By David Hennessy
Gerry Adams has said he is available to speak to PSNI about the 1972 kidnapping and murder of Jean McConville, one of the most vicious murders of the Troubles, and has instructed his solicitor to contact them. Answering speculation that PSNI have interest in talking to him now that veteran IRA leader Ivor Bell has been charged with the crime, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD said: “I can understand the McConville family’s anger and hurt given what they have been through and given what some anti-peace process former republican activists have been alleging.
“However, let me repeat. What happened to Jean McConville was a terrible injustice. I was not involved in any part of it. If the PSNI wish to talk to me on this matter I am available to meet them. I have asked my solicitor to contact them.”
Adams also criticised the project of interviews of republicans by Boston College that has thrown up the fresh evidence for Bell’s arrest and also accusations that Adams ordered McConville’s killing- something he has always denied: “It is clear that the so-called Boston Oral History project is an entirely bogus, shoddy and self-serving effort by those involved. The idea for this project originated with Paul Bew, an advisor to David Trimble and was taken up by Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre who conducted the interviews. Both are vitriolic critics and opponents of the Sinn Féin peace strategy, of me in particular and of Sinn Féin and its leadership.
“Some of the individuals interviewed have gone to great lengths to attack the republican struggle, the peace process and the political process through lies, distortions and personal attacks. The Boston History project is not a genuine oral history project.
“The issue of the past needs to be dealt with and I and Sinn Féin are committed to this. We have argued for an independent, international, truth recovery process. However, if this cannot be agreed then we are seeking the implementation of the Haass compromise proposals.
“These include the right of families to choose whether to pursue legal action or to seek maximum truth recovery.”
The 77-year old IRA veteran Ivor Bell has been refused bail at the weekend after being arrested last week in connection with the murder of Jean McConville who was abducted by the IRA over 40 years ago.
Bell was refused bail after a police officer said he posed a significant flight risk. His solicitor said the evidence against him was “not credible” as the interviews in question were not conducted by police officers, but police said the evidence pointed to Bell playing a significant role in the aiding and abetting of Mrs McConville’s murder.
The case against Bell comes from the interview Bell himself gave to a researcher at Boston College. Former IRA volunteer Anthony McIntyre interviewed 26 republicans between 2001 and 2006 for the college on the understanding that what was said would not be revealed until after the interviewee’s death.
Tapes of now-deceased IRA members Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes were handed over to PSNI and both accused Gerry Adams of ordering McConville’s murder.
In 2011, the PSNI launched a legal battle against the college with a court ruling they be given access to any tapes that referred directly to the disappearance of Jean McConville.
Other arrests are expected to follow as PSNI have seven more tapes of living former IRA members who are discussing Mrs McConville’s murder.
The PSNI also want to speak to McIntyre himself who has said in the past that he would not co-operate with police.
Jean McConville is known as one of the “disappeared”, those who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by The IRA during The Troubles. Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness appealed last year for anybody with information about these missing people to contact the authorities. The PSNI also appealed to a man who phoned the McConville family in the 1990s, claiming he had been involved with the abduction to come forward. A teenager at the time, he said he drove the van that took Jean McConville to another part of West Belfast before leaving. He only found out some time later she had been killed as he moved to England.
Bell is a former IRA commander in Belfast and was once a close associate of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams. He was also part of a republican delegation that included Adams and Martin McGuinness, now Northern Ireland First Minister and an IRA leader at the time, who flew to London in 1972 to secretly discuss a ceasefire with the British government ministers.
Bell was arrested in 1974 on information provided by supergrass Eamon Molloy. In 1983 he was charged with membership of the IRA and other terror offences but he walked free, with ten others, after supergrass Robert Lean withdrew his evidence.
West Belfast widow and mother of ten Jean McConville was snatched from her house in December 1972 by the Provisional IRA who later killed her. The IRA claim she was informing on their activities but her children have always rejected this, saying she was targeted for showing kindness to a British soldier who lay wounded outside her door by placing a pillow underneath his head. Her children were aged between 6 and 16 at the time of her abduction.
Her body was found at Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth in August 2003.