A relative of Jean McConville has said he is determined not to be “taunted” by flags honouring the IRA gang which murdered her – and suggested they could be an electioneering stunt by Sinn Fein.
Seamus McKendry, son-in-law of the murdered widow and mother-of-10, was reacting to the recent appearance of the green-and-yellow flags celebrating the IRA’s “D coy, 2nd Batt”.
The “2nd battalion” operated in the lower Falls / Divis area, meaning it is the gang would have been responsible for (among other things) secretly murdering Mrs McConville after abducting her in front of her children at Divis flats – in the area which is now bedecked with flags.
It is at least the second year in a row that the flags have appeared around springtime.
“I don’t think the people that put these up have any respect for life,” said Mr McKendry.
“Irrespective of whether it’s Jean McConville’s life or a local squaddie or anything.”
Asked why he feels they have been put up now, he said: “A wee bit of election fever, I’d imagine. And the Easter commemoration stuff too.”
Sinn Fein sells “2nd battalion” merchandise via its online bookshop.
The merchandise features logos and writing which are essentially indistinguishable from the flags now dotted around the Falls.
The party was asked twice by the News Letter if it is responsible for putting the flags up. It declined to answer.
Mr McKendry said he “wouldn’t doubt for one second” that Sinn Fein is behind the displays in some fashion.
The 59-year-old from Co Down also noted that, in Killyleagh village by Strangford Lough, he has seen UVF flags flying in the vicinity of the Anchor pub.
On October 2, 1975, the UVF had bombed the same bar, murdering a Protestant passer-by, Irene Nicholson (37) – part of a day-long spree of bloodletting by the group.
“99.9% of the people are great people – but you have morons,” said Mr McKendry.
Returning to the issue of the IRA flags in Belfast specifically, he said: “I personally can ignore them. I made a conscious decision many years ago not to be taunted by stuff like that, you know.”
He added: “I know how [these people] work. I lived among them for too many years, and got to know.”
Shortly after speaking to the News Letter, he said he was going off to meet a group of people, including some Sinn Fein supporters.
He said he enjoys debating with such people, who are often well-read university students.
“I take great joy in telling them: ‘What would you do if [the IRA] started burning down libraries and stuff?’” he said.
“Then you tell them that they actually did firebomb the Linenhall library.”
Revelations of attacks like that one (which happened in 1994) leave the students “absolutely aghast that they’ve joined an organisation that would do such a thing”, he said.