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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.
‘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.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams is tonight being questioned by detectives investigating the abduction and killing of Jean McConville.
Mrs McConville, a widow, was dragged away from her children in her home in the Divis flats, west Belfast, by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in the city.
An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the claims that she was an informer.
She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home. The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed to gardaí.
She became one of the so-called ‘Disappeared’, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.
Deputy Adams has vehemently rejected the allegations made by former republican colleagues that he had a role in ordering the IRA killing.
No one has ever been charged with the murder. But after years without progress in the criminal investigation there have been a series of arrests in recent weeks.
A veteran republican – 77-year-old Ivor Bell – was charged last month with aiding and abetting the murder.
In the wake of the recent developments in the case, last month Deputy Adams, who has always denied membership of the IRA, said he would be available to meet with detectives if they wished to speak with him.
That meeting is taking place this evening.
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald said this evening: “Last month Gerry Adams said that he was available to meet the PSNI about the Jean McConville case. That meeting is now taking place.
“Gerry Adams is right to confront this issue. There has been a concerted and malicious effort to link Gerry Adams to this case for some considerable time.
“He has consistently and forthrightly rejected any suggestion that he had any part in what happened to Jean McConville 42 years ago or that he has any information about these dreadful events.
“I believe the timing of this latest decision by the PSNI is politically motivated and designed to damage Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin.
“It is Sinn Féin’s view that legacy issues and dealing with the past, including past conflict events, are best addressed through an independent, international, truth recovery process.
“In the absence of that, we have agreed to and are seeking the implementation of the Haass compromise proposals. These include the right of families to choose whether to pursue legal action or to seek maximum truth recovery.”
In a statement made before meeting the PSNI today, Deputy Adams said: “Last month I said that I was available to meet the PSNI about the Jean McConville case. While I have concerns about the timing, I am voluntarily meeting with the PSNI this evening.
“As a republican leader I have never shirked my responsibility to build the peace. This includes dealing with the difficult issue of victims and their families. Insofar as it is possible I have worked to bring closure to victims and their families who have contacted me. Even though they may not agree, this includes the family of Jean McConville.
“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.
“Well publicised, 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.
“Sinn Féin has signed up to the Haass proposals for dealing with the past. While I also respect the right of families if they wish to seek legal redress there remains a huge onus on the two governments and the political parties to face up to all these issues and to agree a victim centred process which does this.”
30 April 2014
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has been arrested by Northern Ireland police in connection with the 1972 murder of Jean McConville.
Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow and mother of 10, was abducted from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast and shot by the IRA.
Her body was recovered from a beach in County Louth in 2003.
Police said a 65-year-old man presented himself to Antrim police station on Wednesday evening and was arrested.
In a statement, Sinn Féin said: “Last month Gerry Adams said he was available to meet the PSNI about the Jean McConville case. That meeting is taking place this evening.”
24 March 2014
Sources close to the investigation said it was “far from over” and that detectives want more information on anyone suspected of involvement in the murder, including Mr Adams.
The Sinn Fein president strongly denies any involvement in the Belfast mother of 10’s abduction and death in 1972.
The PSNI is also seeking to question former IRA man turned writer Anthony McIntyre about his Boston College interviews with ex-Provisionals on Ms McConville’s murder.
As the interviewer for the US university’s oral history project, Mr McIntyre’s evidence would be crucial in the case against Bell – and any other alleged former IRA leaders who may in future be charged with involvement.
Belfast Magistrates Court heard on Saturday that Bell was an interviewee in one of the tapes and was known as ‘Man Z’ – something which Bell denies.
The 77-year-old is charged with IRA membership and aiding and abetting in the murder of Jean McConville.
Other alleged former IRA members are expected to be arrested in coming weeks by detectives – who have in their possession tapes of seven republicans, who are all still alive, allegedly discussing the McConville killing.
It is understood the PSNI wants to question Mr McIntyre about Bell’s alleged interview and the conditions in which it took place, in order to corroborate the claims allegedly made on the tape.
Mr McIntyre would also be quizzed as to whether Bell was ‘Man Z’.
However, sources said there were “absolutely no circumstances” in which Mr McIntyre would co-operate with police.
Refusal to do so could result in him facing charges of withholding information – but the sources said he would “go to jail rather than compromise source protection”.
Mr McIntyre is a member of the National Union of Journalists and the issue is to be raised with the union this week.
