 male and female IRA members abducted and murdered her.
The intention of the IRA leadership was to ensure that there was no relationship between the local community and the soldiers or police. The tarring and featherings and finally the murder of Mrs McConville ensured this.
Michael McConville says he took Sinn Féin president warning of backlash if he disclosed suspects’ identities as a threat
5 May 2014
A son of IRA murder victim Jean McConville has said Gerry Adams warned of a “backlash” if he released the names of those he believed were responsible.
Michael McConville said his family’s fight for justice would go on after the Sinn Féin president was freed, but maintained he could be shot if he disclosed the identities of suspects to police.
Adams, 65, was released from Antrim police station, pending a report being sent to prosecutors, after four days of questioning about the notorious 1972 killing of McConville and other alleged links with the IRA.
McConville told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Gerry Adams says to me, ‘Michael, you are getting a letter of support from the republican people’. He says, ‘if you release the names I hope you are ready for the backlash’.
“I took it as a threat.”
Adams has vehemently rejected allegations made by former republican colleagues that he ordered the mother of 10’s abduction and killing – denials he repeated on Sunday night.
The decision whether to charge him with any offence will be made by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) at a later date after reviewing evidence presented by police.
McConville alleged the “threat” was made at about the time a report being drawn up by Northern Ireland’s then police ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, into claims that his mother was an informer was close to being finalised.
The Sinn Féin president had brokered a series of meetings between him and members of the IRA. McConville said he used to tell Adams what had happened in the meetings and warned him that he would release the names of those involved if O’Loan’s report was disputed. At that point he said the backlash was mentioned.
McConville said that “could” have meant a backlash against the peace process but said he took it to mean the “backlash from republican people”.
Adams will refocus on election campaigning on Monday as the political fallout from his release from police custody continues to reverberate around Stormont and beyond.
Sinn Féin is holding a European election rally in Belfast on Monday, with a similar event planned in Dublin on Tuesday, as Adams resumes the canvassing activities he claims his detention was designed to thwart.
The rapturous welcome Adams received in a west Belfast hotel on his first public appearance after his release was in marked contrast to the angry scenes outside the police station as loyalists protested at the decision to free him.
There was disorder in the loyalist Sandy Row area of Belfast, with petrol bombs and stones thrown, though no one was injured.
The former MP for west Belfast and now representative for County Louth in the Irish dail criticised the police’s handling of his arrest but moved to dispel any suggestion that Sinn Féin’s commitment to policing had wavered in the wake of the affair.
Adams’s arrest on Wednesday triggered a bitter political row at Stormont, with Sinn Féin accusing an “anti-peace process rump” within the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) of orchestrating the detention with the aim of damaging the party ahead of European and local government elections later this month.
This was angrily rejected by political rivals, whose fury intensified when senior Sinn Féin figures indicated that their support for the police – a critical plank in the peace process – would be “reviewed” if Adams was charged.
The Democratic Unionist Stormont first minister, Peter Robinson, denounced the remarks as “bullyboy” tactics.
Downing Street confirmed that the prime minister, David Cameron, and the Irish taoiseach, Enda Kenny, spoke on Sunday to discuss the situation surrounding Adams’s arrest.
Adams questioned the timing of his detention and said police had unnecessarily used “coercive” legislation to detain and question him.
Now that Mr Adams is out and about again, you may want to read these interesting articles by Ed Moloney:
Sinn Fein support for police under question as president to be held over the weekend
2 May 2014
A new mural of Gerry Adams is being painted on Belfast’s Falls Road with the slogan ‘Peacemaker, leader, visionary’
PSNI have been granted an extra 48 hours to question Gerry Adams over the murder and abduction of Jean McConville.
Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly has reacted angrily to the news.
He said: “The arrest and continued detention of Gerry Adams is deliberately timed to coincide with the elections in three weeks time.
“This is political policing at its most blatant.
“Sinn Fein will not be intimidated by the action of a small cabal in the PSNI who are opposed to the peace process and political change.”
Sinn Fein support for the police appears under threat as detectives continued to quiz Adams about the murder of the mother-of-10.
Martin McGuinness warned that the party will “reflect” on its support for the PSNI if Gerry Adams is charged with any offences arising out of his arrest on Wednesday by officers investigating the 1972 murder.
