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That SF leader is clean as far as the law is concerned no major surprise

By Malachi O'Doherty

Published 30/09/2015

Gerry Adams in Long Kesh
Gerry Adams in Long Kesh

Gerry Adams cannot be charged with the murder of Jean McConville because there is not sufficient evidence to connect him to it.

Nor will he be charged with membership of the IRA. The same decision extends to his friend Bobby Storey and to five others who were questioned about one of the most horrific killings of the Troubles, the execution and secret burial of a widowed mother of 10 children on the allegation that she was providing information to the Army about the IRA.

This decision, announced yesterday, will not have surprised anyone.

The murder of Jean McConville was 43 years ago.

There is still an appetite for justice in the country and particularly among the families of victims, but there is a rapidly waning prospect of them getting it.

Only one person now faces trial in relation to her murder. That's Ivor Bell. He will face charges of soliciting the murder - not of actually carrying it out.

A lot of people were involved in that murder, young men and women at the time who invaded her home and took her away to be interrogated and shot.

A lot of people know who they are.

We know that one of them was Dolours Price, who drove Jean McConville to Co Louth where she would be killed and buried. Price said so herself.

Some of the evidence against the seven questioned, and yesterday spared prosecution, came from the Boston College archive of personal histories by former paramilitaries for the Belfast Project, subpoenaed by the police after Price disclosed that she had contributed to it.

Unsupported, the evidence is mere hearsay and not enough to bring anyone before a court.

We know that when Adams was in custody the police searched high and low for additional evidence.

They approached former IRA bomber Peter Rogers, who had spoken frankly to the media and claimed that he had been ordered by Adams and Martin McGuinness to transport gelignite to England.

Rogers says he met them in the grounds of Trinity College to warn them that the gelignite was unstable, but that they had insisted he proceed with it.

He was caught before he could get out of the country.

Though he was happy to speak to the media last year, he refused to make a statement to the police about Adams.

There can be little doubt that the police made serious efforts to prosecute Adams though there are cynical conspiracy theories from different quarters about his arrest.

McGuinness and other republicans at the time said it was driven by "securocrats" and "dark forces" in the police who are opposed to the peace process.

Others linked to the creation of the Boston College archive said they believed that Adams and Storey were arrested only so that they could be shown transcripts from the archive. Anthony McIntyre said: "I think part of the thinking was to legally convey information to the Provos under the guise of an investigation."

And, indeed, when Storey was released from questioning about the McConville killing he claimed that transcripts had been read out to him in full.

"It was like listening to Walter Mitty and Billy Liar being interviewed by Lord Haw Haw. It all sounded like self-inflated ego-tripping, propagandising rants," he said.

Between the two conspiracy theories is the understanding that the police really did want prosecutions and just couldn't get them, and that should be alarming for those who still live in hope of seeing former paramilitaries tried and jailed, if only for the two years they'd get for offences committed before the Good Friday Agreement.

It isn't easy.

The police lowered their sights to the prospect of charging Adams with having been a member of the IRA and trawled his books for evidence of that, and still couldn't nail him.

He's clean, as far as the law is concerned.

Justice Lowry succumbed to the same conclusion in 1977, even though he had witnesses available who had made statements that they had seen Adams taking the salute at an IRA ceremony in Long Kesh.

The implication of yesterday's announcement by the PPS is that victims and the families of victims cannot hope for consolation or closure through the courts.

This will only get even more remote as time passes.

One possible source of information for bereaved families would have been the Boston College Archive itself, at least in a future in which those who told their stories were dead.

Now those who can are claiming their recordings back and people with secrets are much more likely, after this, to cling tighter to them.

Malachi O'Doherty's unauthorised biography of Gerry Adams will be published next year by Faber and Faber

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