The ex-IRA man has previously said he has “every sympathy with the McConville family in their search for truth recovery” – but added that “journalists, academics, and researchers need protection if they are to gain the necessary information which offers a valuable insight into the past”.
As the lead researcher for the Belfast project for Boston College between 2001 and 2006, Mr McIntyre conducted over 170 interviews with 26 republicans. They were undertaken on the agreement that they wouldn’t be released until after the interviewee’s death.
Tapes of now-deceased IRA members Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes – who both accused Gerry Adams of ordering Jean McConville’s murder – were handed over to the PSNI by Boston College.
However, a major legal battle followed over the taped interviews of republicans who are still alive.
Ivor Bell (77) refused bail on charges relating to 1972 murder of Jean McConville
22 March 2014
The police case against a veteran republican charged in connection with the notorious IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at a US college, a court has heard.
The claim was made as Ivor Bell (77) was refused bail and remanded in custody by a district judge in Belfast accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.
Boston College interviewed a number of former paramilitaries about the Troubles on the understanding transcripts would not be published until after their deaths.
But that undertaking was rendered ineffective when a US court last year ordered that the tapes be handed over to PSNI detectives.
The interviews included claims about the murder of Mrs McConville, who was abducted by the IRA at her home at Divis Flats, Belfast in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan, representing Bell, told district judge Amanda Henderson that the prosecution case was that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as ‘Z ’, was his client.
But the solicitor insisted the person interviewed on the tape had denied any involvement in the murder.
“During those interviews Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Mr Corrigan also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.
“The defence submits that the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Grey-haired moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, sat impassively in the dock wearing a grey jumper as his lawyer made the claims.
Some of Mrs McConville’s children watched on from the public gallery.
A PSNI detective inspector, who earlier told the judge he could connect the accused with the charges, rejected Mr Corrigan’s interpretation of the Boston College interview.
He claimed the transcript actually indicated Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville”.
The officer said he opposed bail on the grounds that the defendant would likely flee the jurisdiction. He revealed that he had previously used an alias to travel to Spain and predicted he could use contacts within the IRA to travel beyond Northern Ireland.
But Mr Corrigan said that was out of the question, noting that his client suffered from a range of serious medical conditions, that his family was based in Belfast and that he had “every incentive” to stay in Northern Ireland to prove his innocence.
“Are the prosecution seriously suggesting that a man in this serious ill health, who can’t walk up steps, is going to abscond for an offence where he has every incentive to attend court?” he said.
Judge Henderson said the case was a very “significant and sensitive” one and praised those in court for acting with dignity through the hearing.
She said she was more convinced with the argument the prosecution had made.
“I am persuaded by the prosecution in this case and on that basis I am refusing bail,” she said.
Bell was remanded in custody to appear before court again next month.
He waved to supporters in the public gallery as he was led out of the dock.
Mrs McConville was dragged away from her children by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast.
An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the allegations.
She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home.
The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to gardaí.
She became one of the so-called Disappeared, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.
Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.
After the hearing Mrs McConville’s son Michael said the family’s thoughts were with their mother.
“The pain of losing her has not diminished over the decades since she was taken from us murdered and secretly buried,” he said.
“She is in our hearts and our thoughts always. Whatever the future holds nothing will ever change that”.
Ivor Bell appears in court over 1972 murder of Jean McConville, in case which could implicate senior Irish republicans
22 March 2014
Even two decades after the IRA ceasefire, it is a crime from the bloodiest year of the Troubles that continues to haunt senior Irish republicans including Gerry Adams and could yet have fresh ramifications for the peace process.
In a sensational development inside a Belfast court it was alleged that a former IRA negotiator with the British government named fellow republicans involved in the kidnap, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville – one of the most notorious murders of the conflict.
The ex-IRA commander Ivor Bell appeared in Laganside court on Saturday morning where he faced charges of aiding and abetting in the shooting and disappearance of the mother of 10 in 1972.
Ivor Bell (BBC image)
The children and grandchildren of the murdered widow were in court to hear a detective allege that Bell was “Mr Z” on a tape recorded for Boston College in the US as part of the Belfast Project, a series of interviews with former IRA and loyalist paramilitaries.
Speaking outside the court, McConville’s daughter Helen McKendry told The Observer that she hoped the case would lead to others going on trial for her mother’s killing by the IRA.
“I hope this goes all the way up to the top,” she said, “All the way up to Gerry Adams. There are more people who need to be in this court to answer what happened to my mother.”
