TEN years ago, in August 2003, a father was playing with his children on Shelling Beach near Carlingford Lough in Co Louth. He spotted a piece of fabric sticking out of the sand.
The man pulled on the frayed material. As he pulled, the sand parted. The fragment of gown was attached to a skeleton. The local man had uncovered a long buried secret of the Provisional IRA. He had discovered what was left of a woman who had vanished without trace in 1972. He had found Jean McConville.
The inquest into how Belfast woman McConville met her terrifying end took place in Dundalk in 2004. It was not for the squeamish. We learned that up to 28 armed men and women burst into her Divis Tower flat in December 1972.
As seven children clung to their mother, a gun was put to one child's head. Then the volunteers got their way and hauled Jean away after a brief struggle.
The pathology report into the remains revealed how the IRA then treated its captive. Jean McConville was beaten with such force her bones were cracked. The cause of death was a single bullet fired at point- blank range to the back of her head.
The coroner, Ronan Maguire, recorded a verdict of unlawful killing. He spoke for most of us when he said Jean's IRA killers, and there were dozens involved, "lacked humanity".
To this day, Sinn Fein claim the IRA killed Jean because she was "an informer".
Nuala O'Loan refuted that smear in 2006. The former police ombudsman conducted an inquiry of all the relevant intelligence files and concluded the IRA had "murdered an innocent woman".
The spectre of Jean McConville has haunted the republican movement ever since. But it did not prevent over 15,000 people in Co Louth from putting her out of their minds and voting for Gerry Adams in 2011.
Amnesia as well as radical chic put him into Leinster House.
But McConville's ghost has stubbornly refused to leave the scene of the war crime. The murder of the widow who left behind 10 young children remains unsolved. Now the mystery surrounding Jean's brutal death may well be unravelling.
The latest episode in the McConville saga unfolded in Boston last week. The US Supreme Court ruled that tapes of an interview with the IRA veteran Dolours Price held by Boston College could be released to the PSNI.
Detectives in Belfast are investigating claims made by Dolours Price before she died in January 2013 that she was one of the IRA volunteers involved in the annihilation of the Belfast widow.
Price admitted that she was in the car that took Jean McConville to the torture chambers of South Armagh.
She alleged that Gerry Adams was her commanding officer and ordered her to undertake the mission. She made these "confessions" not out of remorse. Price's gripe with Adams was that he had ended "the war of liberation" before Irish freedom was won.
Gerry Adams has always denied being in the IRA. Few believe him, least of all in Sinn Fein. Until now, that has never stopped his march to power. One of his closest friends was Brendan 'The Dark' Hughes. Hughes was in the IRA. He was commander of the Provos' Belfast Brigade at the height of its terror campaign.
Hughes also gave an interview to the Boston College oral history project. RTE screened some of his testimony about Gerry Adams after his death in 2009. In the programme, Voices From The Grave, Hughes poured scorn on Adams' denial of IRA membership.
Instead, he put Adams at the epicentre of many IRA operations in Belfast in the early Seventies, including the disappearance of Jean McConville. The interviews with Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price were conducted by the IRA convict Anthony McInytre and journalist Ed Moloney. They pleaded with the Americans not to release the Price tapes.
Moloney was responsible for the Voices From The Grave film. He told RTE at the weekend that the Price material could lead to the fall of Gerry Adams. He warned that the fate of the peace process was at stake.
Senator Robert Menendez, the chair of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, has now intervened and lobbied Secretary of State John Kerry to review the handover of the tapes.
Menendez urged Kerry to consider the implications of the Price interview and how it might undermine "US interests in the progress achieved by the people of Northern Ireland".
Senator Menendez has some neck. Imagine how America would react if the boot was on the other foot?
Any country that denied the FBI access to material featuring the Tsarnaev brothers to see how it might shed light on why and for whom they planted explosives in Boston would be regarded as a hostile state.
If peace in Ireland hangs on this tape being held under lock and key in America, then there's not much hope for us. Is the IRA going to go to war again if Gerry has a case to answer? Let the PSNI have the tapes and let's see where the chips fall. We owe that much to Jean McConville.
Gerry Adams strenuously denies any involvement in Jean McConville's abduction and murder with the same vehemence that he denies IRA membership.
Like his hero, Fidel Castro, Adams plans to go on and on. Until now many of us have given him the benefit of the doubt on both counts.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein goes from strength to strength. As long as a growing number of voters conveniently forget about the hell that Jean McConville suffered, few among the Sinn Fein ranks will challenge their leader for life.
Viva Fidel. Viva Gerry. Viva Amnesia.