Timeline of events
Those without prior knowledge of the case are likely wondering why Adams is only being questioned now, over 40 years after the crime, and why this particular murder, out of all the many killings perpetrated by both sides during the Troubles, is in focus.
The following is an outline of the chain of events, starting with McConville’s murder and ending with Adams’ arrest.
1972 – Jean McConville disappears. McConville, born Jean Murray, was born and raised in a Protestant family in East Belfast, but converted to Catholicism when she married Arthur McConville, a former member of the British Army. He died of cancer in 1971, leaving McConville as a widowed mother of 10.
In December 1972, a few days before Christmas, McConville was abducted by the IRA from her home in West Belfast, interrogated, and killed. Her body was then buried across the border, on Shelling Beach in Co. Louth. Some accounts say she was suspected by the IRA of being an informant, while others maintain that her only 'transgression' was once offering help to a wounded British soldier.
1999 – The IRA admit to McConville’s disappearance and murder. Following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, new information emerged from both sides about those who disappeared during the Troubles. In 1999, the IRA admitted to killing McConville and passed on information about the location of her body, which searchers were unable to find.
2001 – Boston College begins oral history project on The Troubles. The college, an institution with a strong Irish/Irish American background, put its support behind the project, which began that year as the brainchild of Paul Bew, a Northern Irish historian, and Ed Moloney, previously a journalist in Northern Ireland.
The aim of the project, run by Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, a researcher and former IRA member, was to collect accounts of The Troubles from key figures on both sides. All of the interviews were conducted under the provision that no transcript or recording would be released until after the interviewee’s death. In all, they would speak with 26 former members of the IRA and 20 former Loyalist dissidents.
2003 – Jean McConville’s body is found. A storm on the night of August 26 washed away a portion of the parking lot at Shelling Beach in Co. Louth, revealing McConville’s corpse, which was discovered the following day by a passerby. A post-mortem performed on the body revealed that McConville had been shot in the back of the head. A further investigation in 2006 concluded that there was no evidence that she had been an informant nor were there any concrete leads as to the identities of her killers.
2008 – Brendan Hughes dies. Hughes, a commanding officer in the IRA and PIRA, was one of the subjects interviewed for the Boston College oral history project. It was recently revealed that at one point in his interview Hughes said, regarding McConville, "There's only one man that gave the order for that woman to be executed. That man is now the head of Sinn Fein. I did not give the order to execute that woman. He did."
2010 – Ed Moloney publishes book, Dolours Price talks to media. Based on the interviews with Hughes and with Loyalist David Ervine, Moloney published a book titled “Voices From the Grave: Two Men’s War in Northern Ireland.” Billed at the time as “the inaugural publication of the Boston College IRA/UVF Oral History Project,” it included Hughes’ allegation that Adams had ordered McConville’s Murder.
Also in 2010, Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price, who had also been interviewed for the Boston College project, made a number of statements alleging Adams’ involvement in McConville’s killing. It was noted at the time that both Price and Hughes, before his death, strongly disagreed with the role Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams had taken in the Peace Process.
2011 – PSNI issues subpoena to Boston College. Under the Treaty of Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, the PSNI, through the US Attorney, moved to subpoena the interviews with Hughes and Price from Boston College, which, along with Moloney and McIntyre, decided to fight the subpoena. In August, PSNI issued another subpoena, this time for all of the interviews with any information relating to Jean McConville.