Former IRA Belfast leader Ivor Bell stands accused of insisting the life of 'Disappeared' victim Jean McConville should not be spared just because she was a woman.
This was claimed by the prosecution in Belfast High Court during a bail application by 77-year-old Bell, who is charged with aiding and abetting in the 1972 murder of the 37-year-old widowed mother of 10.
Justice Weir granted bail on two sureties of £10,000 ($16,500) each, one of which had to be lodged in cash along with the title deeds to a house.
Bell must report to police three times a week, surrender his passport and give 48 hours notice if he plans to travel outside Northern Ireland.
The judge asked him, “If I release you on bail do you promise me you will keep to your bail conditions?”
Bell, appearing via a video-link with Maghaberry Prison, replied, “You have my word, my lord.”
McConville was taken from her flat and murdered by the IRA in December 1972. She became known as one of 'The Disappeared' whose bodies weren’t recovered for years afterwards. Some bodies still haven’t been recovered, although McConville’s remains were found on a beach in Co. Louth in August 2003.
The IRA claimed she was an informer, although that was later dismissed after an investigation by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.
During the bail application the Belfast court was told the case against Bell is based on an interview he gave to researchers at Boston College in the U.S.
The Boston College tapes are a series of candid, confessional interviews with former Loyalist and Republican paramilitaries, designed to be an oral history of The Troubles.
The paramilitaries were told the tapes would only be made public after their deaths. However, after a series of court cases in the U.S., some of the content has been handed over to the Northern Ireland authorities.
The prosecution alleges Bell said on the tapes, “Well, [McConville’s] a tout and the fact she’s a woman shouldn’t save her.”
According to the transcripts Bell may have taken a different view if he had known McConville had 10 children and no husband, the court heard.
It was claimed that Bell said he had no problem with shooting touts but disagreed with burying McConville. He believed informers’ bodies should instead be left openly as an example to others.
Setting out the charge against Bell, the prosecution claims he counseled those who held McConville captive and in doing so he encouraged her murder.
Bell, who has serious health problems, denies any role in the abduction or murder of McConville. He told detectives he did not believe he was in Belfast around the time she vanished.
The court heard that it was unlikely the case would be “fast-tracked” before it gets to trial as there are other inquiries being made.