Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has accused Sinn Fein of attempting to blackmail the police over the arrest of Gerry Adams.
The party president is undergoing a fourth day of questioning by detectives over the 1972 murder of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville. Extra time granted to police to question him will expire later today.
Amid a growing row over the arrest, Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has warned his republican party will review their support for policing if Mr Adams is charged.
Martin McGuinness blamed an “embittered rump” left over from before the reform of policing whom he claimed wanted to destroy the peace process.
Mr Robinson said: “The publicly conveyed threat to the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) delivered by the highest levels of Sinn Fein that they will reassess their attitude to policing if Gerry Adams is charged is a despicable, thuggish attempt to blackmail the PSNI.
“The threat now means that ordinary decent citizens will conclude that the PSNI and the PPS (Public Prosecution Service) have succumbed to a crude and overt political threat if Adams is not charged.”
On Friday a judge allowed the PSNI a further 48 hours to hold Mr Adams at Antrim police station. The republican party has warned it will review its support for the force if the veteran leader is charged.
The 65-year-old detainee vehemently denies allegations levelled by former republican colleagues that he ordered Mrs McConville’s murder and secret burial more than 40 years ago after she was wrongly accused of passing information to the security forces.
Sinn Fein’s decision to sign up to support the police in 2007 was viewed as a major milestone in the peace process and prompted the return to devolved rule at Stormont, with the republican party and the Democratic Unionists entering government together.
Democratic Unionist leader Mr Robinson said: “ The PSNI must not be the subject of republican bullyboy tactics. They must be completely free to follow any and all evidence regardless of where it takes them and to decide free of political considerations whether suspects will be charged or not.
“The hive of activity to pressurise the police from charging Adams is obscene politicising of the policing process.
“I warn Sinn Fein that they have crossed the line and should immediately cease this destructive behaviour.”
He claimed the republican movement had shown a lack of leadership.
“Their actions allow only one conclusion to be reached - republicans believe they are not subject to the rule of law in the same way as they demand others to be made amenable to the rule of law.”
Mrs McConville was dragged, screaming, away from her children in the Divis flats in west Belfast by a gang of up to 12 men and women after being wrongly accused of informing to the security forces.
She was interrogated, shot in the back of the head and then secretly buried - becoming one of the “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles. Her body was not found until 2003 on a beach in Co Louth, 50 miles from her home.
Mr Adams, a former MP for West Belfast and now an elected representative for Co Louth in the Irish Dail, voluntarily presented himself for interview by prior arrangement with detectives.
Former first minister David Trimble told the Sky News Murnaghan programme: “In itself, it hasn’t done anything (to the peace process) because normal processes are taking place.
“The police, information became available, allegations Mr Adams was involved in the killing of Jean McConville, the police obviously have to investigate that, they are obviously going to have to speak to Mr Adams at some point, and Mr Adams himself recognised that.
“What is wrong... is (articles) about the failure of the politicians to agree on a mechanism to deal with the past. That is quite wrong, plainly simply wrong.
“What we agreed, and the compromise we made with the paramilitaries, was the early release scheme and we said there would be no amnesties. There is a huge point of principle here - once you say there can be amnesties for what happened, you are saying there is some degree of legitimacy to what happened.
“And we cannot concede that.”
Senior Sinn Fein member Gerry Kelly arrived at Antrim police station at midday and was admitted.