Friday 6 December 2019

'They killed my mother and now they have to pay'

Rebecca Black

HELEN McKendry thought nobody would remember her mother 40 years on.

She was just 16 when widow Jean McConville was bundled away screaming into a van and never seen again.

Now after years of living in fear, Helen is determined to finally get justice for her mother.

"I have been living in fear for far too long, and I thought to hell with them, they done this, they killed my mother, now they have to pay for it," she said.

"It would bring me closure and maybe then we will learn the full truth of what happened and why it happened."

The quiet country road where they now live has been blocked with both local and international television crews since last Wednesday, when Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams submitted to police questioning about Jean's abduction.

The McKendrys now plan to launch a civil action against Gerry Adams within weeks.

They have been offered help and advice by families of the Omagh bomb victims, who successfully sued those arrested for the 1998 blast.

Helen and her nine siblings suffered further trauma with little sympathy from the local community and were separated by the state into different care homes.

Yet it was at a care home that Helen met young joiner Seamus McKendry and the pair started a campaign for justice which 40 years later has catapulted them into the world spotlight.

Now, the pair are working on the finer details of the civil action. Seamus said: "We have specifically asked that nothing goes into motion until it is incredibly well thought out," he said.

"The Omagh victims have passed word on to us that we are more than welcome to go up and discuss it with them how they won their case."

While Andersonstown-born Seamus promised Helen justice for her mother when the pair were just 16, he admitted he said he'd walk away from it if it was ever proven that Jean had been an informer as the IRA had claimed. But the pair married at 18 and his attitude has mellowed over the years.

"I always told her I'd find the truth, I told her I didn't care what it took I would find the truth for her.

"I must admit I did tell her in the early days that if I found out her mother had been an informer I'd walk away from it. I wouldn't walk away from her, but I'd walk away from campaigning.

"But the older I get the more I realise that even if Jean McConville had been a tout as they call her, there's no way she would have deserved what happened to her. There is no justification for that. They made a serious faux pas, they certainly did and she paid with her life. That will come out, believe me."

Seamus revealed that they have received support from many across the republican community, even members of Sinn Fein.

"Sinn Fein don't communicate with us anymore, we never worked with them, we had meetings with them," he said.

"The first meeting we had with them Helen gave him (Adams) the names of those that she knew abducted her mother. Adams just went through all the names and said, no I know her, she's a great girl, definitely not her – all while he looked at the floor, he didn't even look at her. He dismissed her like the proverbial bit of s**t on his shoe.

"Of course there are (people in Sinn Fein who are disgusted with the disappearance of Jean), you wouldn't believe the amount of people I would describe as die hard republicans who have shaken my hand and said, no one can fault you for what you are doing."

Yet, the past few weeks have taken their toll on the family.

"It's been exhausting, thoroughly exhausting," Seamus added.

Irish Independent

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