Belfast Telegraph

Adams says the IRA were 'totally wrong' to kill and secretly bury disappeared victims

Former Sinn Fein president denies that he played role in McConville abduction

IRA murder victim Jean McConville’s children (from left) Thomas, Archie, Michael, Susie and Jim, speak to the media outside court yesterday
IRA murder victim Jean McConville’s children (from left) Thomas, Archie, Michael, Susie and Jim, speak to the media outside court yesterday
Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams

By Ashleigh McDonald

Gerry Adams said the IRA were "totally wrong" to have disappeared people during the Troubles.

The former Sinn Fein president gave evidence at the trial linked to the abduction and murder of Jean McConville on Monday.

Mr Adams gave evidence on behalf of the defence and denied being in the IRA.

He also said he had "no part to play" in Mrs McConville's murder and said: "The IRA were totally wrong to have shot and secretly buried these folks."

Earlier in the hearing, audio recordings from the Belfast Project were played.

On the tapes, Ivor Bell claimed a meeting to discuss Mrs McConville's fate was held - and while these tapes have since been deemed as "inadmissible" by trial judge Mr Justice O'Hara, they were made public for the first time.

As five of Mrs McConville's children - Archie, Jim, Thomas, Susan and Michael - sat in the public gallery, they listened intently as Mr Bell spoke on tape and accused their mother of being a tout, that 'Gerry' was instrumental in her disappearance and that he was opposed to her being buried.

Mr Adams was called as a witness, and was asked to comment on the allegations made.

The Louth TD said: "I want to deny categorically any involvement in the abduction, killing and burial of Jean McConville.

Mr Adams - who swore on the Bible to tell the truth after being called to the witness box - said: "I have never hidden my association with the IRA. I have never sought to distance myself. I have denied IRA membership."

The former Sinn Fein president also said "the IRA did things, including this, that were totally wrong."

In the tapes, Mr Bell claimed that Gerry Adams and a man now deceased called Pat McClure discussed Mrs McConville's fate at a house in west Belfast in late 1972. He told the tapes: "We were out in the back kitchen talking. He said, first and foremost, he said about this woman, 'she was a tout'.

"The eldest kid was collecting the information. She was giving it to the Brits and they were getting paid, and Pat laid out in detail everything that was happening."

On the tapes, Mr Bell continued: "So I said, 'well Pat, she's a tout', I said, 'and the fact she's a woman shouldn't save her'. Now I wasn't told she had 10 kids and no husband. Had I been told that, I can't say for sure I would have said 'no, don't shoot her.' But I may have had second thoughts and say 'hold on, what are we doing?"

Mr Bell also said later in the tapes that he didn't agree with plans to bury her, which were also discussed at the meeting: "I said, 'whatever is decided, I will back that up.'

"I said, 'I don't have a problem with shooting touts', but I said that - but then they said 'we are going to bury her' I said 'no, I don't agree with that.'

"And I didn't agree with that. I said 'if that happens it is done without my agreement.' I said 'it defeats the entire purpose.' And the meeting broke up at that."

He added: "To kill and bury her, I couldn't understand why they would bury her. She had 10 kids. If you are not going to throw her in the street, don't shoot her at all."

Asked to comment on allegation on the claims made about him on the tape, Mr Adams denied he was at the meeting, and that he was the Officer Commanding the Belfast Brigade of the IRA at the time of Mrs McConville's abduction and murder.

Barry MacDonald QC, for the defence, relayed the alleged conversation at the meeting where Mr Bell said Mrs McConville was being paid for passing information to the Army, that the discussion included what to do with her, and that 'Gerry' had talked to the local priest, who had refused to help with the situation.

Suggesting "the Gerry referred to was you, Gerry Adams," Mr MacDonald said: "The question I have for you, Mr Adams, is whether that conversation ever took place?"

Mr Adams replied: "It didn't. I never had any discussions with Ivor Bell or indeed any others about Jean McConville. I want to deny categorically any involvement in the abduction, killing and burial of Jean McConville."

When he was asked if he thought she should have been shot, Mr Adams said: "No, I don't think Mrs McConville should have been shot."

Mr MacDonald then said "it has been suggested you have been involved in a plan to abduct and murder Mrs McConville and that Mr Bell was involved in it. Were you involved in it?" Mr Adams replied "no."

Ciaran Murphy QC, for the prosecution, also questioned Mr Adams about the meeting, and the issue of Mrs McConville having 10 children.

Mr Murphy said: "During these interviews, (Ivor Bell) states that had it been known she had 10 kids, you may have looked at it differently."

Mr Adams said: "Well, I have already answered the question that I was not at the meeting and I did not have any discussions about Mrs McConville.

"You see, I have never hidden my association with the IRA. I have never sought to distance myself. I have denied IRA membership, even though at the time that was a legitimate response to what was happening in republican working class communities.

"Also, the IRA were totally wrong to have shot and secretly buried those folks."

Citing his work with a commission to receive information on those missing, Mr Adams added: "I have exhaustively spent my energy trying to correct this wrong.

"I cannot bring Mrs McConville and the others back, but at least I can try and rectify the injustice that has been done. I regret there was a conflict. I can say the IRA did things, including this, that was totally wrong."

Mr Murphy then asked Mr Adams "what is your attitude to touts?"

He replied: "I accept if people - I don't like the word tout, by the way - if people are agents or informers, that would go for me as anybody, then they were liable to be shot."

He was then asked "would it be fair to say you personally don't have a problem shooting informers?" to which Mr Adams said: "I would have a problem shooting anyone. I think that's a very leading question. I'm not on trial here."

Mr Adams was also asked if he had any idea why someone would suggest on the Boston Tapes that he was involved in Mrs McConville's murder.

He replied: "Reading the transcripts, I thought it was interesting that the interviewee Anthony McIntyre asked a lot of leading questions. Anthony McIntyre was involved with others in opposing, which he was entitled to do, the strategy I and others were involved in which subsequently led to the peace process and the IRA cessation and the end of the IRA, effectively."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph