SF election hopes hit as Adams arrested over mother-of-10's murder
SINN Fein suffered a setback to its election hopes last night as party leader Gerry Adams was arrested over the abduction and murder of Jean McConville more than 40 years ago.
The move by the PSNI to interview the Louth TD about such a serious crime threatens severe damage to the party's credibility as it rides high in the polls ahead of the European and local elections.
Mr Adams was in Leinster House yesterday afternoon and took Leaders' Questions on behalf of Sinn Fein. Hours later he was being interviewed by police in the North.
Mr Adams (65) has been repeatedly linked with Ms McConville's disappearance but has always denied any involvement in the murder of the Belfast mother-of-10.
Her son Michael McConville last night welcomed the arrest of Mr Adams.
"The McConville family is glad to see that the police are taking our mother's murder seriously and are doing all they can to bring the people that murdered her to justice," he said.
"I would say an awful lot of people in the north and south of Ireland are glad to see Gerry Adams being arrested for this."
Mr Adams and his deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald immediately said the timing of his arrest was "politically motivated", coming in the middle of an election campaign.
Sinn Fein has been making strong gains, with the latest Irish Independent/ Millward Brown opinion poll suggesting it could take three European Parliament seats.
Momentum has been building in the investigation into the notorious IRA killing of Ms McConville in 1972, with veteran republican Ivor Bell (77) recently charged in connection with her death.
It also follows recent correspondence between Mr Adams's solicitor and the PSNI, confirming that the Sinn Fein president was available to speak to them.
Last night, the PSNI confirmed that a 65-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the abduction and murder of Jean McConville in December 1972.
It also follows a series of developments in the saga of the Boston College tapes – statements from people involved in the Troubles, which were recorded as part of an oral history project.
The US college had 11 tapes recorded by paramilitaries, which lay in archives for more than a decade before they were finally handed over to the PSNI following a complex action through the US courts.
Some of the statements allege that Gerry Adams was a key figure in the decision to abduct and murder the 37-year-old.
Former IRA bomber Dolours Price, who died last year, had implicated Mr Adams in the murder of Ms McConville. Ms Price alleged that she was given the task of driving Ms McConville to her death.
Last night, a statement from Mr Adams confirmed that he was "voluntarily meeting" with the PSNI about the murder.
He 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 Ms McConville."
Ms McConville was abducted from her flat in the Divis area of west Belfast and shot by the IRA. For decades she was among the Disappeared – the IRA did not admit being responsible for her murder until 1999 and her body was finally recovered from Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth in 2003.
The IRA had alleged Ms McConville was an informer, though no evidence has ever been found to support this.
It would appear that Ms McConville – a Protestant married to a Roman Catholic – was kicked out of east Belfast by loyalists, then targeted for murder in west Belfast by the IRA.
On tape, from beyond the grave, Brendan Hughes, a leading Belfast IRA man and former close associate of Mr Adams, said that the direct order to kill Ms McConville came from Mr Adams.
Mr Adams has denied the claims and previously criticised the Boston College project, claiming some of those involved were opposed to Sinn Fein.
Ivor Bell, from the Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, is accused of aiding and abetting the murder and of IRA membership. His lawyer has said he will contest the charges.