Three senior US congressmen have questioned the timing of the Northern Ireland police service’s decision to arrest Gerry Adams just weeks before the local and European elections in the North and the Irish Republic.

Irish American congressmen Peter King, Richard Neal and Joe Crowley have asked why Adams was taken in for questioning so close to the double election date at the end of May.

New York Republican King has openly supported Adams’ role in the Northern Ireland peace process dating back to the very start of the peace initiative.

The Irish Times reports that he has queried the motives of the PSNI and the British government.

King said: “It certainly raises questions the fact that it is coming so soon before the elections, the fact that these allegations have been out there for years. I really don’t know what purpose it would serve.

“I am not trying to minimise the feelings of the McConville family but there have been so many horrific incidents in Northern Ireland and to be going back after all these years . . .”

Massachusetts Democrat Neal has described Adams’s arrest as ‘one of those unsettling moments; and said he was suspicious of the timing ahead of an election.

Neal added: “It all seems pretty murky.”

King also criticised the Obama administration for not putting in a greater diplomatic effort with the British government to stop the release of the Boston College Tapes.

The taped interviews with former IRA members led to Adams’s arrest and ongoing detention.

The Republican congressman added: “They should have fought harder with the British. More diplomatic negotiations should have been used, saying that this really goes against our national interests.”

Neal added in a statement that Adams always maintained he had no role in the ‘sad ordeal of Jean McConville’.

He said: “I condemn Ms McConville’s killing in the strongest possible terms. What happened to her was tragic and her family also deserves to know the truth.”

Congressman Joe Crowley, a Democrat from New York, also defended Adams for taking ‘incredible risks’ to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

Crowley told the Irish Times: “He is someone who has stood strongly against hardliners on both sides.”

However the US state department rejected the suggestion it could have done more to prevent the release of the tapes.

A spokesman told the Irish Times: “The department played its appropriate role.”

US secretary of state John Kerry refused to comment on Adams’s arrest during a state visit to Sudan but noted that he was aware of it and, that the Sinn Féin leader had presented himself to police and maintained his innocence.

Kerry said: “We need to let the process in Northern Ireland work its way.”