The McConville family, along with the former IRA Belfast commanding officer Brendan Hughes, have alleged that Adams created a secret unit to hunt down and kill informers in the city during the early part of the Troubles.
Before his death Hughes claimed that Adams gave the order for McConville to be abducted from her home in Divis Flats in west Belfast, taken across the Irish border, killed and buried in secret.
The Sinn Féin president has always denied any involvement in the McConville murder or that he was ever in the IRA.
It was alleged in court that in the recording, Bell implicates himself and other top republicans in the McConville case.
But his defence solicitor, Peter Corrigan, denied Bell had any involvement in the crime and said “the evidence was not credible”.
The recording for the Belfast Project, which the Police Service of Northern Ireland obtained through the US courts, is the centrepiece of the crown’s case against Bell.
His solicitor said Bell denied any involvement in the IRA murder of McConville.
Appealing for bail for his client, Corrigan stressed that Bell has not been a member of the Provisional IRA since 1985 and had no network around him to aid him to flee Northern Ireland. He told the judge that they would accept “any conditions that you see fit to impose on this defendant”.
However, there was light applause from the McConville family in court when the judge, Fiona Bagnall, refused bail.
McConville was the most famous of the “Disappeared” – 16 people whom the IRA accused of being informers and who were shot and buried secretly across Ireland.
The IRA only admitted her murder in 1993 and her body was not discovered until 2003 on a beach in County Louth. No one until today has ever been charged in connection with her murder.
The IRA accused her of passing information to the British army but her family always denied this, claiming she was singled out because she had tended to a wounded soldier outside her flat.
An investigation by the Northern Ireland police ombudsman rejected the allegation she was an informer.
Bell was a senior IRA officer at the time McConville was seized by armed men and women, and torn away from her children in December 1972.
Six months earlier Bell was part of an IRA delegation that secretly met Willie Whitelaw and several British government officials at the late MP Paul Channon’s flat in London.
Bell, allegedly alongside Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the future deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, met Whitelaw and his team to discuss a ceasefire. However, the truce later broke down amid ongoing violence in Belfast.
Bell was later expelled from the IRA for plotting a coup d’etat against its leadership in the mid-1980s and warned he would be “executed” if he set up a rival republican organisation.
The full trial against the veteran republican will begin on 11 April.
21 March 2014
Ivor Bell in 1983 when he was released after Supergrass, Robert Lean, withdrew evidence against 11 men (Photo: Belfast Telegraph)
A veteran republican has been charged in connection with the IRA murder more than 40 years ago of Belfast mother of 10 Jean McConville.
Ivor Bell, 77, is due to appear in court in Belfast tomorrow accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.
He was detained at his home in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast on Tuesday.
Mrs McConville, 37, was abducted by the IRA at her home at Divis Flats, Belfast in December 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
He murder is one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles.
She was dragged away from her children by a IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused her of passing information to the British Army in Belfast at the time
An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the allegations.
She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home. The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to police in the Republic.
She became one of the so-called Disappeared, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.
Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.
Bell was among of a delegation of republicans, which included Gerry Adams, now the Sinn Féin president, and Martin McGuinness, the North’s Deputy First Minister and a former IRA commander in Derry who were flown by the RAF to London to have ceasefire talks with British ministers in 1972.
But the truce collapsed within days.
77-year-old held by detectives investigating IRA’s kidnapping, killing and secret burial of Belfast widow Jean McConville
18 Mar 2014
A former IRA chief of staff and negotiator for the Provisionals with the British government in 1972 is in custody tonight being questioned about the murder and disappearance of a widow whose death in the same year left 10 children orphaned.
West Belfast republican Ivor Bell was arrested in the city earlier today in connection with one of the most controversial murders of the early years of the Northern Ireland Troubles – the case of “disappeared” mother of 10 Jean McConville. The 77-year-old was detained in the city earlier today by detectives investigating the IRA’s kidnapping, killing and secret burial of the Belfast woman in 1972.
Bell was part of an IRA delegation that met William Whitelaw at future Tory minister Paul Channon’s flat in London six months before McConville’s disappearance.
He and other IRA leaders were trying to negotiate a ceasefire with the British which broke down in the summer of 1972. The republican veteran went on to become a leading figure in the Provisionals but was later sentenced to death by the organisation for allegedly trying to stage a coup d’etat against Gerry Adams in the early 1980s because he became convinced the then West Belfast Sinn Féin MP and others around him were determined to “run down the war” and abandon armed struggle. Since his departure from the IRA, Bell has kept a low profile and effectively bowed out of republican politics.
