A senior member of Sinn Fein has insisted the party still believes in Northern Ireland’s police force despite a threat to review its support if Gerry Adams is charged by detectives investigating the killing of a mother-of-ten.
The party president is undergoing a fourth day of questioning by detectives over the 1972 murder of 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 launched scathing criticism of the police’s handling of the affair.
First Minister Peter Robinson accused his partners in government of attempting to blackmail the police over the detention of their party leader.
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly said: “We are in policing because we believe in the new dispensation of policing.”
The Stormont assembly member added: “If the policing which we see is wrong then we will speak out against that.”
Mr McGuinness has blamed the arrest on an “embittered rump” left over from before the reform of policing whom he claimed wanted to destroy the peace process.
But 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 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.
Mr Kelly visited his party leader at the police station and said they were “assessing” their position on policing.
“This is quite a serious situation.
“He is leader of Sinn Fein, he is being questioned about things that happened over 42 years ago and let me say this very clearly, the McConville family and the suffering that they have gone through is not going to be assisted by another injustice which is being perpetrated now.”
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.