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Monday 23 April 2018

'Gerry Adams does not shock me anymore... I don't know why people would vote for a man like that' - Jean McConville daughter

Helen McKendry
Helen McKendry

Rebecca Black and Joanne Sweeney

A woman left orphaned by the IRA as a child has said she will not rest until Gerry Adams has been brought before the courts.

Helen McKendry has also pledged that if she does not see justice in her lifetime, her children will fight on for her.

Her mother Jean McConville was dragged from her children by 14 IRA members and abducted from her Belfast home just weeks before Christmas in 1972.

Ms McKendry, then just 15 years old, cared for her younger siblings for several weeks.

They were then split up and placed in the care of the state, still wondering what had happened. The widowed mother-of-10 became known as one of the Disappeared. Following a number of searches, her remains were finally found by a member of the public at Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth in August 2003.

Last year a number of people were arrested and questioned over her murder but no one has ever been charged or convicted.

Earlier this month Sinn Fein president Mr Adams described the tragedy casually during an interview with US television station as "something that happens in war". In an interview in today's Belfast Telegraph Ms McKendry said: "That man just does not shock me anymore. I don't think he stops to think what's coming out of his mouth. I don't know why people would vote for a man like that."

She added: "I'm after the one who gave the order and I believe that was Gerry Adams".

Mr Adams has always strongly denied any involvement in the abduction and murder of Mrs McConville.

Ms McKendry has also revealed that she believes the IRA had been watching the family home and had purposely waited until she had gone out before snatching the mother. As the oldest of the children, she believes she may have been able to resist them.

"If I had have been there at the time, I would have put up a fight," she said.

"Sometimes, I think that the people who took my mother were waiting on me not being there because I was later told that they were actually in a nearby house watching ours all day."

She also described how hard it had been as a young teenager suddenly in charge of a family after the death of both her parents within a year.

"We were all still coming to terms with the loss of my father Arthur in January of that year from cancer," she said.

"I had to take over the job of my mother, which was very hard because I was only 15 and taking on that role when there was no money coming in.

"We were on own for about 14 weeks. Every day got harder for me because I couldn't get the children to go to school.

"There was no food for them. I had to rely on friends' homes, where I would go in and steal food from their parents for us behind their backs." Mrs McKendry said talking to the media had helped her cope with this trauma, as well as other events she witnessed during the Troubles.

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