Gerry Adams suffers from "grotesque amnesia" over his alleged role in the IRA abduction and murder of Jean McConville, a senior unionist politician has said.
Ulster Unionist minister Danny Kennedy was speaking as fresh allegations that the Sinn Fein president ordered the Belfast mother-of-10's execution in 1972 will be aired in a documentary tonight.
Doubts about the Louth TD’s continuing leadership of Sinn Fein are increasing, with both unionist and nationalist politicians questioning his credibility amidst new claims over his alleged role in the murder.
In a Boston College taped interview with deceased IRA Belfast commander Brendan Hughes, which will be played for the first time tonight in the BBC programme called Disappeared, Hughes accused Mr Adams of ordering Jean McConville's killing.
“There is only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed and that man is now the head of Sinn Fein,” he said.
Founder Provisional IRA member Billy McKee branded Mr Adams' denials over his alleged role in the Disappeared as “damn lies”. Mr McKee denied the practice of disappearing people was in place before Adams is said to have taken control of the IRA's Belfast brigade in 1972.
Mr Adams has strongly denied the claims, accusing his critics of “telling lies” about him. “I had no act or part to play in the abduction, killing or burial of Jean McConville, or indeed any of these other people,” he said.
Regional Development Minister Mr Kennedy said Mr Adams had no credibility.
“There is a very clear web of lies and deceit at the heart of the Sinn Fein leadership on the issue of the Disappeared. Gerry Adams' grotesque amnesia adds to the suffering of the families. His actions are politically unacceptable and morally indefensible. Were he the leader of any other party but Sinn Fein, he'd have to resign,” Mr Kennedy stated.
The documentary heaps further pressure on Mr Adams who has had to fend off difficult questions about his brother Liam’s conviction of abusing his daughter Aine.
Gerry Adams faced questions about his actions after it emerged his brother confessed the abuse to him before his arrest. Liam Adams is due to be sentenced tomorrow.
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said: “Gerry Adams' credibility is in tatters following the Aine Adams story and now more allegations about his role in the Disappeared.
“Any other party leader facing such revelations would be long gone. If they didn't voluntarily resign, they'd be forced to.
“That this hasn't happened says much about the nature of Sinn Fein as an organisation.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said allegations in the documentary from ex-IRA leaders “who clearly know what they're talking about” showed Mr Adams had deep involvement in “the most unsavoury matters”.
The Sinn Fein president was a “stranger to the truth” and a “friend of cover-ups”, he said.
SDLP Assembly Member Alban Maginness said revelations from his former IRA comrades were “absolutely devastating” for Mr Adams. “The words of Provisional IRA founder Billy McKee demolishes the view that it was older IRA men from the 1940s and 50s who had introduced this horrendous tactic of disappearing people.
“Brendan Hughes' claim that Adams' ordered Jean McConville's murder is profoundly damaging to him. The evidence of IRA men now corroborates what many people have been saying for years.”
Mr Maginness said Sinn Fein as a party should be “extremely worried” about Mr Adams' credibility as a national leader.
“Increasingly, he is a liability for Sinn Fein, North and South. The longer the drip, drip of information like this continues, the more damaging to Sinn Fein,” he added.
The Disappeared is a joint production between the BBC and RTE. The programme will be shown tonight on BBC1 at 10.35pm and on RTE1 at 9.30pm
At least 16 people were disappeared during the Troubles, 15 believed to have been carried out by the IRA and one by the INLA.
Those who are still missing:
Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright -- missing since October 1972.
Seamus Ruddy -- missing since May 1985.
Columba McVeigh -- missing since November 1975.
Brendan Megraw --missing since April 1978.
Captain Robert Nairac -- missing since 1977.
Joe Lynskey -- disappeared in 1972.
10 were left orphaned by mother's murder
MICHAEL McConville was 11 when his mother was snatched from her west Belfast home in 1972.
She was abducted, beaten and threatened at gunpoint by young republicans intent on keeping her disappearance quiet. Mrs McConville, a widowed mother-of-10, was among 16 people abducted, killed and secretly buried by republican paramilitaries during the Troubles.
The widow's remains were recovered at Shelling Beach, Co Louth, in August 2003. Forensic tests revealed she had been badly beaten and shot in the back of the head.
"If I lived for 200 years I still don't think I could describe how I felt when we got my mother's body back," Mr McConville, who wants the killers brought to justice, told the documentary.