The Stormont Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein veteran said he and colleagues would not be making a “knee-jerk” decision. And he raised the spectre of what would be a huge blow to the peace process in the region as he said it was his understanding police were applying to a judge to extend the period of time they can question Mr Adams at Antrim police station.
Asked if Sinn Fein would withdraw support for policing if Mr Adams is ultimately charged, Mr McGuinness said: “We are very thoughtful and we are very reflective but I think if such a scenario does develop then we will sit down and we will reflect on what will be an even more serious situation than the one we face today.”
With the initial 48-hour deadline looming for officers to either charge or release Mr Adams after his arrest on Wednesday night, the PSNI applied for an extension, the Deputy First Minister confirmed.
Adams, 65, vehemently denies allegations levelled by former republican colleagues that he ordered Mrs McConville’s murder and secret burial in 1972.
Sinn Féin leader says former friend Brendan Hughes was hostile to him over peace process
2 May 2014
Former IRA man Brendan “The Dark” Hughes, in Long Kesh prison with then best friend Gerry Adams. (Photograph: Photopress)
Some 3,600 people died in the Troubles. Many thousands more were maimed, injured and bereaved. Yet the circumstances of the murder of Jean McConville can still leave a cold feeling in the pit of one’s stomach.
She was a 37-year-old woman, a Protestant widow who had been married to a Catholic, and was the mother of 10 children who were left orphaned and desolate.
The campaign to recover her body, which was finally found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth in 2003, led to the creation of a North-South commission to locate the bodies of 17 people known to have been “disappeared”. So far 10 bodies have been recovered.
The so-called “Boston tapes”, potentially, are why Gerry Adams is being questioned for involvement in the December 1972 abduction, interrogation, murder and secret burial of McConville.
The Boston College oral history of the Troubles project was the brainchild of journalist and writer Ed Moloney and involved the interviewing of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries based on guarantees their testimonies would not be released until after their deaths.
The early deaths of former senior IRA figure Brendan “the Dark” Hughes and former Progressive Unionist Party leader and ex-UVF man David Ervine, both of whom participated in the project, allowed Moloney publish a book, Voices From the Grave, four years ago.
The book recorded Hughes’s account of how McConville was first lifted by the IRA, allegedly for working as an informer by having a British army transmitter in her flat.
Hughes said she was “let go with a warning” but when another transmitter allegedly was put in her house she was abducted by an IRA gang.
“There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. That . . . man is now the head of Sinn Féin,” said Hughes.
As this is posthumous evidence there is a heavy question mark over whether it can have much – or any – legal evidential value.
The McConville family and former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan rejected the informer allegation against McConville.
Regardless, in his account Hughes said Adams and a senior IRA commander agreed that she should be “executed” but argued over whether her body should be left on the street in west Belfast as a warning to potential informers – as regularly happened – or secretly buried.
Hughes said that Adams won the day, and it was decided she should be secretly buried.
“I think the reason why she [was] disappeared was because she was a woman,” Hughes said.
Adams emphatically denied the allegations, and made the point that Hughes, his former friend and an IRA member, was antagonistic both to him and to how the IRA and Sinn Féin had managed the peace process.
But then Old Bailey bomber, the late Dolours Price, who also gave evidence to the Boston College project, made similar allegations, which Adams again denied.
He also pointed out that she was also antagonistic to him and the peace process.
The result was a huge controversy over the PSNI seeking access to the Boston tapes, which could have proved of evidential value to the police investigation, certainly while Price was alive.
The police pursuit of the tapes caused consternation because handing them over would mean that the pledge given to participants of anonymity and non-disclosure ahead of their deaths would not be honoured.
It also triggered a quarrel between, on one side Moloney and his chief researcher Anthony McIntyre, a historian and former IRA prisoner; and on the other side Boston College over how to resist the legal challenge from the police.
They accused the college of weakness.
The upshot was that the PSNI won the legal battle and tapes of Hughes, Price and about half a dozen others were handed over to the police.
All these tapes, it was stated in the legal proceedings, had content relating to the McConville murder.
In recent weeks a number of people have been arrested in connection with the murder.
Some of them were released pending reports being sent to the Public Prosecution Service, which leaves open the possibility that prosecutions could follow.
In March, Ivor Bell, now aged 77, was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of McConville.
It was this charging that prompted Adams to offer to voluntarily present himself to the PSNI if it wished to ask him questions. Police sources in the North, along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, First Minister Peter Robinson and British prime minister David Cameron, have rejected a Sinn Féin allegation of “political policing” in the questioning of Adams.
