Friday 15 February 2019

The IRA's 'disappeared' return to haunt Adams

Public to hear deathbed testimony blaming Sinn Fein leader

Gerry Adams
Gerry Adams
Jean McConville and some of her children
Adams and Brendan Hughes in the Maze in the Seventies
Hughes, shortly before he died

Jim Cusack

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams will this week hear a voice from the grave – accusing him, in damning deathbed testimony, of ordering the murder and disappearance of widowed mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

The public will be able to hear the voice of Adams' former close friend and fellow IRA man Brendan Hughes point the finger at the Sinn Fein leader as the man who signed the death warrant of Mrs McConville.

Hughes, who filmed an account of his life in the IRA for use after his death, says the man who gave the order for the murder and secret burial of Mrs McConville is "the head of Sinn Fein".

Interviewed about the claim on the joint RTE and BBC NI produced expose, Adams repeats his denial of having any "act or part" in the murder.

The programme also includes an interview, for the first time on television, of Billy McKee, one of the founding members of the Provisional IRA. McKee was in prison in 1972 when the IRA began murdering and secretly burying people and was no longer in command of the IRA in the city.

McKee, now in his 80s, reacts angrily when Gerry Adams' persistence in denying he was ever a member of the IRA is put to him. He calls on Adams to "come up to me and say that to me face to face".

McKee was asked if he would have buried Jean McConville and replies: "No, I wouldn't have buried her. I would have executed her alright, no problem, but I would not have buried her."

Presenter of the documentary, broadcaster Darragh MacIntyre, puts it to McKee that Sinn Fein sources had told him that the IRA had inherited the practice of secretly burying victims from an older generation of IRA members, and McKee replies: "That's a goddamn lie. In my time, I never knew anybody to be buried, executed yes, but not to be buried. They were never disappeared, not in the Forties, not in the Fifties."

He is then asked why Sinn Fein were saying this, and replies: "They will tell you that they weren't involved in the campaign at any time. It's confounded lies what they're saying."

The programme, The Disappeared, is to be broadcast tomorrow night on RTE One and on Tuesday night on BBC4 and will heap further political pressure on Adams.

In the tape recorded by Hughes, he says: "This woman was taken away and executed . . . Jean McConville. There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. That man is now the head of Sinn Fein and he went to this family's house and promised an investigation into the woman's disappearance.

"That man is the man that gave the order for that woman to be executed. I did not give the order to execute that woman – he did."

When this is put to Adams, along with the same claim by another former friend and IRA member, Dolours Price, who took her own life in January, Adams replies: "No, I had no act or part to play in either the abduction, the killing or the burial of Jean McConville or, indeed, any of these other individuals.

"Brendan is telling lies. Himself and Dolours Price, opponents of the Sinn Fein leadership . . . they see us as having sold out. They see us as traitors – and they also have their own demons to deal with, so all of this and all these allegations need to be set in that context."

MacIntyre says that he has spoken to another, living, former but unnamed "top" IRA member from Belfast who agreed with the claims by Hughes and Price that Adams gave the order for Mrs McConville's murder and secret burial.

Adams denies the claim again, saying: "That is just re-cycling the same story. That's not true Darragh. You can repeat it ad nauseum but I'm simply telling you, it's not true.

"My focus is in trying to do what I can as an individual to bring those bodies to the families who grieve them and want a burial place to go to. Of course, I regret. One wouldn't be a living, thinking human being if one didn't have regrets."

He is then asked if he bears any responsibility for what happened and replies: "All of us bear responsibility, those of us who are in leadership and I have never shirked that."

The hour-and-a-half long programme hears testimony from the families of the IRA's disappeared including Michael McConville, who was just 11 when his mother was abducted from their maisonette in Divis Flats in December 1972.

Mr McConville recounts how, weeks after his mother's disappearance, he was also abducted and tortured by an IRA team and ordered to stop asking about what happened to his mother. The McConville children were split up and sent to separate orphanages where they grew up.

The programme also includes an interview with the former US President Bill Clinton who speaks of how he helped the families of the disappeared in their attempts to recover the bodies. Also during the programme Seamus Heaney reads his poem The Bog Queen. The poet, who died in August, gave written permission for his reading of the poem to be included in the programme and waived any fee.

'The Disappeared' RTE1, Monday, 9.35pm & BBC4 Tuesday, 10pm

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