Jean McConville: The murder still haunting republicans after 42 years
Published 13/05/2014 | 12:00
The IRA's 'D Company' put about a particularly heartless cover story when its members abducted and murdered Jean McConville – they told her 10 children that she had abandoned them to run off with a British soldier.
It was cruel to tell these orphans that their mother had abandoned them on a whim. But they had a fair idea it was a lie. Most of them had seen her being dragged off by four local republican women.
If the IRA had hoped to conceal her murder and burial behind a screen of rumours, smears and threats they were wrong. The search for the truth about the atrocity led 42 years later to the arrest of Gerry Adams and others.
That search has also sounded the death-knell for Boston College's Belfast Project, an ambitious scheme to chronicle personal stories of the Troubles, starting with former IRA and UVF members.
Now in disarray, the project was at first welcomed by the Government. Former Secretary of State Owen Paterson even deposited Government documents in it and talked of establishing something similar locally.
That all changed when the explosive contents started to leak out with the stories of Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, two troubled IRA veterans who spoke of the murder of Mrs McConville and their roles at the time.
Both found it hard to live with the memory of their IRA past. Though remaining republicans, both suffered from depression and turned to alcohol. In the case of Ms Price, prescription drugs were also involved.
Hughes' testimony implicating his former friend Mr Adams came out when he died in 2008. Then Ed Moloney, who had helped set up the project, published it in a book and played the tape on a TV documentary.
Ms Price had attempted to tell all in interviews on a number of occasions but had been stopped by relatives. In 2010 an interview finally appeared in which she gave details of driving Mrs McConville to Co Louth, where the helpless widow was killed.
Price claimed Mr Adams was her commander. She also revealed that she had given a separate interview to Boston College.
Once the PSNI heard that there was such insider allegations about the murder in the archive it had to try and retrieve it – and eventually succeeded in doing so through a mutual legal aid treaty with the US.