Jean McConville became one of the most famous of the “disappeared” and her body was not found until 2003 on a beach in Co Louth.
Ex-IRA Belfast commander Brendan Hughes has accused Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin president, of organising a secret unit which abducted and murdered McConville. The unit was charged with smoking out informers for the British within nationalist-republican areas and in most cases killing them and burying their bodies in secret. Adams has always denied the charge from his former friend and also insisted he was never in the IRA. Hughes made his allegation about Adams on tapes for a Boston College academic project in which ex-IRA and loyalist paramilitaries would speak frankly about their roles in the conflict but which would be released only when they died.
The man arrested today is being questioned at the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s serious crimes suite in Antrim Police station. In 1999, the IRA admitted that it murdered and buried at secret locations nine of the Disappeared.
The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains was established in 1999 by a treaty between the British and Irish governments, which gave de facto amnesties for any IRA members who had knowledge about the whereabouts of the missing to come forward without fear of prosecution. It lists 16 people as “disappeared”. Despite extensive searches, the remains of seven of them have not been found.
By Philip Bradfield
11 November 2013
The man who allegedly shot Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville was yesterday named as former Sinn Fein councillor and Belfast IRA commander Pat McGeown.
It was claimed yesterday that he also shot dead ‘Good Samaritan’ Protestant workman Sammy Llewellyn when he went to help Catholics on the Falls Road board up windows after an IRA bomb in 1975.
“I was recently approached by grassroots republicans who were sympathetic to the McConville family,” Jean McConville’s son Jim said yesterday in a Sunday paper.
“I was given some details of what happened and only two weeks ago I gave Pat McGeown’s name to my solicitor.”
The paper claimed that McGeown was only 17 when he shot Mrs McConville in the back of the head, and that he later rose to become a close political confidant of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.
The News Letter understands McGeown’s name had been widely linked to Mrs McConville’s murder before he died in 1996.
Gerry Kelly MLA said at McGeown’s funeral that he had been a prisoner in “Cage 11” of the Maze with Gerry Adams. Adams officially launched the Pat McGeown Community Endeavour Award at Belfast’s Upper Springfield Development Trust in 1998.
He described McGeown 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”, adding that McGeown “would have been one of the last people to expect an award to be given in his name, and yet few others could have deserved the honour more”.
Mr Kelly said McGeown started “barricade duty” at 13 and then joined the local unit of the IRA in the Beechmount area. He added that “at one point he held the most senior rank in the Belfast brigade of the IRA”.
The book Lost Lives, which lists all those who died during the Troubles, said McGeown’s health never recovered after 47 days on hunger strike.
He was jailed in the Republic for explosives offences aged 14 and at 16 was interned before being imprisoned for a bombing attack.
He served 15 years for bombing the Europa Hotel and was the Officer Commanding of the IRA in the Maze. After being released in 1986, he went on to become group leader of Sinn Fein on Belfast City Council.
Sinn Fein yesterday declined to offer any comment.
Another Sunday paper yesterday reported that the IRA member, then aged 16, who drove Mrs McConville away from her children has phoned her daughter Helen McKendry to apologise.
Recording of deceased Belfast IRA commander Brendan Hughes names Sinn Féin president as giving execution order
2 November 2013
Jean McConville, who disappeared from west Belfast in 1972, with three of her 10 children. (Photograph: PA)
A tape recording of a deceased Belfast IRA commander in which Gerry Adams is accused of ordering the murder and secret burial of a widowed mother of 10 in 1972 will be broadcast for the first time this week.
A former IRA hunger striker, Brendan Hughes, alleges the Sinn Féin president was one of the heads of a unit that kidnapped, killed and buried west Belfast woman Jean McConville. Hughes, who died in 2008, is recorded as saying: “There was only one man who gave that order for that woman to be executed – and that man is now the head of Sinn Féin.” Hughes also says that Adams went to the McConville children after their mother was abducted and promised an internal IRA investigation. “That man is the man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. I did not give the order to execute that woman. He did.”
Adams is challenged on the BBC’s Storyville programme over whether he was a senior Provisionals commander in Belfast at the time McConville was abducted, just before Christmas 1972. “That’s not true,” Adams replies, adding that he has not “shirked” his own responsibilities in the conflict. The Sinn Féin leader has always insisted that he was never in the IRA.
