The arrest and questioning of Gerry Adams by the police in Northern Ireland sent one or two commentators in the U.S. (we won't mention names!) into paroxysms of rage.  

However, the fact is that most people here are not bothered about it at all.  Typical reactions were: 'What took them so long?' and 'They're never going to pin anything on him anyway!'

Gerry, emerging after his terrible ordeal (four nights in a police cell!) with the big toothy grin still in place, seemed to confirm this.  Don't hold your breath for the Crown Prosecution Service to charge him with anything based on the four days of interrogation. Gerry has plenty of experience in dealing with questioning and is unlikely to have let anything slip under pressure.

Most of the questions, according to him, were based on what's contained on the Boston College Oral History Project tapes, and he has had plenty of time to rehearse his answers on that.  

Whether you believe his main explanation – that the tapes are the testimony of unreliable witnesses who were out to get him – is beside the point because as far as we know they don't amount to conclusive evidence that will convict him in a court.  

But as well as inflated outrage from some people, Adams’ arrest also raised a number of conspiracy theories which varied from the somewhat believable to the completely bizarre.  

Sinn Fein were torn between two theories, one being that this was the work of "dark" elements at a very senior level in the police service in Northern Ireland (the PSNI), the other that the whole business was politically inspired.  Simple dislike of Adams by "dark elements" in the PSNI is unlikely to be the reason he was arrested.

It's probably true that there are some people in the PSNI, including some very senior officers, who would not be big fans of Adams.  It's also true that you could say the same thing about some senior Garda police officers in the south, given what the IRA got up to down here over the years and the way, in cases like the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, senior Sinn Fein people lied through their big teeth at the time, denying any involvement by the IRA. It only took Adams 17 years to apologize for that one.   

Sinn Fein's other theory – that the whole thing was politically inspired – seems more likely, and quite a few people down here who would not be friends of Sinn Fein think that the timing so near to an election is too much of a coincidence.   

We are just two weeks away from the vote in the European and local elections.  Sinn Fein, who of course are running in both the north and the south, are likely to do extremely well. 

In the North, the arrest of Adams and all the publicity and controversy about it is likely to strengthen the Sinn Fein vote even more. Which begs the question – if you were a senior PSNI officer who hates Adams, why would you do something that you knew would have that effect?  

In the south Sinn Fein is also doing well, which raises the possibility of "political inspiration" from the south.  

This theory suggests that someone very senior here in political and/or Garda circles asked their counterparts in the North to arrest Adams and hang on to him for a few days so that the shocking details about the Jean McConville murder would play out in the media again and damage Sinn Fein as much as possible, particularly among all the angry middle-class voters who might be contemplating giving their vote to Sinn Fein, this time as a protest.      

The votes for seats in the European Parliament and in local councils are held here on the same day and are seen as an important mid-term test for the government two years out from the next Dail (Parliament) election in 2016.  

Sinn Fein, flying in the opinion polls, is likely to do very well, taking several European seats and lots of council seats, a result that would seriously embarrass the main parties in the south.  So a scenario in which someone powerful down here gives someone powerful up there a buzz and says, would you ever do us a favor and arrest Gerry, does seem to make sense.

But there are all kinds of reasons why this is extremely unlikely, not least because this kind of direct political interference from the south in policing in the north would not be welcome up there, no more than it would be down here.   

A far more likely explanation of the timing is quite simple.  And over the years I have learned that in matters like this, the simple answer is more often the correct one.  

There really should be no surprise about the timing. The fact is that the Adams arrest a few weeks before the election was more likely a coincidence than anything else.  It was simply the next step in an investigation that has been going on for some time. 

The PSNI reopened their investigation into the McConville murder late in 2010 after two former IRA members had accused him of directing the murder. One of these accusations, from IRA man Brendan “Darkie” Hughes, emerged from the Boston tapes after his death in 2008 (Hughes was a close mate of Adams in the Long Kesh prison camp in the 1970s). 

The other, from IRA bomber Dolours Price, who died last year and is also on the Boston tapes, was made in media interviews she gave in 2010 and later.  

So why did it take nearly four years to get to the point where Adams was arrested and questioned?  

For a start there was a two-year legal battle by the PSNI in the American courts to get access to the Boston tapes.  Once that was achieved the investigation widened and gathered pace, particularly in recent months.  The PSNI may have gathered other evidence and statements in recent weeks that we don't know about.  

Several people have been arrested and questioned, including Adams' old mate Ivor Bell (they were flown to London together back in 1972 to negotiate with the British).  The 77-year-old Bell, a former IRA chief of staff, was charged a few weeks ago with aiding and abetting the murder of McConville.  

So clearly the investigation was reaching some kind of final stage a few months ago and in that context it's not surprising that the PSNI decided they were ready to question Adams.  They are unlikely to have seen the election in a few weeks as a big issue, if they thought about it at all.  

