POLICE are confident of putting at least some of those responsible for the murder of Jean McConville before a court, her family said last night.
The potential breakthrough — which comes after police won a US court battle to access secret recordings by senior IRA figures — comes almost four decades since republicans abducted, murdered and secretly buried Mrs McConville.
The recordings of interviews with scores of senior loyalist and republican terrorists are believed to be explosive and were only to be released from a vault in Boston College when each terrorist died.
However, a PSNI court case to access all material in the archive which may help put Mrs McConville’s killers behind bars could see those candid private testimonies released.
The journalist Ed Moloney and former IRA man and writer Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the interviews, have now accused Boston College of not doing enough to stop the tapes’ release and lodged their own appeal after the college declined to appeal a court judgment which ordered the tapes be released. They have warned of reprisals and a threat to the “peace process” if the recordings are made public.
But last night Mrs McConville’s son-in-law, Seamus McKendry, disagreed. The McKendrys, who formed the group Families of the Disappeared back in 1995, have been helping police with their investigation.
In 2010, former IRA bomber Dolours Price told The Irish News that she drove Mrs McConville to her death, under orders from Gerry Adams. The Sinn Fein president has always denied any part in the murder.
Mr McKendry told the News Letter: “The police are confident that they can bring a prosecution and we would dearly love to see the prosecution being bigger than Dolours Price, of course.”
Asked if the police had given indication about examining the actions of those beyond Dolours Price, Mr McKendry said: “Obviously they aren’t going to say too much. Privately they have told me stuff but I wouldn’t be at liberty to divulge it.”
In 2006 the then Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said that a successful prosecution “in any case of that age” would be “highly unlikely”.
Mr McKendry, who has worked as a freelance journalist, said that the case to release the tapes went against his instincts to protect sources but added: “From that point of view I was a bit concerned but having said that we’re not talking here about someone stealing a handbag; we’re talking about murder and they still should face the full wrath of the law.”
Mr McKendry said that his wife, who was just 15 when her mother was abducted, has been “really upset” in recent days as debate over the tapes raged.
Two years ago the man in charge of the vault which holds the recordings, Professor Thomas Hachey, told the News Letter that it contained scores of interviews with loyalist and republican paramilitaries which had been conducted over a nine-year period.
Professor Hachey, who is director of the Jesuit-founded college’s Irish Institute, said that no one other than those involved in the interviews knew the identities of paramilitaries who spoke to the college.
“The people that we went out and interviewed were not gophers – people who were simply sent out on missions and had no idea who was sending them or why – nor was it the upper echelon, which is to say whomever the leadership may have been on the loyalist side or nationalist side.
“That sort of thing has been done by the BBC, NBC...this was really about the operational level.”
No one other than those involved in the interviews knows who spoke to the academics, with the exception of three people — Ms Price and both senior IRA member Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes and UVF commander David Ervine, whose accounts were published in 2010 in Mr Moloney’s book “Voices From The Grave”.