News Politics

Tuesday 30 September 2014

SF warned to let PSNI do job as Adams stays in custody

John Downing, Ralph Riegel and Greg Harkin

Published 03/05/2014 | 02:30

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Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams
A mural of Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams is painted on a wall on the Falls Road, Belfast . Photo: Niall Carson
A mural depicting Gerry Adams as a " Peacemaker , Leader & Visionary "

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has warned Sinn Fein to let the PSNI get on with the questioning of Gerry Adams over the murder of Jean McConville.

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The party had threatened to review its support for policing in the North after the PSNI successfully applied to extend Mr Adams's detention by a further 48 hours for questioning over the murder of Ms McConville in 1972.

His party colleague and North Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness immediately denounced the PSNI move as further evidence of "political policing".

He claimed a "cabal" within the PSNI was behind the arrest, with the intent of inflicting political scars on Sinn Fein in the run-up to elections later this month.

Mr McGuinness then raised the spectre of dealing a huge blow to the peace process, stating that Sinn Fein would review its support for policing in Northern Ireland if Mr Adams was charged.

Mr Kenny bluntly told Sinn Fein: "The PSNI is not the RUC. They have a job to do."

Politicians on both sides of the Border, insisted that the PSNI must be free to pursue its inquiry into the brutal murder of the mother of 10.

Mr Kenny said Sinn Fein's accusations of a political motivation behind the arrest was in stark contrast to the party's policy on the PSNI.

"It is a contradiction of the statements which Sinn Fein have been making about the progress the PSNI has made as a police force over the last number of years," he said.

Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland Secretary, called for measured responses to the arrest. "The Prime Minister does appreciate the sensitivity of a case of this nature," she said.

"He, like me, is anxious to ensure that the devolved institutions continue to work well and that the Northern Ireland political leaders continue to work with each other on the big challenges that we face.

"That is why I am urging everyone to respond in a measured way."

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said: "It is, quite frankly, outrageous for Martin McGuinness to blame what he calls 'the dark side of policing in Northern Ireland' for the arrest.

"Quite simply, the police must be allowed to follow evidence wherever it leads them.

"It is a fundamental legal principle that justice and the due process of law must apply equally to everyone in a society."

Mr Adams is spending a third day in police custody at Antrim police station as officers expand their questioning to focus on his alleged role as a senior member of the IRA, as well as the murder of Ms McConville.

Mr Adams (65) was arrested at 8pm on Wednesday after going to a police station by arrangement with officers investigating the 1972 murder.

But he could scarcely have anticipated that he would remain in custody days later as PSNI officers pursue several lines of questioning.

Mr Adams, former MP for West Belfast and now TD for Louth, vehemently denies allegations levelled by former republican colleagues that he ordered Ms McConville's murder and secret burial in 1972.

Republican sources in the North say they don't believe Mr Adams will be charged with murder, but have warned of the "serious implications" if he is charged with IRA membership. "This investigation has expanded and is now about Gerry and the IRA," said one former IRA leader.

"It could do very serious damage to the peace and political processes. Republicans across the six counties will be concerned that there is now a one-sided approach to the policing of the past," he said.

The deputy first minister said he and colleagues would not be making a "knee-jerk" decision, but suggested they would "reflect" on their endorsement of the PSNI if Mr Adams is charged.

Stating his belief that Mr Adams would be "totally and absolutely exonerated", Mr McGuinness said "very senior members of the PSNI" had told him of "a dark side" which was working to a negative agenda.

British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to First Minister Peter Robinson and Mr McGuinness amid heightened republican anger at the timing of Mr Adams's detention.

But the Taoiseach was adamant that Sinn Fein and Mr Adams should co-operate fully with the PSNI probe into the murder.

"All I am saying here is that PSNI is not the RUC. and, in that context, anybody who has any information about the 10 to 12 people and those who ordered them to take out Jean McConville to have her murdered and have her disappeared... have a duty and a responsibility now to give that information to the PSNI."

He added: "Yes, it does include Gerry Adams.I now expect Gerry Adams, the same as anybody else as citizen of this country, to give full and thorough and comprehensive information about what they know."

Mr Kenny said his greatest issue is Ms McConville's son Michael's admission that his life could be at risk if he assists the probe with specific information about what happened in 1972.

"It concerns me. It shows the rawness of the emotion that is still there and the fear and the anxiety and the concern of many people about speaking out," he said.

Confirmation that Mr Adams would be further detained came just an hour before he was due to be released at 8pm last night. He can now be held until Sunday evening, when officers must make a decision on whether to release him or charge him with a crime.

Sinn Fein assembly member Alex Maskey insisted that the party would not withdraw support for policing but would "continue to monitor and review our relationship with the PSNI".

He said: "Martin McGuinness actually didn't say that we will withdraw support for policing, we will not withdraw support for policing of course, because we do support policing.

"What we will continue to monitor and review is our relationship with the PSNI if indeed we have a situation which we believe is continuing at the moment, where we have a small element of people involved in policing who are politically motivated, who have a hostile attitude to our party, who have been taking very retrograde steps in relation to how they deal with policing."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Police in any part of the world have to earn the respect of their local community. I can tell you that the community that I represent, the people that I represent are scathing in their anger at the moment about the PSNI."

Northern Ireland justice minister David Ford said: "I reject the suggestion that there is political policing in Northern Ireland."

He told Today: "I'm not quite sure about this allegation of the timing (of the arrest). Gerry Adams' solicitor said a few weeks ago that he was ready to meet the police.

"So he went by arrangement to meet the police at this time and now Sinn Fein representatives appear to be complaining about the timing of it.

"In any case it is normal practice if somebody is likely to be arrested in the course of an inquiry that they are arrested at the start of discussions.

"I don't know whether Gerry Adams thought he was going to turn up at Antrim's serious crime suite, have a wee chat for half an hour and then go off again, but clearly on the scale of the concerns expressed, of the information - which I entirely accept is not yet evidence - it was entirely appropriate that should be followed up in the normal way.

"Those decisions are for the police, supported yesterday by an independent judge in extending the time for that investigation to continue."

He added: "If politicians are taking their decisions on how they react to the police service based on who the police service are investigating, then that is a very dangerous position for politicians to be in."

Irish Independent

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