At last, a sign that no-one is above the law: Gerry Adams's arrest in connection with the murder of Jean McConville is a victory for ordinary people, says RUTH DUDLEY EDWARDS
Gerry Adams's arrest on Wednesday provoked wide range of responses
Some rejoined, while others predicted that nothing would stick to Adams
Meanwhile, his supporters said there was 'political agenda' behind arrest
Jean McConville was abducted, murdered and secretly buried by IRA mob
The mother-of-ten's body was found near a beach in County Louth in 2003
In custody: The arrest of Gerry Adams in connection with the murder
of Jean McConville provoked a wide range of responses
The arrest of Gerry Adams in connection with the murder of Jean McConville provoked a wide range of responses.
There was rejoicing among those who have longed to see justice meted out to this terrible man.
There was fury from his supporters, who claimed there was ‘a political agenda’ behind the arrest designed to damage Sinn Fein on the eve of the EU parliamentary elections.
And from veteran Northern Ireland watchers, gloomy predictions that this was a false dawn, that yet again nothing would stick to Teflon Gerry, a man who was a leader of the IRA for more than three decades, who still insists he wasn’t even a member of the terrorist organisation and who polls say is the most popular party leader in the Republic of Ireland.
Many people in Britain and Ireland are mystified and shocked that anyone votes for Adams, who won a seat in the Irish parliament in 2011 and took over as Sinn Fein party leader.
The IRA which he defends murdered 2,000 men, women and children, ruined the lives of tens of thousands more who were injured, bereaved or traumatised, and wrecked Northern Ireland.
Yet unrepentant terrorists and their apologists are elected both north and south of the border.
Tribal loyalty and generations of brainwashing account for much of their support, but there is also ignorance and gullibility.
Close on a quarter of the population in the Republic weren’t even born when in 1998 the Good Friday Agreement signalled that the IRA were going out of business. They simply don’t know of the stench that surrounds Gerry Adams and his organisation.
Killed: Jean McConville (pictured with three of her children) was abducted,
murdered and buried by an IRA mob
Adams is an accomplished liar who spouts the language of peace, social justice and equality and steadfastly insists that vested interests are behind all the allegations about his past.
All he has ever been is a peace-maker, he says, and people who don’t know much about politics believe him. He has adopted a cuddly, folksy persona and tweets whimsically (and often weirdly) about his teddy bears, his dogs and his love of music and poetry.
Far from damaging their support, Sinn Fein hope that Adams’ arrest will actually earn their candidates sympathy votes, and that is entirely possible if their skilful propaganda succeeds.
Yet having the awful tragedy of Jean McConville once again reported in all its horrific detail all over the media is a potent reminder of the sheer brutality of the organisation Adams refuses to disassociate himself from.
Search: Irish police excavate the beach in Louth, Ireland, where the body of
Jean McConville was found in 2003
Removing her body: The mother of ten's body is removed from an area near
Templetown beach in County Louth
Only the hardest heart could have been unmoved by hearing Michael McConville on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday morning, describing what happened to him after his mother was dragged from her screaming children by an IRA mob to be shot dead.
Aged 11, he was kidnapped, beaten and threatened with terrible consequences if he identified the neighbours who did it.
Those threats were made more than 40 years ago, yet he fears his children might be killed if even now he breaches the IRA’s code of silence by naming names. Still, ever since the IRA’s evil grip on republican areas began to loosen in the 1990s, he and some of his siblings have at least been prepared to tell his story and demand justice.
Son: Michael McConville described yesterday what happened to him after his mother
was dragged from her children by an IRA mob to be shot dead. He was threatened with
terrible consequences if he revealed who did it
Jean McConville may have been secretly buried and her reputation trashed, just as several other IRA victims were. But the McConvilles and other families of those known as the Disappeared were not prepared to remain quiet.
They doggedly waged a campaign that forced the IRA to co-operate with the search for bodies.
After Jean’s was found in 2003, an inquest ruled she had been unlawfully killed, the Police Ombudsman declared categorically that she had never been a British agent – as the IRA had claimed after she comforted a British soldier wounded outside her home – and the police are pursuing her murderers.
Liar: Adams is an accomplished liar who spouts the language of peace, social justice and equality
But Jean McConville’s case is not the only one. To the horror of ex-paramilitaries, more and more ordinary people are demanding justice for their loved ones.
With the help of Daily Mail readers, for instance, families of Omagh bomb victims took and won a civil case against four of the perpetrators. The sisters of Robert McCartney – stabbed to death in 2005 outside a bar by people associated with Sinn Fein – are keeping their brother’s murder in the public eye despite the fact they have been intimidated by IRA thugs out of their jobs and home.
Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was shot dead by gunmen trying to murder their magistrate father, refused to remain silent after a woman who had served time for her role in the murder was appointed as a special adviser to a Sinn Fein minister. In the teeth of vociferous Sinn Fein opposition, the Northern Irish assembly has now blocked the appointment to such jobs of anyone with a serious conviction.
Sinn Fein have always made a point of supporting families who protest against killings by loyalists or state forces – think of Bloody Sunday, or Adams’ campaign for an inquiry into several killings in 1971 in Belfast’s Ballymurphy by members of the Parachute Regiment.
Yet when the boot is on the other foot, when there are calls for justice for those murdered by the IRA, Sinn Fein’s response is to howl with complaint and utter dark threats about the unravelling of the peace. In the past, this has made the police nervous about pursuing high-profile republicans.
It is widely believed, for instance, that political interference prevented the charging of Martin McGuinness in 1993 after Central TV’s The Cook Report had produced a two-part documentary accusing him of being ‘Britain’s No 1 terrorist’, and featuring witnesses who claimed he had enticed an informer called Frank Hegarty back to Londonderry where he was murdered.
Determined: The sisters (below) of Robert McCartney (top),
who was stabbed to death outside a bar in 2005 by people associated with Sinn Fein,
are keeping their brother’s murder in the public eye despite being intimidated
But this kid-gloves approach is changing. The IRA’s victims are bolder today and have been putting pressure on the police to pursue anyone against whom there is evidence.
This has rattled the Sinn Fein leadership which has been seeking some kind of amnesty for those found guilty. In a deal negotiated by representatives of loyalist and republican paramilitaries, no one convicted of any pre-1998 Troubles-related crime has to serve more than two years in jail – and, ironically, this would apply to Adams if he were found guilty.
But although there are politicians such as Peter Hain who support the amnesty, victims and those who believe in the rule of law are fighting it. The bereaved don’t want deals and trade-offs. They want justice.
Jean McConville’s children will never get over their mother’s cruel death. Yet they have been given heart to see the police are taking her murder so seriously they are prepared to interrogate even that celebrity terrorist-turned-peacemaker, Gerry Adams.
Because whatever happens to him, his arrest is a victory for ordinary people which sends out a signal that no one is above the law.