In an interview with RTE in 2005, Mitchel McLaughlin claimed that the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville was not a crime.
The then chairman of Sinn Fein faced a backlash from the late widow’s family, but resisted calls for him to resign.
During the programme on the Republic’s state broadcaster, Michael McDowell, the then Irish justice minister, asked Mr McLaughlin whether he thought the killing was a crime. Mr McLaughlin, who earlier had admitted that it was “wrong”, responded: “No, I do not.”
Then, when Mr McDowell sarcastically asked if it was not a crime because it had been authorised by an IRA court martial, Mr McLaughlin said: “Yes, and I believe it happened in the context of conflict.”
On the same programme, Mr McLaughlin also agreed with the comment that the IRA was “the only legitimate government of Ireland”.
Rejecting calls for him to resign at the time, Mr McLaughlin told the BBC: “Of course I won’t resign, I’m entitled to my view in this respect. I didn’t introduce the topic into the discussion.
“I was pressing the minister for justice on the lack of action on outstanding issues such as collusion, criminality at the heart of the British Government as far as republicans are concerned and I think, on the ropes, the minister threw in Jean McConville.”
Mr McLaughlin’s comments came just over a year after the IRA apologised for the grief which it had caused to the families of the Disappeared, including Mrs McConville.
At the time, the News Letter quoted the now North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr as saying that Mr McLaughlin’s comments were “the talk of a fanatic”.
And, in the same year, the now North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds referred to Mr McLaughlin’s comments before telling the Commons: “We must focus on how to get democratic, accountable government restored without these people...”