"That was a war crime and the people responsible should be brought to The Hague."
Despite the passage of over 40 years, Mr McConville, now aged 51 and a father-of-four, can still vividly recall the day his mother was dragged from her home.
Before her death Jean McConville was held and interrogated for up to six days in Belfast. Separate teams of IRA volunteers were organised to drive her south of the Irish border, kill her and to dig the grave. Lies that she had been an informer who revealed the location of a gun or had stashed Army transmitters were circulated by the IRA.
Claims she had helped an injured British soldier were also spread among the staunchly republican community, and her orphans were shunned.
'38 years on, Provos are still torturing us'
DYMPNA Kerr (60) cannot bring herself to visit the Co Monaghan bog where the body of her younger brother Columba McVeigh is believed to have been hidden in 1975.
Choking back tears, she said: "I refused to go because I have an image in my head.
"I have an image in my head of Columba standing there crying, looking into a hole."
Mr McVeigh (17), from Donaghmore, was one of 16 killed and buried secretly by republicans between 1972 and 2003.
His mother Vera, who denied IRA claims he was an informer, died in 2007 aged 82.
Mother-of-four Mrs Kerr said: "It's like someone stabbing you in the heart. To think of what my mum and dad went through for all those years. My dad died not knowing that Columba was dead."
Six searches by the commission set up to locate victims' remains have proved fruitless.
Mrs Kerr said it gets more difficult to cope each time.
"I never done anything to the IRA, neither did my mum, so why are they torturing us -- 38 years on and they are still torturing us," she added.
"Every time there is a dig you get up in the morning and think this could be the day that he is found. It's very hard when you lose someone close to you -- I have lost my father, mother and husband. But, you bury them, you grieve for them, and you have a grave to visit so there is a healing process. With Columba there is none of that."
Mrs Kerr, who was two years older than her brother, said: "All we want is to put him in the grave in Donaghmore beside my mum and dad."
Brother's plea for right to say proper goodbye
THE brother of a man kidnapped and killed by the IRA 35 years ago has made a fresh appeal for information about the location of his body.
Newlywed Brendan Megraw (23), from west Belfast, was among 16 people abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republicans between 1972 and 2003.
As the families and friends of the so-called Disappeared gathered for an annual All Souls Day silent walk to remember their loved ones, his brother Kieran said he spends every day wondering where his body might be.
"You're always thinking: 'Where is he, what if?"' Mr Megraw said.
"When you hear on the news about police discovering remains -- things like that crop up and you think: 'Is it him? What if it's him?'
"There are families who have not been able to say a proper goodbye to their loved ones. We are so grateful of all the support we do receive but we would urge anyone who knows anything to come forward."
Brendan vanished in April 1978 and is thought to have been secretly buried at a spot near Kells, Co Meath.
Around 20 people attended the seventh annual silent walk in the grounds of Stormont in memory of Mr Megraw and the seven others still mising.
He said his brother, who was motorbike mad, was building a good life for himself when he was abducted.
"He was just married and expecting a new baby," Mr Megraw said.
"He was just about to start a new job the next day. Everything was going well for him."
Priest begged IRA for mercy, but to no avail
THE brother of a man who was killed by the IRA in 1975 has described how a Catholic priest prayed with the victim as a gang waited nearby to carry out the execution.
Martin Molloy's brother Eamon (21) became one of the Disappeared when he was kidnapped and shot dead.
Speaking to the BBC documentary Disappeared, Martin Molloy told how his brother, a Catholic from north Belfast, was abducted amid claims he was an informer.
He was missing for almost 25 years until his body was left by the IRA in a cemetery near Dundalk in 1999.
His brother said that shortly after the funeral in 1999 the family was contacted by a priest who told them he had been with the victim on the night of the murder.
He said Fr Eugene McCoy, who died around 10 years ago, said that one night he was called to an accident but he was then taken to a mobile home where a young man was lying tied up on a bed.
Two or three gang members were inside the mobile home, while up to 10 others were outside playing football.
The priest told how the young man was distraught but asked him to ensure his wife and his mother received two letters he had written during his abduction. He also asked Fr McCoy to tell his family that he was not an informer.
At this point the priest demanded that they release their prisoner, but his pleas for mercy were ignored.
His brother said that they took some comfort from the knowledge that someone had tried to help their loved one in his final moments.