Gerry Adams, who has been Sinn Fein party chief since 1983, was released from custody without charges Sunday after nearly four days of police questioning over his alleged involvement in the 1972 Irish Republican Army (IRA) murder of a Belfast mother of 10, Jean McConville. The murder probe has created chaos with Northern Ireland’s unity government. Adams stated that he wanted Sinn Fein to provide assistance to the children of McConville, the 37-year-old widow and mother abducted from her home by the IRA in 1972, killed, and her whereabouts remained unknown for over 30 years. He also rejected claims by IRA veterans in recorded interviews that he had ordered the killing of the Belfast widow and mother.
Adams, 65, stated: “I am innocent of any involvement in any conspiracy to abduct, kill, or bury Mrs. McConville. I have worked hard with others to have this injustice redressed.” According to the Sinn Fein leader, he was interviewed 33 times during 92 hours in police custody. Even though he was released without charges, the investigation of Adams is not over. Police contend they have sent an evidence file to Northern Ireland prosecutors for potential charges at a later date. Moreover, this move means the ultimate decision whether or not to charge Adams with any offense will be determined by Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) after reviewing the police evidence presented.
Sinn Fein party chief, Gerry Adams, was released from custody following four days of police questioning over his alleged link to the 1972 IRA murder of Belfast widow and mother of 10, Jean McConville. The renewed murder probe has served to underscore the unrelenting hostility of some Protestants towards Adams and Sinn Fein’s ambitions to merge Northern Ireland into the Republic of Ireland. Adams’ departure from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) main headquarters in Antrim, which is located west of Belfast, was met with great resistance by a crowd of Protestants, whom waved Union Jack flags and held posters demanding justice for IRA victims. Several officers in full-riot gear confronted the hardline Protestants as they tried to block Adams’ exit by sitting down in the roadway. Ultimately, police escorted Adams out via a rear exit of which the protesters were unaware.
Adams said detectives primarily questioned him regarding recorded interviews that IRA veterans gave to a Boston College oral history project. In 2013, PSNI successfully sued in U.S. courts to gain possession of the recorded interviews, which had been given to researchers on the condition that they remain confidential until the participants’ own deaths. Some participants involved in the project implicated Adams of ordering McConville’s killing. Moreover, one of Adams’ former colleagues insinuated that Adams gave an order for McConville’s body to vanish, so her fate would be deliberately unclear.
The IRA refused to admit responsibility for McConville disappearance and death until 1999, following the Good Friday Agreement, which allowed power sharing between Protestants and Catholics. This agreement ended 30 years of violence and upheaval in Ireland known as the “Troubles”. The IRA defended its actions by insinuating she was a spy and had provided information to the British Army. This claim was proven false in 2006 following an extensive inquiry. McConville’s remains were eventually located in 2003 near a Republic of Ireland beach.
Following McConville’s death, most of her 10 children, aged 6 to 17 at the time of her disappearance, were placed in separate foster homes and grew up as virtual strangers to each other. On Sunday, they expressed disappointment, but no surprise, at Adams’ release. Her children remain steadfast and resolute in their journey to obtain justice for their mother. Additionally, they were pleased that Adams’ arrest had achieved “a worldwide focus on our mother’s cruel and inhuman treatment by the IRA.” Moreover, they stressed that several other families in Northern Ireland still were waiting for the IRA to identify the unmarked graves of their own long-lost loved ones.
Sinn Fein party chief, Gerry Adams, was released from custody following four days of police questioning over his alleged involvement in the 1972 IRA murder probe of Belfast widow and mother of 10, Jean McConville. It has been suggested that Sunday’s outcome for Adams, in which he was released from custody but given no official exoneration and the compiled evidence bound for the PPS, supports the contention that police do believe Adams was an IRA commander in 1972, but do not have strong enough evidence to link him to the crimes committed against McConville. Adams was last charged by police with IRA membership in 1978 following a firebomb attack on a hotel near Belfast that killed 12 Protestants, but those charges were ultimately dropped.
By Leigh Haugh