SINN Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has defended party leader Gerry Adams after he described the abduction and murder of Jean McConville as something that "happens in wars".
The McConville family have expressed their hurt over the remarks, which Mr Adams made during an interview with US broadcaster CBS.
Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Ms McDonald said she did not believe Mr Adams was being "flippant" and that her party has never intended to compound the hurt of any family affected by the Troubles.
But asked whether she agrees with Mr Adams' remarks that the mother of 10's murder was an act of war, Ms McDonald said "awful things did happen" over the course of the conflict.
"The truth is, in the course of the conflict, awful things did happen. They happened on all sides," she said.
"And terrible hurts were inflicted and we are at a stage now where I hope we begin the process of recognising those hurts and addressing them and, where we can, bringing some level of closure and comfort and even reconciliation to everybody concerned."
Ms McConville was abducted from her home in front of her children and murdered by the IRA in 1972.
Mr Adams, who has consistently denied involvement in the crime, was questioned by the PSNI last year before being released without charge.
During his interview with CBS, Mr Adams was asked about his arrest, as well as the Boston College tapes in which former IRA members claim the Louth TD was involved in Mrs McConville's murder.
Mr Adams was asked by interviewer Scott Pelley: "How do you orphan 10 children, what kind of depravity is that?"
Mr Adams responded: "That's what happens in wars, Scott. That's not to minimise it. That's what American soldiers do, Irish republicans soldiers do, you know. That's what happens in every single conflict."
During the interview, Mr Adams denied ever having pulled a trigger, placing a bomb or ordering murders.
In a statement released on Saturday, Mrs McConville's son Michael criticised Mr Adams' comments.
"The murder of our mother did not just happen. It was ordered and planned," he said.
"No one should ever forget that or be allowed to pretend otherwise. Gerry Adams says these things happen in wars, in which case this is a war crime and those responsible should be brought to justice."
Asked about the interview as she attended an Easter Rising commemoration event in Dublin yesterday, Ms McDonald defended Mr Adams' remarks.
"The last thing any of us would like to do is compound the hurt of the McConville family or any family. What happened to Jean McConville was utterly wrong and indeed the other families of the Disappeared," she said.
"What I want to see and what republicans want to see is the remains returned to the families so at least they have the comfort of that.
"The intention is in no way to cause hurt or any level of distress. I think, in fairness, we've said that consistently and that's my sincerely held position and view."
Ms McConville is one of the best-known murder victims of the Troubles.
She was dragged away from her home at Divis Flats, Belfast, by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army.
An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the allegations.
She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home.
The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to police in the Republic.
Her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.
Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.