Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Ivor Bell: A leading Provo and ceasefire talks negotiator who ultimately fell out with his terrorist comrades

Ivor Bell in 1983 when he was released after Supergrass, Robert Lean, withdrew evidence against 11 men
Ivor Bell in 1983 when he was released after Supergrass, Robert Lean, withdrew evidence against 11 men

More than four decades may have passed, but the horror and revulsion at the IRA execution and disappearance of Jean McConville has not diminshed with time.

The widowed mother-of-10 was abducted, killed and secretly buried by republican paramilitaries in 1972.

Mrs McConville was murdered for simply showing an act of kindness to a British soldier, placing a pillow below his head as he lay wounded outside her home at west Belfast's Divis flats.

Members of the IRA disputed that, claiming their helpless victim was targeted for acting as an informer.

A gang of 12 – eight men and four women – are believed to have been involved in the abduction.

Her orphaned children were aged between six and 16. Their father had died previously from cancer.

Mrs McConville's remains were finally found at Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth in August 2003.

Four years earlier, the IRA had given the wrong location. They had said she was buried about half a mile away at Templetown Beach and two massive digs subsequently took place in the summers of 1999 and 2000.

A former IRA boss claimed Gerry Adams had ordered her murder, but the Sinn Fein president has consistently argued that he had nothing to do with the young mother's death.

In 2010, journalist Ed Moloney's book, Voices From The Grave, contained information on the accounts of former IRA commander, Brendan Hughes, who told his story to Boston College on the agreement it would not be published until after his death.

Hughes, Adams and Ivor Bell formed a trio which ousted the old guard of the Provisonal leadership in the early 1970s, it was claimed.

Hughes was aware of how Mrs McConville had been 'arrested' twice by the IRA, before finally being disappeared.

It was through Ivor Bell he heard the final confirmation, Hughes alleged, that Gerry Adams had ordered the secret burial of her body.

Hughes' claims were backed up by Dolours Price, another IRA veteran.

Before her death, she told a newspaper that she had given an account of the incident to Boston College.

After this, PSNI officers investigating Mrs McConville's murder took legal action to secure the tapes.

Last year, Gerry Adams accused former colleague Hughes of "telling lies" in claiming that the Sinn Fein president had ordered the disappearance and execution of Mrs McConville. "I had no act or part to play in either the abduction, the killing or burial of Jean McConville, or indeed any of these other people," he told a TV programme.

Bell – widely reported to be a commander in the Provisionals' Belfast Brigade – was said to have been ejected from the IRA in the 1980s, as he was opposed to running down the organisation and moving the republican campaign from the Armalite to the ballot box.

In 1972, Bell had been involved in secret ceasefire talks and was part of a republican delegation which flew to London.

He was jailed in the 1970s and escaped from the Maze briefly, after pretending to be another prisoner granted parole to get married. He was sentenced to three further years in custody as a result.

He received another two-year prison term for trying to help Gerry Adams escape from the same prison.

In 1983 he was charged with membership of the IRA and other terror offences.

He walked free, along with 10 other defendants, after supergrass Robert Lean withdrew his evidence.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness previously urged anybody with information about undiscovered remains of the Disappeared to pass it to the authorities.

His said the torture endured by the families was a "wound that must not be left to fester".

One of Mrs McConville's children, Helen McKendry, who was 15 when her mother was abducted, recently vowed to continue the fight to see those responsible brought to justice. "I will campaign on this until the day I die – until I get to the truth," she said.

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