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Gerry Adams 'unlikely to face trial' over McConville murder

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-05-05

Gerry Adams, president of the Irish republican party Sinn Fein, is unlikely ever to face trial over allegations he ordered the 1972 murder of Jean McConville, according to FRANCE 24’s Ireland correspondent Hervé Amoric.

Adams was released without charge on Sunday after being questioned for four days over the killing.

Adams was taken into custody on Wednesday over allegations that he was the Belfast commander of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1972 and ordered McConville, a Belfast widow and mother of 10, to be killed over IRA suspicions that she was a British informer. Her family strongly denies the accusations.

"I talked to a source close to the judicial process last night who told me, 'If it was anybody else but Gerry Adams, we probably would have charged him',” Amoric said. “Gerry Adams, for many in Ireland and elsewhere, is the embodiment of the peace process. He's the man – along with Martin McGuinness, the former IRA leader – who brought the IRA and Sinn Fein, the republican movement, to its peace."

Amoric also notes that most of the witnesses in the case are now dead and that those remaining may be reluctant to testify against such a high-profile figure.

A member of parliament in the Irish republic, Adams has been dogged throughout his career by accusations from former IRA fighters that he was involved in its campaign of killings, a charge he has repeatedly denied. Adams denies even being a member of the outlawed IRA.

Sinn Fein said detectives questioned Adams this week about audiotaped interviews with IRA veterans who made such claims against him as part of an oral history project at the US-based Boston College, the so-called 'Boston tapes'.

Amoric said several other alleged IRA operatives were named in the interviews and one had been charged.

Police last charged Adams with IRA membership in 1978 following a firebomb attack on a hotel near Belfast that killed 12 Protestants, but those charges were dropped.

Political complications

There are also the political implications of pursuing charges against Adams, and the case has already stirred up a hornet's nest in Ireland. McGuinness and his allies claim the investigation is political, coming as it does weeks ahead of elections in both parts of Ireland.

"Over the weekend you had demonstrations in Northern Ireland in support of the government and you had Martin McGuinness, the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, who was alleging that Sinn Fein could withdraw their support of the police," Amoric said.

That threat was condemned Sunday by the Protestant leader of the province’s power-sharing government, First Minister Peter Robinson. Speaking Sunday before news of Adams’ release, Robinson accused Sinn Fein of mounting “a despicable, thuggish attempt to blackmail” the police and said the future of Northern Ireland’s government was at stake.

Robinson’s Democratic Unionist Party agreed to share power with Sinn Fein in 2007 only on condition that the IRA-linked party accepted police authority.

Legal process continues

The file on the allegations against Adams, meanwhile, has been referred to the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland (PPS) for examination.

“The DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) decided that he couldn't handle the case himself because ... he was Gerry Adams' former lawyer throughout the 35 years of the Troubles,” Amoric said.

Police faced a Sunday deadline either to charge or release Adams, or else seek a judge’s permission to extend his detention – an option they took Friday when an initial deadline was due to expire.

His provisional release – without an official exoneration, and with evidence in his file now being sent to the Public Prosecution Service in Belfast – suggests that police do believe Adams was an IRA commander, but do not have strong enough evidence to charge him.

Prosecutors taking up the case in Belfast could decide either that a case against Adams would not succeed based on existing evidence, recommend new avenues of investigation or determine that charges can be filed.

Date created : 2014-05-05

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