“The case is driven by investigative necessity,” said one police source.
In the meantime, the McConville family wait and watch to find out if they are any closer to achieving justice for their mother.
30 April 2014
1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing in London
On the Run letters could be withdrawn if it is found they were sent in error, according to a key advisor to the attorney general.
Kevin McGinty was giving evidence to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee about letters issued to republican paramilitary suspects.
Mr McGinty also said the On The Runs scheme was “not corrupt”.
However, he said it was “damaging to the criminal justice system”.
On The Runs is the term used to refer to people who are suspected of, but who have not been charged or convicted of paramilitary offences during the Troubles.
Controversy over the scheme emerged in February, when the trial of John Downey, the man charged with carrying out the 1982 IRA Hyde Park bombing in London, was halted.
The trial judge said the case could not continue because Mr Downey had received a government letter, mistakenly saying he was not wanted for questioning by police.
It later emerged that about 200 letters had been sent to republican paramilitary suspects.
On Wednesday, Mr McGinty, who was involved with the scheme, told the committee he believed letters that were mistakenly issued telling republicans they were not wanted by the police for questioning or arrest could be withdrawn.
Mr McGinty said other letters would not necessarily preclude recipients from prosecution.
The collapse of John Downey’s trial last month sparked the On the Runs crisis
He also told the committee the Northern Ireland Office had amended the letter sent to Mr Downey to suggest that he was not wanted in the UK.
He said this had been done on advice that the appropriate checks had been made by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) but accepted that the PSNI was not informed that the wording was changed by the Northern Ireland Office.
Mr McGinty insisted that the On the Runs scheme was lawful, but said it was accepted at the time that it would “damage the criminal justice system”.
“I am not going to describe it as corrupt”, Mr McGinty said.
The scheme, according to Mr McGinty, began at a time in the peace negotiations when Sinn Féin was being “particularly difficult”.
Earlier, former chief constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan told the committee that he was aware of letters being considered but not aware of them “actually going out”.
Asked whether people in other circumstances could ring up the police and ask if they were wanted, Sir Ronnie claimed the political context at the time, which had also seen the early release of paramilitary prisoners, meant that a “completely normal situation” did not apply.
But he added: “I certainly would never have been engaged in a process that would have allowed anyone to escape justice or evade justice.”
Sir Ronnie was also adamant no political pressure was exerted on him to ensure certain individuals were not pursued.
‘I am no longer afraid’ says Helen McKendry, as Northern Ireland secretary warns of tense moment in peace process
Henry McDonald and Nicholas Watt
Thursday 1 May 2014
Helen McKendry, Jean McConville’s daughter, holding a family portrait. Photograph: Peter Morrison/AP
The eldest daughter of IRA murder victim Jean McConville vowed to “name names” to police, as officers continue to hold Gerry Adams for questioning in connection with her kidnapping into a second day.
Helen McKendry’s outspoken intervention came as the former Northern Ireland secretary Shaun Woodward warned that the arrest of Adams marks one of the most “tense and potentially quite dangerous” moments in the peace process.
Speaking to the Guardian McKendry, who has spent 20 years campaigning to bring her mother’s killers to justice, said: “I spent the first 20 years of my life being afraid of these people, of fearing to speak out, but now I am no longer afraid.”
McKendry, who witnessed her mother being dragged away by the IRA in 1972, said she was prepared to identify the abductors despite a fear or reprisals – in contrast with her brother Michael, who earlier in the day told the BBC he was not prepared to say who was involved.
She said: “If full cooperation into the murder of my mother includes naming those who I saw bursting into our flat, who dragged my mother away from us at gunpoint, and who were directly involved in her disappearance and murder, then yes – I would be prepared to name names. To me that is not informing but doing my duty to my mother.”
McKendry said detectives had told the family that the Police Service of Northern Ireland has obtained as many as 11 tapes – testimonies from former IRA members – from a US academic archive relating to the McConville killing.
The continued detention of the Sinn Féin leader over the kidnapping, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville, a mother of 10, has thrown the delicate political settlement in the province back into crisis.
Woodward became the first senior political figure in London to raise concerns about the impact of the arrest. Labour’s last Northern Ireland secretary told the Guardian: “This is a very serious and tense moment in the history of the peace process and the political process. So long as Northern Ireland continues to avoid having a mechanism to deal fairly with the legacy issues of the pre-1998 Good Friday agreement there will inevitably be these tense and potentially quite dangerous and threatening moments in the peace process and the political process.”
