Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams gets a hero's welcome from supporters
Gerry Adams received a hero's welcome in west Belfast last night as he attended his first Sinn Fein event since his arrest.
Around 700 people – including a south African contingent – cheered and chanted his name as Mr Adams arrived flanked by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Euro candidate Martina Anderson.
Sinn Fein supporters were strong in their support for their president at the European election rally.
Mr Adams was arrested last Wednesday after presenting himself voluntarily for questioning about the disappearance of mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.
Michelle Gildernew MP said that any republican for whom the events of the weekend raised doubts was no republican at all.
Mr Adams gave four South African women a Nelson Mandela salute to more cheers before taking to the platform.
He dismissed his four days of questioning at Antrim Serious Crime Suite by detectives investigating the abduction and murder of Jean McConville as a "sham".
"The sham I was put through in terms of the failure of the PSNI to present any evidential link between me and that awful event is not the way forward," he told the crowd.
"Be sure of this, while we support the PSNI and will not be diverted from that path and building peace, you can see the work we have to do to bring together civic policing that supports every man, woman and child." In reference to the 1981 hunger strikes, Mr Adams added: "I was in for four days folks, it is not a big thing in the scheme of things.
"We shouldn't be distracted by these attacks."
Mr Adams also appeared to say that he supported Helen McKendry in her plan to pursue a civil action against him through the courts.
"I see Sheena Campbell's family here, our resolve is to work with all of the families in the times ahead, but also to be very sensitive that the McConville family is suffering," he said. "We have said it very clearly, we want an independent, international process, not facilitated by the British or the Irish, but an international agency.
"When we talked with Haass we supported those proposals; unionists didn't, the British didn't.
"That includes the right of families to seek legal redress, so we support the McConville family's bid."
Last night Mrs McKendry's husband Seamus downplayed the comment.
"What else would he say, really, it's what diplomats do," he commented in response.
Mr Adams opened his speech last night by offering the young boy who asked him during a Press conference on Sunday night if he was OK, a tour of Leinster House.
He went on to joke that he warned police officers when Gerry Kelly visited him at Antrim PSNI station, "to make sure he doesn't escape".
Earlier, former IRA leader Bobby Storey defiantly told the crowd that the stronger Sinn Fein gets, the more it will be attacked.
"Those opposed to the peace process tried and failed once again," he said.
"They feel completely threatened by the surge in republican support across the island.
"The stronger we get, the harder they will try.
"Sinn Fein continues to go from strength-to-strength.
"Not only is Gerry Adams here this evening, he is here to stay."
One Sinn Fein member commented to the media: "This is the greatest thing that has happened to Sinn Fein since 1921".