In response to the tape, Adams, who is the Sinn Féin member for Louth in the Irish parliament, accuses his former friend of lying. “Brendan is telling lies,” Adams tells the programme. He adds: “I had no act or part to play in the abduction, killing or burial of Jean McConville or any of the others.”
An expert forensic detective tells the joint BBC Northern Ireland-RTE production that the IRA sometimes weighed bodies down with heavy stones to ensure that the corpses would not surface if the bogs they were buried in ever dried up.
Storyville reveals that the first of the “disappeared” to be found back in 1999, north Belfast man Eamon Molloy, had received the last rites from a Catholic priest. The priest saw Molloy tied naked to a bed and asked his captors if any of them had rosary beads that their prisoner could hold when he was to be shot.
Security sources in the Republic told the Observer last week that up to four additional men who were “disappeared” by the IRA have not yet been identified by the organisation set up to find the Troubles’ missing victims. The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) has so far found eight of the “disappeared”, including McConville, but seven on their official list are still unaccounted for.
A spokesman for the ICLVR, Geoff Knupfer, said: “At this moment there is no information to suggest there is any addition to the list.” However, security sources insist that at least four IRA victims were buried in secret. The film is to be broadcast on BBC4, BBC Northern Ireland and RTE on Tuesday.
It includes a reading of the late Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘The Bog Queen’, which the Nobel laureate agreed could be used in the programme to remember the plight of the “disappeared”.
Although Ed Moloney maintains that Dolours Price never once mentioned Jean McConville by name in her Boston College taped interviews, as the following link from Slugger O’Toole explains:
‘Dolours Price’s death does offers the opportunity for her taped testimony and interviews with Anthony McIntyre to finally be released and published in book or documentary form in the short to medium term.’
For the article with many relevant links to other sources, please go here:
Gardaí investigate after former IRA veteran, 62, dies at home
24 Jan 2013
Dolours Price, left, with her sister Marion in Belfast in 1972. (Photograph: PA Archive/Press Association Image)
Dolours Price, the IRA Old Bailey bomber who later became a bitter critic of Sinn Féin’s peace strategy, has been found dead at her home in north Dublin.
The Garda Síochána are investigating the circumstances surrounding the sudden death of the former Irish republican icon in her apartment in Malahide, although she had been in general ill health.
Republican sources confirmed to the Guardian that the former IRA veteran, 62, who was once married to the Hollywood actor Stephen Rea, had died at her home.
Price was involved in a car bombing at the Old Bailey in 1973, which injured more than 200 people and may have led to one person’s death of heart failure. The ex-IRA prisoner, who went on hunger strike with her sister Marion in the 1970s and was subjected to force feeding in English prisons, had struggled with alcohol problems later in life.
She became an arch critic of Gerry Adams, claiming the Sinn Féin president had ordered her to have one of the most famous victims of the IRA – Jean McConville – abducted from her west Belfast home, murdered across the border in the Republic and buried in secret in 1972.
Price alleged that she was given the task of driving McConville, a widow, away from her 10 children in the Divis flats complex to her death on the Co Louth coast. McConville became the most famous of the “Disappeared” – IRA victims whom the organisation killed and buried in secret during the Troubles.
Price claimed Adams had set up a secret IRA unit in Belfast to weed out informers both in its ranks and within the nationalist community who were helping the security forces. The Sinn Féin Louth TD, one of the key architects of the Northern Ireland peace process, has consistently denied her allegations.
In an interview with CBS television in the United States last year, Price repeated her claims about Adams and McConville. She said: “I drove away Jean McConville. I don’t know who gave the instructions to execute her. Obviously it was decided between the general headquarters staff and the people in Belfast. Gerry Adams would have been part of that negotiation as to what was to happen to her.
“I had a call one night and Adams was in a house down the Falls Road and she had been arrested by Cumann [the IRA’s female unit] women and held for a couple of days. She got into my car and as far as she was concerned she was being taken away by the Legion of Mary to a place of safety.
“It wasn’t my decision to disappear her, thank God. All I had to do was drive her from Belfast to Dundalk. I even got her fish and chips and cigarettes before I left her.”
Price was unrepentant about her alleged role in the disappearance and death of McConville.
Marion Price, also a fierce critic of the direction the IRA and Sinn Féin took during the peace process, is in Maghaberry prison in Northern Ireland, where she is facing terrorist-related charges.