His remarks came after Martin McGuinness said there were elements in the police force – which he and Adams once urged republicans to back – who were determined to hinder Sinn Fein’s advance across the island of Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister said his party had been told by “senior” and “reforming” elements within the PSNI that “there was still a dark side within policing here in the north of Ireland”. He said: “I think we have seen that dark side flex its muscles in the course of the last couple of days.”
Sinn Féin had earlier said that the arrest, weeks before the European parliamentary elections, was politically motivated – a suggestion David Cameron rejected. The prime minister said: “There has been absolutely no political interference in this issue. We have an independent judicial system, both here in England and in Northern Ireland. We have independent policing authorities, independent prosecuting authorities. Those are vital parts of the free country and the free society we enjoy today.”
Matt Baggott, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said the investigation would be “effective, objective and methodical”.
Asked about the investigation, Baggott said: “Effective investigation applies to any unsolved matter and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any individual investigation other than to say they will be objective and methodical.”
Labour figures associated with the peace process made no criticism of the police who had, they said, followed the law. But Peter Hain, Tony Blair’s last Northern Ireland secretary, said Adams had told him with great passion that he was not responsible for McConville’s death.
Hain said: “Obviously the judicial process has to take its course. Gerry Adams has strongly asserted – as he always did to me when I was secretary of state and he was actually helping track the ‘disappeared’ – that he had nothing to do with this. In fact we actually discussed the Jean McConville atrocity because that is what it was – a terrible crime. He was passionate about it being wrong and he wanted to find out who was responsible – at least that it is what he told me and those of us seeking to address the ‘disappeared’ on behalf of the victims because there are many of them.”
But Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland’s first minister and key partner with McGuinness in the power-sharing executive, said the arrest strengthened Northern Ireland’s political process. “I cannot say whether Mr Adams will be charged or released, whether he will be held for a further period, whether even if charged he might be convicted,” he said. “But what I can say is that it strengthens our political process in Northern Ireland for people to know that no one is above the law – everyone is equal under the law and everyone is equally subject to the law.”
The abduction, fatal shooting and covert burial of McConville, a 37-year-old Protestant who became a Catholic convert, continues to haunt both Adams and the peace process.
In front of her children at their home in the Divis flats complex, the West Belfast woman was dragged away by an IRA gang, driven across the border to the Republic, shot in the head at a remote coastal spot in County Louth, and then buried in secret.
She became the most famous of the “disappeared” – 16 IRA victims shot and buried at secret locations across Ireland during the Troubles.
Former IRA members including Adams’s former friend, the hunger striker Brendan Hughes, have alleged that the future Sinn Féin president gave the order for McConville to be “disappeared” after she was shot as an informer. Her family have always rejected any suggestion that she was a British army agent pointing to Northern Ireland’s former police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan’s investigation,which found no evidence of their mother working as an informer.
Adams has consistently denied claims of involvement in the McConville murder or of being in the IRA. He was arrested on Wednesday evening after handing himself into the PSNI’s serious crimes suite at Antrim Town. Before entering the police station, he repeated that he was “innocent of any part” in the murder.
The Sinn Féin leader spent Wednesday night in custody and could in theory be held until late on Friday under anti-terrorist legislation.
The allegations of a supposed police conspiracy against Sinn Féin and its party leader by McGuinness drew an angry response from the McConville family. The murdered woman’s son-in-law, Seamus McKendry, who co-founded the campaign for the disappeared, described McGuinness’s claims as “totally absurd and a deep insult to the family and the wider community’s intelligence”.
McKendry said: “This is the same PSNI which Martin McGuinness asked everyone including his own supporters to endorse when devolution was restored. He can’t have it both ways. This is just typical spin to deflect from the real story behind all of this, to deflect from the terrible crime inflicted on Jean.”
Ireland’s prime minister, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, dismissed any notion that the arrest was politically motivated.
“I hope the president of Sinn Féin, Deputy Adams, answers in the best way that he can, the fullest extent that he can, the questions being asked about a live murder investigation by the PSNI,” Kenny said.His ministerial colleague Ruairí Quinn said any suggestion Adams was detained in order to interfere with politics south of the border was “ludicrous”.
