Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

End Jean McConville family's torment

Jean McConville (left) with three of her children before she vanished in 1972
Jean McConville (left) with three of her children before she vanished in 1972

The arrest and remand of Ivor Bell brings into focus again the terrible story of Jean McConville, the mother of 10 who was abducted and murdered by the Provisional IRA in 1972.

Since then the story has taken many twists and turns but now there seems to be new movement in this long and depressing saga.

The death of Mrs McConville was one of the most brutal and chilling acts of terrorism in the entire Troubles, and after more than four decades the horror of those acts fails to abate, while the questions about her unsolved abduction and murder still refuse to go away.

In the face of much speculation and extensive media coverage during the intervening years, Mrs McConville's family have behaved with exemplary dignity and patience.

Even today they are not going beyond their simple but nevertheless powerful statement expressing the hope that those who abducted and murdered their mother will be brought to justice.

Much has changed since 1972 and not least within the legalities surrounding the Troubles and their aftermath. The unfortunate reality is that if people are convicted of the charges in the McConville case, those responsible will serve only two years in prison.

This is due to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement which was achieved at a considerable cost.

It is painful that those guilty of grievous crimes at a particular period of our history get off so lightly, but this is part of the harsh reality of today's Northern Ireland.

Even though many people still wish that all men of women and violence should serve substantial sentences in order to underline the gravity of their crimes, there is no hope of this happening in the cases in the period covered by the Good Friday Agreement.

However, there is still a need for those guilty of crimes to be apprehended. This is a basic requirement in any society which regards itself as being based on the rule of law.

The kidnappers and killers of Mrs McConville need to be brought to justice and to go to prison.

This may be scant compensation for her family, but anything which helps to bring closure for these long-suffering people will be welcomed by the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland and much further afield.

Certainly it is imperative that Gerry Adams and other republican leaders in that period should furnish the authorities with all knowledge they might have about this case.

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