Gerry Adams has been arrested by detectives investigating the murder of Jean McConville.
Sinn Fein president Mr Adams, who has vehemently rejected the allegations made by former republican colleagues that he had a role in ordering the notorious 1972 killing, voluntarily presented himself for interview at a police station in Antrim.
A veteran republican - 77-year-old Ivor Bell – had been charged last month with aiding and abetting the murder. He denies involvement in the crime.
In the wake of the recent developments in the case, last month Mr Adams, who has always denied membership of the IRA, said he would be available to meet with detectives if they wished to speak with him.
In a statement sent tonight by Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, 65, said: “Last month I said that I was available to meet the PSNI about the Jean McConville case.
“While I have concerns about the timing, I am voluntarily meeting with the PSNI this evening.
“As a republican leader I have never shirked my responsibility to build the peace.
“This includes dealing with the difficult issue of victims and their families.
“Insofar as it is possible I have worked to bring closure to victims and their families who have contacted me. Even though they may not agree, this includes the family of Jean McConville.
“I believe that the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice to her and her family.
“Well publicised, malicious allegations have been made against me. I reject these”.
He went on to add: “While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs McConville.”
A PSNI spokesman said: “Detectives from the serious crime branch investigating the abduction and murder of Jean McConville in 1972 have arrested a 65-year-old man in Antrim. The suspect is currently being interviewed by detectives at the serious crime suite in Antrim police station.”
Jean McConville was a mother of 10, who was abducted, killed and then secretly buried by the IRA.
Her body was discovered in 2003 on a beach in Co Louth, where Mr Adams is now a TD.
The account of her abduction included in Lost Lives, the compendium of Troubles deaths, quotes her 15-year-old daughter Helen as saying that she had been dragged from the bathroom of her Divis home on December 6 by a group of women.
“The twins, who were only six at the time were clinging to her, screaming to the women to let her go but they took her anyway,” she had recounted.
After her disappearance, the children were sent to orphanages.
It was not until 1999 that the IRA admitted it had carried out the murder.
Still, it took another four years for her remains to turn up.
Seamus McKendry, son-in-law of Mrs McConville, told the News Letter last year that he had attended the first dig for her body on Templeton beach in 1999.
When that proved fruitless, he sent an intermediary back to the IRA to ask if they had made a mistake about identifying the location.
According to Mr McKendry, the IRA’s response was: “Do you think we’re idiots?”
In the end the body eventually turned up by accident on Shelling Hill beach, when a dog walker came across it.