The arrest also refocuses attention on Sinn Féin’s past connection to the IRA at a time when the party has been riding high in the opinion polls and seeking to make major gains in the Irish Republic’s European and local government elections. Deputy party leader Mary Lou McDonald insisted that there was a political motive behind the arrest given that the country was only two weeks away from going to the polls.
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK
30 April 2014
DUBLIN — Police in Northern Ireland arrested Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams on Wednesday over his alleged involvement in the Irish Republican Army’s 1972 abduction, killing and secret burial of a Belfast widow.
Adams, 65, confirmed his own arrest in a prepared statement and described it as a voluntary, prearranged interview.
Police long had been expected to question Adams about the killing of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of 10 whom the IRA killed with a single gunshot to the head as an alleged spy.
According to all authoritative histories of the Sinn Fein-IRA movement, Adams served as an IRA commander for decades, but he has always denied holding any position in the outlawed group.
“I believe that the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice to her and her family,” Adams said. “Well publicized, malicious allegations have been made against me. I reject these. While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs. McConville.”
Reflecting the embarrassment associated with killing a widowed mother, the IRA did not admit the killing until 1999, when it claimed responsibility for nearly a dozen slayings of long-vanished civilians and offered to try to pinpoint their unmarked graves. McConville’s children had been told she abandoned them, and they were divided into different foster homes.
Her remains were discovered only by accident near a Republic of Ireland beach in 2003. The woman’s skull bore a single bullet mark through the back of the skull, and forensics officer determined she’d been shot once through back of the head with a rifle.
Jean McConville and children
Adams was implicated in the killing by two IRA veterans, who gave taped interviews to researchers for a Boston College history archive on the four-decade Northern Ireland conflict. Belfast police waged a two-year legal fight in the United States to acquire the interviews, parts of which already were published after the 2008 death of one IRA interviewee, Brendan Hughes.
Boston College immediately handed over the Hughes tapes. The college and researchers fought unsuccessfully to avoid handover tapes of the second IRA interviewee, Dolours Price, who died last year.
Both Hughes and Price agreed to be interviewed on condition that their contents were kept confidential until their deaths.
In his interviews Hughes, a reputed 1970s deputy to Adams within the Belfast IRA, said McConville was killed on Adams’ orders. Hughes said Adams oversaw a special IRA unit called “The Unknowns” that was committed to identifying, killing and secretly burying Belfast Catholic civilians suspected of spying on behalf of the police or British Army. An independent investigation by Northern Ireland’s police complaints watchdog in 2006 found no evidence that McConville had been a spy.
Hughes told the researchers he led the IRA team that “arrested” McConville, but her fate was sealed following a policy argument between Adams and the man he succeeded as Belfast commander, Ivor Bell.
He said Bell wanted McConville’s body to be put on public display to intimidate other people from helping the British, but Adams wanted her killing kept mysterious.
“There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed,” Hughes said in the audio recording, which was broadcast on British and Irish television in 2010. “That man is now the head of Sinn Fein. I did not give the order to execute that woman. He did.”
A 2010 book written by the lead researcher, journalist Ed Moloney, “Voices From the Grave,” also quoted Hughes as describing Adams as the IRA’s “Belfast Brigade” commander who oversaw planning of the first car-bomb attacks in London in March 1973.
Adams and Hughes were arrested together in July 1973, when the British Army pounced on an IRA commanders’ meeting in West Belfast. Both were interned without trial. Adams was repeatedly interrogated for suspected involvement in IRA bombings and shootings, but was never convicted of any IRA offense besides a failed prison escape during his mid-1970s internment.
Last month Belfast detectives investigating the McConville killing arrested and charged Bell, now 77, with IRA membership and aiding McConville’s murder.
Price, who was a member of the IRA’s 1973 London car-bombing unit, died last year of a suspected drug overdose. She gave interviews to journalists admitting she had driven McConville across the Irish border, where another IRA member shot McConville once through the back of the head. It remains unclear what precisely she told the Boston College project.
Adams was the longtime British Parliament member for West Belfast, although like all Sinn Fein politicians he refused to take his seat in London, citing the required oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.
He never held a post in Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government, the central peacemaking institution established in the wake of the Good Friday accord of 1998. He stepped down as West Belfast’s MP in 2011 and won election to the Republic of Ireland parliament, where he represents the same border area, County Louth, where McConville’s body was found.