Jean McConville murder is ‘what happens in wars’ - Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.  Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The abduction and murder of a Belfast mother-of-ten by the IRA was something that “happens in wars” Gerry Adams has told a US news network.

In an interview due to be broadcast on CBS on Sunday night (April 5), the Sinn Fein president repeatedly denies knowing anything about the 1972 killing of Jean McConville, but defends IRA activity as a “legitimate response” to the political situation.

Jean McConville with some of her children

Jean McConville with some of her children

When asked ‘how do you orphan children?’ he tells interviewer Scott Pelley: “That’s what happens in wars, Scott - that’s what American soldiers do, British soldiers do, Irish republican soldiers do, that’s what happens in every single conflict.”

Mrs McConville was a kidnapped by an IRA gang in front of her children at their west Belfast flat. She became known as one of the ‘Disappeared’ and her body’s location remained an IRA secret until it was discovered by a dog walker on a beach in Co Louth 12 years ago.

Adams’ comments angered the murdered woman’s daughter, Helen McKendry, who said she doesn’t believe the leading republican’s denial of involvement.

“He’s a liar...I would like Gerry Adams to stand up and admit he played a part,” she tells Mr Pelley.

I would like Gerry Adams to stand up and admit he played a part

Helen McKendry - daughter of Jean McConville

Ms McKendry, who is now a grandmother, said: “This man has blood on his hands and I want him to pay for what he did”.

Allegations of Mr Adams’ involvement in the McConville murder resurfaced when a participant in the Boston College project - in which former paramilitarties recorded oral histories of their role in the Troubles - directly accused Adams of having order the widow’s death.

The release of a book based on the Boston College tapes, and an interview Dolours Price gave in which she implicated both herself and Gerry Adams in the abduction of Jean McConville, led the PSNI to invoke a treaty between the US and the UK to subpoena the tapes.

The murder was one of the most infamous during the three decades of violence.

Newspaper reports at the time, quoting the then 15-year-old daughter Helen, said her mother had been dragged from the bathroom of her Divis home by a group of women.

Based on the newspaper articles, the book Lost Lives recounts her saying: “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.”

After their mother’s disappearance, the children were sent to orphanages. It was not until 1999 that the IRA admitted it had carried out the murder.

The Sinn Fein leader was questioned at Antrim police station by the PSNI last April but released without charge.

Speaking afterwards, he said: “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 say: “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.”

During the preview clip of tomorrow’s CBS broadcast, he said he presented himself to the PSNI for interview because he was “sick, sore and tired of a tsunami of stories based upon these tapes linking me to Mrs McConville’s death”.

He also tells Pelley he never pulled a trigger, ordered a murder or set off a bomb during the Northern Ireland Troubles.

In the interview, he also repeated his assertion that he would never “disassociate” himself from the IRA, and added: “I think the IRA was a legitimate response to what was happening here”.