Ivor Bell can leave NI while awaiting Jean McConville trial

A veteran republican accused of involvement in the IRA murder of Disappeared victim Jean McConville had his bail conditions varied today to allow him to go to Donegal to celebrate his wedding anniversary.
Veteran republican Ivor Bell leaves court after a previous hearingVeteran republican Ivor Bell leaves court after a previous hearing
Veteran republican Ivor Bell leaves court after a previous hearing

Ivor Malachy Bell (69), of Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, was due to be arraigned today at Belfast Crown Court on two charges over the murder of the mother-of-ten in December 1972.

But the arraignment was adjourned for a second time after his defence team said he was waiting to be examined by a Dublin-based consultant on whether he was fit to plead or not to the charges.

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Bell, who sat in the public gallery during the hearing, faces two charges of soliciting her murder.

The first charge states that “on a date unknown between the 31st day of October 1972 and the 1st day of January 1973 he encouraged persons not before the court to murder Jean McConville”.

The second count states that “on a date unknown between the 31st day of October 1972 and the 1st day of January 1973, he endeavoured to persuade persons not before the court to murder Jean McConville”.

The defendant was originally charged with aiding and abetting the murder, and with being a member of the IRA, but the charges were subsequently amended by the Public Prosecution Service.

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Defence barrister Desmond Hutton told Mr Justice Treacy today that he had an application to vary Bell’s bail conditions to allow himi to travel outside of the Northern Ireland jurisdiction.

He said that Bell’s wedding anniversary was approaching and he “wanted to spend a week in Donegal with his wife’’ from Monday, October 17, to Monday, October 24.

“The police have assessed the address in Donegal and there are no difficulties with it.’’

A prosecution lawyer told the court: “Police have confirmed that they have no objections to the address in Letterkenny.’’

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He added that two of Bell’s bail conditions would have be suspended if the court granted the application.

The first condition was his reporting to police once a week, and secondly that he was not to leave the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland without giving police 48 hours notice.

The prosecution barrister said that when Bell was released on bail it was on condition of two signed sureties of £10,000 each.

He asked that both individuals who put up the £10,000 sureties resign them to “it make it clear to them and to the court’’ that Bell was leaving the jurisdiction.

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Mr Justice Treacy granted the application to vary the bail conditions for one week and ordered that the sureties be resigned.

Last month, Bell was due to arraigned on the two charges but the case was adjourned for four weeks over the issue of his fitness to plead.

Defence barrister Desmond Hutton told the court today that since then there had been difficulties in “securing a proper expert’’ to examined Bell.

He said that Bell’s instructing solicitors and recently secured the services of a Professor Kennedy in Dublin who had been provided with his GP notes.

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The court was told that Professor Kennedy has since requested pyschiatric notes from a mental health team who have been dealing with Bell’s case.

He added that Professor Kennedy has agreed to examine Bell and would be travelling to Belfast next month to carry out his examination and will afterwards compile a report.

Mr Justice Treacy said that he would review the case again on Friday, November 18, when it is expected Professor Kennedy’s report will be available.

Jean McConville, a 37-year-old widow, was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 in front of her children after being wrongly accused of being a British Army informant.

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Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried, becoming one of the “Disappeared” victims of the sectarian conflict.

In 1999 the IRA admitted the murder when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

Mrs McConville’s body was found near to Templetown Beach in Co Louth in 2003

She had been killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head, post-mortem examinations revealed.

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Part of the case against Bell is based on the content of tapes police secured from an oral history of the Troubles, put together by Boston College in the US.

The PSNI won a court battle in the US to gain access to some of the recordings, which had been recorded on the premise they would remain unpublished until after the deaths of those taking part.

One of the interviews was allegedly given by Bell - a claim the defendant denies - and he was first charged in March 2014.