Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, remains in custody following his arrest on Wednesday in connection with the 1972 Irish Republican Army (IRA) kidnapping, murder, and disappearance of Jean McConville. McConville was a widowed mother of 10 who was reportedly killed by the IRA because the group believed she was a spy for the British Army. Adams has long denied having any role in the death and subsequent crimes committed against McConville.
Prior to surrendering himself to police for questioning, Adams, 65, declared his innocence in the death of 37-year-old McConville, who was kidnapped in front of her 10 children, shot in the back of the head, and secretly buried. Adams described his police questioning regarding the matter as a voluntary interview, and he stated he would cooperate with police in the investigation after a 1970s IRA leader was apprehended on charges of aiding and abetting McConville’s murder.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who has been linked to the 1972 IRA abduction and murder of a widowed mother of 10, continued to be held for questioning in the events surrounding Jean McConville’s death. In 1999, the IRA admitted to killing a number of people who have become known as “The Disappeared.” These individuals, who were killed and/or vanished during the conflict, were suspected of informing against the Irish Republican Army.
The period known as the “Troubles” refers to the 30-year conflict that erupted in Northern Ireland, which is a province of the United Kingdom, between Protestant loyalists, who wanted the territory permanently integrated into the United Kingdom, and Catholics, who were fighting to force out British rule and reunite the north with the rest of Ireland. The Troubles officially ended in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement that brokered peace and provided a political framework for power-sharing among the parties. It was in the wake of this peace agreement that the IRA claimed responsibility in 1999 for the deaths of 16 people classified as “disappeared,” among which McConville was listed and unaccounted for until her remains were found on an Irish beach in 2003. An autopsy revealed she died from a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.
The IRA, which is the militant armed faction of the Sinn Fein political party, accused McConville of spying and feeding information about IRA activities to the British Army stationed in Northern Ireland and executed her along with 15 others suspected of similar crimes. However, an official probe later cleared her name. As leader of the former political wing of the IRA, Adams has been the Sinn Fein commander since 1983 and served as the face of Irish militant nationalism during the 1980s IRA bombing campaigns and its height of violent rebellion. Additionally, Sinn Fein serves as Ireland’s second largest opposition party. Moreover, British media were banned for years from broadcasting Adam’s voice.
The investigation into the 1972 McConville IRA abduction and killing was revived by authorities following the release, after a protracted legal battle, of certain interviews given by members of the IRA, who subsequently implicated Adams. The recordings were made by Boston College as part of The Belfast Project, which is a collection of interviews conducted with former IRA members. The participants provided an oral history of the 30-year conflict and were told their recorded interviews would be kept confidential until their deaths. However, a U.S. court ruled in 2013 that tapes of deceased interview participants that contained claims related to the killing of McConville and other serious crimes must be surrendered by Boston College to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, who has been linked to the 1972 IRA abduction and murder of McConville, suggested his arrest and questioning in the McConville murder was politically motivated. Sinn Fein is currently campaigning for European elections on May 23. As a result of the court-released IRA recordings, several related arrests have been made. Yet, no one has been formally charged with murdering McConville. Among those arrested was former IRA leader Ivor Bell, 77, who was charged last month with conspiracy and aiding in the murder of McConville. He is expected to contest the charges against him. While Adams has continued to vehemently deny any involvement in the killing.
By Leigh Haugh