Belfast Telegraph

Jean McConville: Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly slams arrest of Bobby Storey

By Deborah McAleese

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said he was astounded by the arrest of a top republican by detectives investigating the murder of Jean McConville.

Bobby Storey, who is currently the northern chair of Sinn Fein and believed to have been the IRA's former director of intelligence, was arrested in west Belfast yesterday morning.

He was released last night pending a report to prosecutors. Earlier, he had been taken to Antrim Serious Crime Suite for questioning as part of the overall investigation into the 1972 abduction and murder of the mother-of-10.

After the 58-year-old was arrested, Mr Kelly, a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, said he was "astounded" and did "not see the sense in it".

But Sinn Fein's overall response to the arrest was much more sedate than when Gerry Adams was detained for four days as part of the same investigation. Following the Sinn Fein leader's arrest, a rally against his detention was held in west Belfast.

Mr Storey, a crucial ally of Mr Adams, was among high-ranking Sinn Fein figures to address the rally, which was also attended by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Originally from the New Lodge area of north Belfast, Storey was once named in the House of Commons as the IRA's former director of intelligence.

He has also been linked to the Northern Bank robbery, an alleged spy ring at Stormont and the raid on Special Branch offices at Castlereagh. Storey and Mr Adams are the most high-profile arrests in connection with the McConville case. The Sinn Fein leader was released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.

As well as the widow's murder, police are also investigating linked alleged terror offences in the decades since, including IRA pronouncements made about the killing.

The abduction, killing and secret burial of Mrs McConville is one of the most notorious crimes of the Troubles.

She was dragged from her children in the Divis flats in west Belfast by a gang of up to 12 men and women after being wrongly accused of informing to the security forces.

She was interrogated, shot in the back of the head and then buried, becoming one of the 'Disappeared'.

Mrs McConville's body was found in 2003 on a beach in Co Louth, 50 miles from her home. Her funeral was finally held in west Belfast, 31 years after her disappearance.

Storey spent more than 20 years in prison.

He was also at the centre of the biggest jail break in UK penal history, escaping from the H blocks at the Maze in a food lorry with 37 other IRA prisoners in September 1983.

"We shafted Maggie Thatcher," he said about the jail break in a recent interview.

In the run-up to the Good Friday Agreement, Storey was seen as a crucial ally of Mr Adams and was key to the IRA's decision to decommission and support the Adams/McGuinness leadership.

He is now the chair of Belfast Sinn Fein.

When Mr Adams was questioned by police in relation to Jean McConville's murder, Storey launched a scathing attack over the handling of his arrest.

At the time, he told the protest against Mr Adams' arrest: "This [rally] tells the respect that Gerry Adams is held in but also the anger and the annoyance... that they would dare touch our party leader, the leader of Irish republicanism."

Profile

Belfast republican Bobby Storey has been linked by security sources to a number of the IRA's so-called 'spectaculars', and was believed to be the IRA's intelligence chief. Special Branch believes he masterminded the burglary at its offices at Castlereagh in March 2002, when highly sensitive intelligence documents were stolen. A key ally of Gerry Adams, he was seen as crucial to securing republican support for the party leader's peace process strategy.

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