News Analysis

Monday 22 September 2014

Latest twist in murder mystery gives McConville family hope

David McKittrick

Published 02/05/2014 | 02:30

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Jean McConville (left) with three of her children before she vanished in 1972
Jean McConville (left) with three of her children before she vanished in 1972

Sinn Fein yesterday sought to portray the arrest and ongoing detention of Gerry Adams as "political policing" as the party president continued to be held at a police questioning facility near Belfast.

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Both David Cameron and Enda Kenny rejected Sinn Fein allegations that his arrest for questioning about the 1972 murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville was politically motivated.

His detention attracted widespread attention with TV stations and journalists from many countries reporting on the arrest of an internationally known figure for interrogation about one of the most shocking murders of the Troubles.

The Taoiseach went on to drop a particularly pointed hint that Mr Adams should not resort to the familiar republican tactic of remaining silent while under police interrogation.

He declared: "All I can say is that I hope the president of Sinn Fein answers in the best way he can, to the fullest extent that he can, questions that are being asked about a live murder investigation."

David Cameron meanwhile said there had been "absolutely no political interference in this issue," adding that both England and Northern Ireland had independent policing authorities and prosecuting authorities.

Detectives are presumed to be questioning the Sinn Fein president about references to him in the so-called Boston Tapes, consisting of interviews with veteran republicans who like Mr Adams were active in Belfast in the early 1970s.

The tapes were handed over to police in Belfast by Boston College by order of a US court. They are said to include allegations that Mr Adams ordered the abduction and killing of Mrs McConville, who the IRA accused of passing information to the British army.

Yesterday her son Michael, who was aged 11 when an IRA gang dragged his hysterical mother away from the family's small flat in the Falls Road district of Belfast, welcomed the Adams arrest.

Speaking for the family he said: "We're just happy to see everything moving as it is moving at the minute. My brothers and sisters are glad to see the PSNI doing their job. We are quite glad that it is taking place."

He added that he wanted the perpetrators, rather than being brought before courts in Northern Ireland, to be tried as war criminals at the International Court at the Hague. "All we're looking for is justice for our mother," he said.

Describing the abduction, Mrs McConville's daughter Helen McKendry said: "Four girls dragged her from the bathroom at gunpoint. The twins, who were only six at the time, were clinging to her, screaming to the women to let her go but they took her anyway."

She was never seen alive again. An additional cruelty was that the IRA never admitted they murdered her: in fact, stories were circulated locally that she had deserted her family – she had probably, it was said, run away with a soldier.

With the IRA denying it knew anything about the incident, Mrs McConville's body was not found for more than 30 years, when it was discovered at a Co Louth beach.

Eight of the family were taken into care, with the children split up and scattered to various homes and orphanages. Many of them had deeply disturbed childhoods. "Some of them have got into trouble," according to Ms McKendry. "Others have had problems forming relationships. It ruined us."

Michael McConville recalled: "I could quite easily have wound up being a thug, because that's what you learned in the homes. The IRA had ruined my life as a child, but I promised myself it wouldn't ruin my life as an adult."

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness blamed the "dark side" of policing for the timing of the Adams arrest, which took place in the run-up to elections on both sides of the Border.

He declared: "People who could be described as former republicans are targeting the Sinn Fein peace strategy and targeting Gerry Adams. It has been disappointing to see the efforts of some of those people, together in concert with the dark side within policing."

Describing Mr Adams as "the single most important and most influential figure in the peace process", he said the death of Mrs McConville was "a terrible injustice, a terrible wrong".

But Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson commended the police on the arrest, saying: "It strengthens our political process 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."

Irish Independent

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