Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams will not be prosecuted in connection with the murder of Jean McConville, the 37-year old mother of ten abducted from her Belfast home in December 1972 and killed by the IRA.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) arrested Adams for questioning in relation to the murder in April 2014 and he was held in custody for four nights.
Yesterday, however, the Public Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland announced that Adams and six others, two men and four women, questioned about the murder will not face further prosecution.
“We have given careful consideration to the evidence currently available in respect of each of the three men and four women reported,” stated Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Pamela Atchison, “and have concluded that it is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against any of them for a criminal offense.”
The evidence referred to includes content supplied by American authorities from the Boston College Belfast Project. The tapes from the project were a collection of recorded testimonies from IRA and loyalist paramilitary veterans, interviewed so as to create a historic archive of the Troubles on the basis that each participant's interview would not be made public until the participant’s death.
The PSNI gained access to the tapes via the US court system as they believed the tapes could contain evidence in relation to the McConville murder. Having examined the tapes, containing evidence that would legally be classed as hearsay, the PPS has concluded that they contain insufficient evidence to prosecute.
Atchison also stated that the McConville family, who have been outspoken about the IRA’s role in their mother’s death, have been kept up the date with the decision. The Guardian reports that the family have vowed to pursue Gerry Adams through the civil courts despite yesterday’s decision from the PPS.
“We have had a series of meetings with members of the family, most recently this morning, about all of our prosecutorial decisions and we will continue to engage with them as we progress the prosecution of Ivor Bell,” she said.
“We thank them for the positive way that they have engaged with us at each stage of the process.”
However, McConville's daughter, Helen McKendry, has revealed that the family is not willing to accept the decision as final.
“We accept the course of justice and the decision even though the IRA never gave thought for justice for Jean. We would rather have the criminal case not going ahead like that than for it to collapse in court. However, today is the beginning of a new fight for justice through a civil action against Mr Adams. The PPS decision gives us the green light to start that campaign through the civil courts,” she said.
“When we first raised the possibility of a civil case we were contacted by lots of people who offered financial support as we don’t expect legal aid. We would now ask all those people to back us now in building a case with our legal team towards a civil action.”
Adams has referred to the decision as “long overdue,” stating that “there was never any real basis for questioning me in respect of this case … I played no act or part in Jean McConville’s death.”
Adams believes that the accusations made against him in relation to the murder are a major part of a “sustained and malicious campaign” to link him in some way to the crime.
“I am also very conscious of the huge hurt inflicted on the McConville family,” he continued.
“The abduction, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville was wrong.”
Jean McConville was abducted from her west Belfast home by the IRA in front of her children over 40 years ago, in one of the most notorious murders of the Northern Ireland Troubles.
The widowed mother of ten was accused by the IRA of working as an informer for the security forces and she was killed and buried in secret. For many years she was known as one of “The Disappeared,” the people taken by the IRA and never found, until her body was discovered in Co. Louth in 2003.
Six others were told yesterday that they would not face prosecution for the murder, among them Bobby Storey, Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland Chairperson who was recently arrested in connection with the murder of Belfast republican Kevin McGuigan that has thrown Stormont into disarray.
Former IRA Chief of Staff, Ivor Bell, 78, is awaiting prosecution for McConville’s murder. He is currently before the court and charged with soliciting her death. Nobody has previously been charged.
Former IRA members, including hunger striker Brendan Hughes, have previously claimed that it was Gerry Adams who ordered the murder, a claim he has consistently denied.