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Family of Jean McConville will continue to seek justice 'no matter how long it takes'

PPS announced today Gerry Adams along with six other people will not face prosecution

By Deborah McAleese

Published 29/09/2015

Gerry Adams has travelled to the US
Gerry Adams has travelled to the US
Gerry Adams on his release from police custody.

The family of Jean McConville who was 'disappeared' by the IRA in 1972 has said their search for justice will go on "no matter how long it takes".

It comes as the Public Prosecution announced today that Gerry Adams along with six other people, will not be prosecuted over the murder.

The Sinn Fein president was arrested at the end of April last year and held for four days in connection with the execution of the mother-of-10, one of the 'Disappeared'.

After considering a police file the PPS has decided there is not enough evidence to charge the 66-year-old.

The PPS has also decided not to prosecute six other people who were arrested, including Sinn Fein chairman Bobby Storey.

PPS deputy director Pamela Atchison said that careful consideration had been given to the evidence available in respect of each of the three men and four women reported.

She added that the evidence is "insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against any of them for a criminal offence".

The evidence against the seven individuals arose from a number of different sources and included, in respect of some of the individuals, hearsay evidence provided by the American authorities from the Boston College Belfast Project.

Mr Adams has always denied any involvement in the McConville killing, but former IRA members have claimed he directed the murder.

Mrs McConville's son Michael vowed that the family's four-decade quest for justice would go on, "no matter how long it takes".

He said: "Those who ordered, planned and carried out this war crime thought that their guilt could disappear along with her body.

"But it has not and we will continue to seek justice for our mother and see those responsible held to account no matter how long it takes".

Jean McConville, a 37-year-old widow, was dragged, screaming, away from her children in the Divis flats in west Belfast in 1972 by a gang of up to 12 men and women after being wrongly accused of informing to the security forces.

Provisional IRA murder victim Jean McConville
Provisional IRA murder victim Jean McConville

She was interrogated, shot in the back of the head and then secretly buried - becoming one of the Disappeared victims of the Troubles.

Her body was not found until 2003 on a beach in Co Louth, 50 miles from her home.

Mr Adams' arrest triggered a major row at the heart of Northern Ireland's powersharing institutions, with Sinn Fein accusing an anti-peace process "rump" within the PSNI of orchestrating the arrest, branding it an example of "political policing" specifically timed to damage the party's chances in the forthcoming European and local government elections.

Those claims were emphatically rejected by Prime Minister David Cameron, Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson and Justice Minister David Ford.

In April Last month, Ivor Bell, 77, a leader in the Provisional IRA in the 1970s, was charged with aiding and abetting the murder.

The case against Bell is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at Boston College in the US.

Timeline of events

1972: Mrs McConville is dragged screaming from her home in Divis flats in west Belfast by an IRA gang of around 12 men and women. It is the last time her children see her alive. She is shot in the back of the head and secretly buried, so becoming one of the 'Disappeared' victims of the Troubles. In the 42 years since no one has been charged with her murder.

1999: One year after the signing of the historic Good Friday peace accord in Northern Ireland, the IRA finally admits responsibility for killing the 37-year-old widow, claiming she was an informer for the British Army.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains is set up by the British and Irish governments and the IRA passes on information on Mrs McConville's possible whereabouts on a stretch of coastline in Co Louth. But subsequent searches by the Irish police fail to find her body.

2001: Academics, historians and journalists embark on a five-year project to collate an oral history of the Northern Ireland Troubles. The Boston College initiative involves interviewing former paramilitaries about their roles in the conflict on the understanding their accounts would not be made public until they die.

2003: The body of Mrs McConville is finally found by a dog walker on Shilling beach in Co Louth after a heavy storm exposes her remains.

2006: An investigation by Northern Ireland's then police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan rejects the IRA claim that Mrs McConville was an informer.

2008: Brendan Hughes, a former IRA commander in Belfast who was one of the figures interviewed for the Boston College project, dies.

2010: A book containing excerpts from Hughes's interviews is published. Among claims outlined in Voices from the Grave is the allegation that Gerry Adams ordered the murder of Mrs McConville. Mr Adams emphatically rejects the accusation.

In the same year Dolours Price, who was convicted of the IRA's bombing of the Old Bailey in 1973, makes similar allegations about Mr Adams. Price indicates that she has also spoken to researchers at Boston College.

Mr Adams again denies the claims and highlights both Price and Hughes' criticism of his and Sinn Fein's involvement in the peace process.

2011: The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) launches a legal bid in the US to try to obtain tapes within the Boston College archive that relate to the murder of Mrs McConville.

2013: Dolours Price dies in her Dublin home of a suspected overdose of prescription drugs.

Later in the year the PSNI wins it lengthy court battle with Boston College and a number of the tapes are handed over.

March 2014: Veteran republican Ivor Bell, 77, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, is arrested and charged with aiding and abetting the murder of Mrs McConville and IRA membership. His lawyer tells a court that the prosecution case against his client is based on an interview he allegedly gave to the Boston College project. The solicitor insists Bell will fight the charges.

Mr Adams, in response to the renewed focus on the McConville case in the wake of Bell's charges, issues a statement indicating he is willing to speak to the officers investigating the case. He again refutes any suggestion he had anything to do with the crime.

At different junctures through March and April, four women and one man, with ages ranging from 56 to 60, are also arrested and questioned about the murder. All five were subsequently released but police are preparing reports on the four women for the Public Prosecution Service to assess.

April, 30 2014: Mr Adams, after back and forth contacts between his lawyer and detectives, presents himself at Antrim police station for interview. He is immediately arrested and taken into custody - a move that Sinn Fein brands unnecessary and an example of "political policing".

September, 29 2015: PPS confirm there will be no prosecution of Gerry Adams or six others arrested in connection with police investigation into the murder of Jean McConville.

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