Friday 19 December 2014

Gerry Adams: 'My arrest was wrong'

Published 04/05/2014 | 21:56

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has branded his arrest over the murder of Jean McConville as wrong but insisted the police in Northern Ireland retain his support.

After his release from custody, pending a report being sent to prosecutors, Mr Adams again rejected allegations made by former republican colleagues that he ordered the abduction and killing of the Belfast mother-of-ten in 1972.

Mr Adams' arrest on Wednesday triggered a bitter political row at Stormont, with Sinn Fein accusing an "anti-peace process rump" within the police of orchestrating the detention with the aim of damaging the party.

This was angrily rejected by unionists, whose fury intensified when senior Sinn Fein figures indicated that their support for the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) - a critical plank in the peace process - would be "reviewed" if Mr Adams was charged.

Mr Adams tonight moved to reaffirm his party's commitment to new policing structures in the region.

While he said the police's action had sent out the "wrong signal", he added: "Despite this I want to make it clear that I support the PSNI, I will continue to work with others to build a genuinely civic policing service.

"The old guard which is against change - whether in the PSNI leadership, within elements of unionism, or the far fringes of self proclaimed but pseudo republicans - they can't win.

"The dark side of the British system cannot be allowed to deny anyone, any of our people - Catholic, Protestant or dissenter - to their entitlement to a rights-based citizen society as set out in the Good Friday Agreement."

A rapturous welcome afforded to the republican veteran - as he gave his first public reaction to his four day detention - in a Belfast hotel tonight was in stark contrast to the angry loyalist protest staged outside Antrim police station when news of his release filtered through this evening.

Mr Adams, 65, urged people to acknowledge the feelings of the McConville family at a time when intense focus has been directed on the 37-year-old widow's death.

But he said claims that he was involved were part of a "sustained, malicious, untruthful and sinister campaign".

The decision to release Mr Adams and send a report to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) means the ultimate decision whether to charge him with any offence will be made by prosecutors at a later date after reviewing evidence presented by police.

It could take some time for the PSNI to prepare the file for the PPS, with prosecutors then taking a further period to assess whatever evidence is presented.

The announcement of Mr Adams' release came almost 96 hours after he was arrested on Wednesday night after voluntarily presenting himself at Antrim police station for questioning.

He said he did not expect "special treatment" at Antrim police station, and said it is "crucial" that everyone is treated fairly, and that everyone knows these are "changed times".

Mr Adams said the allegations made against him in relation to the killing of Mrs McConville are "based almost exclusively on hearsay from unnamed alleged Boston College interviewees but mostly from Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes".

He said other alleged interviewees were referred to only by a letter of the alphabet.

"I reject all the allegations, and rejected all the allegations made against me in these tapes," he said.

Mr Adams said the only way is forward, adding that there will be "diversions".

He said: "But most importantly there are elements out there who are actively erecting obstacles, actively seeking to put up diversions, so we know that.

"I thank everyone for their support.

"I extend sympathy once again to the McConville family, and to all those who have suffered, especially at the hands of republicans."

Mr Adams said his resolve remains "as strong as ever", and said that resolve was "to build the peace".

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