To this day, Mr Adams has denied any knowledge of a plan to kill Jean McConville or of any involvement in the IRA.
The actions of the Sinn Fein leader came into question yesterday after the Sunday Times published extracts from a new book by veteran journalist Ed Maloney based on interviews given by senior republican Brendan ‘Darkie’ Hughes before he died in February 2008.
Hughes alleged he never carried out a major IRA operation without a nod from Mr Adams.
The allegations come as the new book Voices From The Grave is published this week.
It includes a series of interviews which Hughes gave to a researcher for Boston College in 2001 and 2002 on condition the material would never be published until after his death.
A Sinn Féin spokesman denied Mr Adams’ involvement in the murder of Mrs McConville who was one of the Disappeared.
“The allegations contained in the Sunday Times are not new. Gerry Adams has consistently denied these.
“In the last years of his life Brendan Hughes was very ill and he publicly disagreed with the strategy being pursued by republicans,” he said.
“Other former republican activists involved in this project have a malign agenda and have been opposed to Sinn Féin’s peace strategy from the outset.”
Hughes was one of the IRA’s most respected operatives within the republican community, he was officer commanding of the Belfast Brigade of the IRA and led the 1980 hunger strike in the Maze prison which preceded the strike in which 10 men died led by Bobby Sands.
Just last month, Mr Adams denied being aware of the plan to kill Mrs McConville but Hughes claimed he was deeply involved.
He said his unit found an army transmitter in Mrs McConville’s flat in Divis and that she was shot for going to the assistance of an injured soldier.
“She was an informer; she had a transmitter in her house,” Hughes said in an interview quoted in the Sunday Times yesterday.
Seamus McKendry, husband of Jean’s daughter Helen, told the Belfast Telegraph yesterday the claims are “another nail in the coffin of Gerry Adams”.
“He surely cannot go on claiming he was never in the IRA now,” he said.
“We have always believed that (Adams gave the order to murder Mrs McConville), I had it from many sources over the years, I have spoke to very senior members of his own organisation.”
However Mr McKendry said the murdered widow was a scapegoat and had never been an informer. “The family would dispute claims made by Brendan Darkie Hughes that Jean McConville was some kind of Mata Hari,” he said.
“She died with 52p in her purse, her struggle was to feed her children not to feed the British with intelligence. I think she was the perfect scapegoat as a former Protestant and stranger to the area.”
SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said Gerry Adams had “some serious questions to answer” over the allegations. “It is quite shocking when you think about it,” he said. “There need to be clarification from him to the specific allegations. It is time for Adams to come clean about his involvement or non involvement.”
Questions about a brutal murder will not go away
By Brian Rowan
Former comrade-in arms Gerry Adams (left) and Brendan Hughes fell out over Sinn Fein’s acceptance of the Good Friday agreement
It is the ugliest chapter in the history of the IRA’s war — dark pages recollecting events that will haunt republicans forever.
Those who are known as “the Disappeared” had their voices taken from them, silenced before being buried in unmarked graves.
Jean McConville was one of them — a widow, a mother, who was executed with a bullet to the head, her body hidden, never to be found.
That was the intention in 1972.
And, all these years later, Gerry Adams has questions to answer now that Brendan Hughes’ version of events has been published.
Hughes supports the IRA assertion that Mrs McConville was an informer.
Before his death, he was one of some dozens of people connected to the conflict here, who lodged interviews with Boston University – their personal accounts of the war, not to be published while they were still alive.
Hughes’ interviews alongside those of former loyalist leader David Ervine are the first to be released in a new book — Voices From The Grave — written by the journalist Ed Moloney.
In late March, 1999, in a meeting with the IRA in Belfast, Jean McConville’s was the fourth name read to me.
As that meeting was happening, Gerry Adams and other republican leaders were settling into yet more talks with the British and Irish governments at Hillsborough Castle.
The IRA briefing was on “the disappeared” — stating: “We believe we have established the whereabouts of the graves of nine people.”
As the meeting progressed, the nine were listed.
“Jean McConville, Belfast, civilian, was arrested by Oglaigh na hEireann in 1972 and admitted being a British Army informer.”
The words were cold, matter-of-fact, and it was more than four years later before her remains were eventually discovered.
Others are still lost in those lonely unmarked graves and their families still wait for them, for that moment when they can give them a proper burial.
Some have died waiting — adding to the hurt of this grim episode.
Brendan Hughes – “the Dark” as he was known – was a senior IRA figure, a player at the height of this war.
He parted company with Adams, and you read bitterness in his words.
But what he has to say about the events leading to Jean McConville’s “execution” raises questions.
Will Gerry Adams speak on the specifics of what has emerged in these interviews?
Yesterday, a Sinn Fein spokesperson said: “The allegations contained in today’s Sunday Times are not new.
“Gerry Adams has consistently denied these.
“In the last years of his life Brendan Hughes was very ill and he publicly disagreed with the strategy being pursued by republicans.”
Just because he disagreed, does not mean he can be dismissed.
Gerry Adams’ denial of IRA membership is not credible – not believable.
And until this is addressed, there will always be questions about Adams’ role in the war – and the orders that he gave.