Having said that, there is no denying that the arrest and publicity will have benefited the mainstream parties in the south in the run-up to the election.  With Fianna Fail still totally discredited and the Labour Party hamstrung by its participation in a government with Fine Gael that has overseen deeply unpopular austerity measures and new taxes and charges like the upcoming water charges, the angry, disillusioned public who want to protest have no one to vote for – except for Sinn Fein.  That's why the party is doing so well in the polls.  

In many poorer areas, Sinn Fein already has significant support.  For most middle-class people, given the past, voting Sinn Fein is a step too far, but there is a section of that part of the electorate which is angry enough to vote Sinn Fein in protest.

Making Sinn Fein acceptable to those voters is critical for the party, and it requires the members to separate themselves from the ugly past of the IRA, particularly from sickening cases like the murder of McConville. 

There is no doubt that the arrest of Adams and the reminder of the cruelty involved in the abduction and murder of the widowed mother of 10 will have damaged them down here, particularly among that part of the electorate, even while it will have made their voters in the north more determined.  That is why some people in the south are suspicious of the timing of the Adams arrest. 

There is no denying that the timing was good for the mainstream parties here.  But that does not mean it was any more than a coincidence.  

There is, of course, one conspiracy theory doing the rounds here that you won't have heard much about over there.  That is that Sinn Fein planned the whole thing.  With the arrest of Bell and others, it was clear some weeks ago that the PSNI investigation was coming to the stage where they would want to question Adams.   

So about six weeks ago Gerry wrote to the police and offered to present himself for interview.  Sinn Fein clearly wanted to control the situation and may have been concerned that it could have emerged days before the vote. Or maybe they thought there would be electoral mileage to be gained from getting the all clear on the issue.

Whatever the reason, Gerry made the offer to go in for questioning.  It then took the PSNI a few weeks to plan their approach and get their questions ready, which would not be surprising given the amount of files and information that surrounds both Adams and the McConville case.   

Which is how he ended up presenting himself (with his lawyer) to the PSNI last week.  Maybe he thought he would be questioned for a few hours and then it would all be over, and it seems certain that he was not expecting to be arrested and then held for four days.   

Far more important than any of this or any conspiracy theories, of course, is the murder of McConville in 1972, just over two years after The Troubles began. She was a poor widow living in poverty with her ten children.  

The cruelty involved, dragging her away in front of the screaming children and making orphans of them, was appalling. The disgraceful attempts by Sinn Fein subsequently to blacken her name by claiming she was an informer were completely rejected in a report on the case by Nuala O'Loan, the former Police Ombudsman in the North, someone whose integrity and competence is beyond question.  

McConville was an innocent, a poor Protestant girl from East Belfast who married a Catholic and was driven out of her own community and ended up living in the Divis Flats in Catholic West Belfast, where she was regarded as an outsider.   She had 10 children when her husband died of cancer.  Her main crime seems to have been that she gave a drink to an exhausted British soldier on the street outside the flats.   

This was the time when the IRA were intimidating their own people into turning against the British Army. The British soldiers had initially been welcomed in Nationalist areas because they had saved the Catholics from the murderous loyalist mobs.  

By 1972, however, the IRA were brutally enforcing a 'Hate the Brits' attitude, which extended to tarring and feathering girls who dated soldiers and knee-capping anyone who worked in any way for the British.  

Being a Protestant whose husband (like some Catholics before the Troubles) had earlier on served in the British Army made McConville an outsider in the Divis Flats, which quickly became a Republican hotbed.  

Whatever her loyalties or her attitude to the British, nothing excuses what was done to her and her children.  The way they were left to fend for themselves for weeks by the other residents in the big flats complex was shameful before eventually they were taken away (and separated) by the social services.  

The account by Price of how she posed as a Legion of Mary member when she was driving McConville supposedly to safety over the border after her interrogation by the IRA – even stopping to buy her cigarettes on the way – is heartbreaking, as is what happened to her orphan children. As you know, McConville was shot in the head and Price said it was all done on the orders of Adams, then leader of the IRA in West Belfast.  

As Labor Minister Joan Burton said last week, what happened to McConville was a war crime.  It cannot be equated with or excused by reference to other "families who suffered" as Sinn Fein tried to do again last week.  

It was one of a number of special cases that can only be classed as war crimes.  And they need to be investigated and those responsible or involved (between 10 and 20 people in the McConville case), must be brought to justice.  

The names of some of those involved in the cruel treatment and murder of McConville – behavior like that of the Taliban today – are well known, including the Cumann na mBan (IRA women's section) members involved in taking McConville away, those who interrogated her, the young IRA man who executed her, those who buried her in the beach and the IRA leader who approved the whole sordid business.   

There's been a lot of talk in the past week about peace, peacemakers and the price of peace.  But peace without justice is meaningless.