Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Adams arrest: Sinn Fein leader remains in police custody - quizzed over Jean McConville murder

Sinn Fein leader was arrested by police on Wednesday night

By John Mulgrew and PA

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams remains in police custody tonight after being arrested in connection with the murder of west Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

Mr Adams (65) was held by police on Wednesday - quizzed in relation to the 1972 IRA abduction and murder of Mrs McConville.

He has always denied any involvement in the killing.

Police can hold Mr Adams for up to 48 hours, from the time of his arrest on Wednesday.

That means detectives have until around 8pm on Friday, or police can apply to the courts for additional time. He is being questioned under the Terrorism Act 2000.

The arrest has sparked huge global media attention on Thursday, with news of his detention making front pages across the world.

A raft of media remain camped outside Antrim police station, where Adams remains in custody.

Belfast woman Jean McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast, shot dead and secretly buried. Her body was found in 2003 on a Co Louth beach.

Speaking today, Jean McConville's son Michael said he told police he would not identify the men who dragged his screaming mother from her home more than 40 years ago, for fear of reprisal.

"Everybody thinks that the IRA has gone away but they have not. If we tell we will be shot," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Martin McGuinness blamed what he said was the "dark side" of policing for Gerry Adams' detention during the election campaign

After decades without significant developments in the criminal investigation, there have now been several arrests in connection with the killing of Jean McConville.

In March, republican - 77-year-old Ivor Bell - was charged in connection with the killing.

Bell - from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast - faces counts of aiding and abetting the murder and of IRA membership.

His lawyer has said he will contest the charges.

Jean McConville was shot in the back of the head and buried just 50 miles from her home.

The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999.

In a statement on Wednesday, Gerry Adams once again denied having any involvement in one of the most high-profile killings of the Troubles.

"Last month I said that I was available to meet the PSNI about the Jean McConville case. While I have concerns about the timing, I am voluntarily meeting with the PSNI."

Later on Thursday night, Martin McGuinness said he had spoken on the phone to Prime Minister David Cameron to challenge him on the issues of state killings.

He claimed mass killings attributed to the security forces, such as the Army shootings of civilians on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972 and in Ballymurphy in west Belfast six months earlier, had not been investigated as rigorously as other incidents

BACKGROUND

Widowed mother-of-10 Jean McConville was abducted, interrogated and murdered by the IRA in 1972. She was falsely accused of passing information to the security forces from her west Belfast flat. Mrs McConville's remains were buried secretly on a beach in Co Louth. She was not found for 30 years until a member of the public discovered her remains in 2003.

Reaction from across the political spectrum, by Michael McHugh and David Young

DUP's Nigel Dodds speaks in House of Commons

Democratic Unionist MP Nigel Dodds said victims need to be reassured that people will be brought to account "no matter their status or their standing in society".

During business questions in the House of Commons, Mr Dodds  asked Commons Leader Andrew Lansley: "In light of the arrest and detention of a certain Gerry Adams in connection with the murder of Jean McConville, a mother-of-10 who was abducted and murdered by the IRA - of which Gerry Adams was commander in Belfast in the 70s - simply for going to the aid of a dying soldier, would you agree it's an appropriate time for a debate on victims, so that they can be reassured that evidence will be followed and people will be brought to book no matter their status or their standing in society?"

Mr Lansley replied: "You will I'm sure understand that I'm not in a position to comment at all on any ongoing police investigation.

"But the point you make about victims is an important one.

"I think we should always, indeed as I know (Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers) at this despatch box recently has made very clear in relation to wider circumstances about the questions on the on-the-run terrorist review that we will always make sure the needs of justice are served, and victims can see that we are continuing to pursue the issues relating to seeing justice served."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny denies Adams arrest was politically motivated

Republic of Ireland Taoiseach Enda Kenny rejected suggestions from senior Sinn Fein figures that the arrest of Mr Adams had been politically motivated.

"What is the most important thing here? The most important fact is that Jean McConville was murdered, a widowed mother-of-10 children, and her body was not found for very many years," Mr Kenny said.

"This is still a live murder case, this is still a live investigation.

"All I can say is that I hope the president of Sinn Fein answers in the best way he can, to the fullest extent that he can, questions that are being asked about a live murder investigation."

Meanwhile, another senior figure in Ireland's coalition government, Labour deputy leader Joan Burton, said the murder of Mrs McConville was a war crime for which all people involved should be brought to justice.

"If what happened to Jean McConville and her family had happened in any other country it would be treated properly as a war crime," she said.

Ms Burton said Mrs McConville was executed and her body treated like a dog.

"Gerry Adams just will not disassociate himself from the organisation that did that," she said.

She added that certain standards in relation to war crimes have to be acknowledged and addressed.

Mr Adams wrote to the PSNI on March 23 to say he was available and willing to help with their inquiries into Ms McConville's murder.

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald hits out at unionist 'Old Guard'

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said detectives had waited more than a month to take him up on the offer because of a "politically motivated" attempt to undermine the party ahead of local and European elections on both sides of the Irish border.

She claimed that reactionary figures within the Democratic Unionist Party as well as the minority hard-line Traditional Unionist Voice and "old guard" elements within the PSNI created pressure to choreograph the timing of the arrest.

"My own view is that those two things have coalesced for the timing of this to fall right in the middle of an election campaign," Ms McDonald added.

Further reading

Gerry Adams arrest: Jean McConville 'squealed as she was dragged away from her family in IRA abduction' says son

Gerry Adams arrest: Martin McGuinness blames 'the dark side'

Gerry Adams arrest: How the story has developed so far 

Gerry Adams latest: Jean McConville's son fears for his life, Sinn Fein hits out at unionist 'Old Guard'

Gerry Adams: Haunted by the shadow of a shocking Troubles crime 

Gerry Adams held over Jean McConville murder: 'Disappeared' victim's son says 'an awful lot of people in Ireland are glad to see this'

Gerry Adams quizzed over Jean McConville murder: Sinn Fein president interviewed by police

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph