Belfast Telegraph

Key exchanges from Boston College tapes

A section from Anthony McIntyre’s interview with Z which was played to court during the trial of the facts into allegations against Ivor Bell

Veteran republican Ivor Bell and former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. (PA Archive)
Veteran republican Ivor Bell and former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. (PA Archive)

By Rebecca Black, PA

The trial of a veteran republican accused of soliciting the murder of Jean McConville was played two clips from a Boston College oral history project which was ruled as inadmissible as evidence.

Ivor Bell, 82, of Ramoan Gardens was acquitted of the charges on Thursday following a trial of the facts at Belfast Crown Court.

In a ruling on Wednesday, Mr Justice O’Hara said there was “overwhelming” evidence it was Mr Bell speaking on the recording.

However he ruled that the tapes were unreliable and could not be used as evidence against him due to the “bias” of interviewer Anthony McIntyre against former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and the peace process.

“The tapes will become public with the end of this trial.

“Everyone who reads about them can form their own view, informed or otherwise, on the many issues they raise,” Mr Justice O’Hara ruled on Wednesday.

“But in the context of a criminal trial they are just not reliable or fairly obtained evidence.”

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Former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre carried out interviews with republican veterans as part of Boston College’s Belfast Project. (PA Archive)

In this excerpt Mr McIntyre questions interviewee Z about who gave the order to murder and secretly bury Mrs McConville.

Mr McIntyre: “That seems to bring to a conclusion your role within the IRA. You obviously feel then that getting rid of you shaped the way for the peace process?”

Z: “Oh I would say that. In fact I think it was said by some journalist or other that you mentioned to me that was a case. I forget his name now.”

Mr McIntyre: “Right.”

Z: “You told me that.”

Mr McIntyre: “Right. There have probably been that many have said it.”

Z: “Yeah.”

Mr McIntyre: “That said getting rid of you.”

Z: “Was a prerequisite for getting the process into line. Well it was. I had, I knew, I know this, had I got a convention it would, he would have, he would not have had Gerry as MP for west Belfast today, so you wouldn’t. That’s for sure.”

“But, that, that being said, my reason for setting this down, one for historical accuracy, two which is a major major thing with me is that Gerry had lied about being in the IRA, I don’t mind him doing that because if he said he was in the IRA they would probably say ‘were you involved in shooting x, y or z’, you know.

“I felt he could have said ‘I wouldn’t answer that to the police and I’ll not answer it to you … but what I couldn’t sort of grasp and which annoyed me was he sent an idiot to my house to ask about the woman from the flats.”

Mr McIntyre: “Jean McConville?”

Z: “Jean McConville. Bobby Storey, I simply said ‘what are you asking me about it for, sure my knowledge of it would be second hand, why don’t you ask Gerry’, ‘oh Gerry knows nothing about it’, the annoying thing is he actually believed Gerry.

“I said ‘he’s a liar’, I said ‘you and I will go to him now and I will tell him to his face he is a liar’. ‘He (Gerry) was the OC of Belfast’, I said, I was operations officer on the brigade staff, ‘I said Pat McClure was the IO, Pat handled it and directly tied in with Gerry, the IO doesn’t come to the operations officer to tell him what he’s doing’ I said, ‘he goes straight to the OC’, I said.”

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Z claims that republican Bobby Storey (left) was sent to his house to ask him about his involvement in the disappearance of Jean McConville as part of an internal investigation by the republican movement. (PA Archive)

“The first thing I knew about that woman was I was told she was being shot as a tout and the reason for it was she was an informer, they told me about radios and about signals pulling the curtains up and down … I said ‘I don’t know anything about anything other than we don’t have a jail so we shoot touts’.

“That’s all I can say to you and the people that came to me was Gerry and Pat.

“So that was when I decided I would set this down. Like anything happened when I was OC I will stand over, but I expect others to do the same.”

Mr McIntyre: “Did you think that Gerry was really setting you up, shifting the blame on to you for this?”

Z: “No I don’t, I don’t think he was shifting, don’t know what he was doing, I don’t know exactly – he could have been doing that.

“But to find out that that clown actually believed him was a bit of a shock to me.

They were recommending her disappearance, at the end of the day you could have had a situation where someone in GHQ said no. I was arguing with Gerry and Pat, I wasn't arguing with myself Interviewee Z

Mr McIntyre: “Well it wouldn’t have been a shock to me. It would have been a shock to me if Bobby had disbelieved him because Bobby is incapable of disbelieving any leader above him.”

Z: “Well, I don’t know about that, but … he near fell off my seat when I said he was a liar and that if he and I would go I would tell Adams to his face he was a liar. But he didn’t take up the offer.”

Mr McIntyre: “No, he wouldn’t have wanted to see the feet of clay under Gerry and you exposing him.

“It seems to me that Adams very much wanted to create an illusion within the IRA or an image within the IRA that you were responsible for the killing and disappearance of Jean McConville.”

Z: “It’s widely known within the IRA there was three things I was totally opposed to, one was torture in any form and that goes back to the early 70s, two sectarianism, shooting Protestants in revenge for the killing of Catholics, totally opposed to it and three burying people.

“I wasn’t opposed to shooting touts but I couldn’t see the sense of shooting anybody. And burying them.

“The only one I ever would have agreed to was Seamy Wright because of the Hick family connection.

“Again at the end of the day it wasn’t down to me. I gave my opinion.

“My opinion would always be the same ‘no don’t’.

“If you are going to shoot him, leave him out because you defeat the entire purpose by hiding the bodies and it was a well known case that a body had to be dug up in the Tyrone region and left in the chapel after they had buried him or her whichever. So we had that as an example.

“So from my point of view I was opposed to those three things and everybody knew that.”

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Undated handout file photo of mother of ten Jean McConville who was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by the IRA in December 1972.

Mr McIntyre: “So”.

Z: “So it wasn’t a matter of that woman McConville, if I had, I didn’t know she had 10 kids. If I had knew she had 10 kids I think I would have said, ‘no, don’t’.”

Mr McIntyre: “Right”

Z: “Shoot her because I would have seen the amount of bad propaganda that would come out of it, but to compound it all by hiding the body then years later having to go and dig the body up.”

Mr McIntyre: “The last time we discussed this on tape I think you were, you had a certain memory of the event that led us to believe that you were not sure that Gerry gave the order to disappear her, now in a conversation off the tape.”

Z: “yeah I.”

Mr McIntyre: “You, you had refreshed your memory, you thought about things, and you have since come to the conclusion that Gerry did give the order to disappear her.”

Z: “Yeah. Well the thing is this, she was passed back to GHQ.”

Mr McIntyre: “Right.”

Z: “Right. Now I was told that they were going to disappear her, actually they would probably go and recommend it, that she disappear.

“I spoke against that for the reasons I’ve stated. But if GHQ had have wanted they would have said no.”

Mr McIntyre: “But do you recall at any point Pat or Gerry saying that she should be disappeared?”

Z: “Yeah.”

Mr McIntyre: “Right.”

Z: “They said they said they couldn’t take the heat from throwing her on the street.”

Mr McIntyre: “Now and so, and you have been very frank about this – you would have agreed with the execution of Jean McConville – but was Adams, Gerry Adams and Pat McClure who were actually the people responsible for her disappearance?”

Z: “They were, they would have been recommending her disappearance.”

Mr McIntyre: “Right.”

Z: “So it was like this, at the end of the day, you could have had a situation where somebody on GHQ could have said ‘no’.”

Mr McIntyre: “Well for you to oppose the disappearance, you had to argue against somebody. So somebody must have been promoting it?”

Z: “Oh aye, yeah, I was arguing with Gerry and Pat … I wasn’t arguing with myself.”

PA

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