Arrest Adams now for McConville murder says republican ex-prisoner

Arrest Adams now for McConville murder says ex-republican prisoner
Suzanne Breen
Sunday Life
20 April 2014

A former republican prisoner says the PSNI should immediately arrest Gerry Adams over Jean McConville’s murder.

The ex-internee from West Belfast is furious that in recent weeks police have arrested “a string of low level republicans” whom she believes played no part in the mother of ten’s brutal death.

Evelyn Gilroy from the Lower Falls was a member of the republican movement along with Gerry Adams in the early 1970s. She was active in Divis where Jean McConville was abducted.

Last month, veteran republican Ivor Bell was charged with aiding and abetting the murder. Detectives have this month questioned five women and a man about the killing.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday Life, Evelyn Gilroy said: “I’m speaking out for the first time because I’m very angry that grassroots republicans are being arrested.

“Police have lifted people who were 15 and 16 at the time of the killing, yet Gerry Adams remains untouched. I’m disgusted that ordinary republicans are being put through the mill for his actions.

“It defies belief that he hasn’t been arrested. The police should stop chasing those who were never in a position in the republican movement to order Jean McConville’s execution and instead arrest the only person who was in that position – Gerry Adams.

“He has got away with so much over the years. He now seems to be getting away with this as well. It will be a disgrace if ordinary people end up carrying the can for what he did.”

The Sinn Féin president has told his solicitor to contact police to see if he is wanted for questioning over the murder. He said if the PSNI wish to talk to him, he will meet them.

Last month, Jean McConville’s daughter Helen told Sunday Life she wants to see the Louth TD in the dock for her mother’s murder

Mr Adams was OC (officer commanding) of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade when Jean McConville was murdered in December 1972. He denies all involvement in her death and secret burial.

At one meeting, he told her family he was in jail when she disappeared – which wasn’t true – and he offered to help them in their search for the truth.

Ms Gilroy said: “I don’t know how Gerry Adams had the nerve to look the McConvilles in the eye. If he wants to know the truth about Jean’s execution, all he has to do is stand in front of the mirror and talk to himself.”

In an interview with Boston College, former Belfast Brigade commander, Brendan Hughes, said Mr Adams had ordered the widowed mother’s execution.

Mr Adams said: “Brendan is telling lies. I’d no act or part to play in the abduction, killing, or burial of Jean McConville.” He denied similar accusations from Dolours Price.

Ms Gilroy said: “His denials are on a par with his claims that he was never in the IRA. He has become a walking joke. I’m sure he will now call me a liar just like Brendan and Dolours were called liars.

“But anyone active in the republican movement in the 1970s in Belfast knows who the real liar is. Brendan Hughes was an honest man. Even those who hated his politics acknowledge that. When Brendan spoke about Jean McConville, he was telling the truth.”

Jean McConville was driven from West Belfast to Co Louth where she was shot in the back of the head in Shelling Beach. Her remains lay undiscovered until 2003.

Ms Gilroy, 61, comes from a strong republican family from the Lower Falls. The authorities viewed her as a significant republican activist in the 1970s and she was arrested dozens of times.

She and her sister, Mary Kennedy, were the only two mothers among the 2,000 people interned by the British government. She was held for 18 months in Armagh jail.

She is a close friend of ex-IRA chief of staff Billy McKee. A few years ago, she was presented with a commemorative plaque by the IRA’s old ‘D Company’.

At the time of the McConville killing, Ms Gilroy lived in Whitehall Row in Divis Flats, across the way from Jean McConville.

She claims that “many myths” surround her murder. The veteran republican said it was “totally untrue” that the widowed mother was killed for comforting a dying British soldier. She insisted the incident as described never took place.

A soldier had been hurt, but not fatally, in Divis. It was Ms Gilroy’s sister, Mary Kennedy, who helped him and not Jean McConville, she said.

“My sister lived five doors from Jean McConville in Farset Walk in the flats. Weeks before Jean was killed, a soldier was hit on the head by a brick thrown by a local lad. My sister heard him crying. She was a very soft, warm woman and she brought him into the hallway and gave him a glass of water.

“Her act of compassion didn’t go down well with some. ‘Touts Out’ and ‘Soldier Lover’ was painted on her door. The incident was reported to the media. My sister gave an interview to Downtown Radio about her act of mercy and the intimidation that followed.”

Ms Gilroy, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her second child when Jean McConville was murdered, said she believed the mother-of-ten was killed because she was an informer, a claim the McConvilles and others deny.

When she was Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan dismissed the informer allegations saying her office had extensively examined intelligence available at the time and found no evidence Mrs McConville had ever passed information to the security forces.

But Ms Gilroy said: “It might not be popular to say she was an informer but I firmly believe she was. The IRA found a radio in her flat. That doesn’t in any way justify what happened to her. It was a terrible thing for that family.

“I can’t get my head around how the IRA would kill a mother with all those wee children. They could easily have ordered her out of the country and put her on a boat to England or Scotland with her kids. She should never have been executed.”

Last week two women – aged 57 and 60 – were arrested and taken to Antrim police station for questioning about Jean McConville’s murder. The PSNI said they were later released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.


Unionist Reaction
By Suzanne Breen
Sunday Life
20 April 2014

Unionist politicians are calling for Gerry Adams to be arrested over Jean McConville’s murder following claims from a former republican prisoner that he alone was in a position within the Provisionals to order the mother-of-10′s brutal killing.

Evelyn Gilroy, an ex-internee from west Belfast, expressed her anger that six “low-level republicans” had been arrested this month about the 1972 murder while police hadn’t even questioned the Sinn Fein president.

“Police have lifted people who were 15 and 16 at the time of the killing, yet Gerry Adams remains untouched,” she said.

“The police should stop chasing those who were never in a position in the republican movement to order Jean McConville’s execution and instead arrest the only person who was in that position – Gerry Adams.”

Ms Gilroy was a member of the republican movement along with Mr Adams in the 1970s. She was active in Divis where Jean McConville was abducted. Mr Adams has always strongly denied any involvement in the horrific abduction and murder of Mrs McConville.

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “With even a former colleague in the republican movement, Evelyn Gilroy, now calling for Gerry Adams to be arrested over Jean McConville’s murder, the police’s inaction is becoming unsustainable. Continuing to treat Adams as an untouchable, in the face of such exposure, brings policing into disrepute.”

Ulster Unionist minister, Danny Kennedy, said: “The increasingly compelling evidence against Gerry Adams cannot be ignored. It is beyond the time that he should be arrested and questioned. The PSNI must act now and it is in the public interest that they do so.”

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said: “The comments about Gerry Adams from a republican active at the time of Jean McConville’s abduction and murder have credence.

“They are the latest in a series which can’t be easily dismissed by Sinn Fein.

“The police should question Gerry Adams as a matter of urgency. If charges are appropriate they should follow irrespective of the fact he is a TD.”

Last month, Mr Adams told his solicitor to contact police to see if he is wanted for questioning over the murder. He said he is willing to meet the PSNI.

Recasting History: Boston College case has profound questions for historians

Recasting History

Dr. Aaron Edwards with a piece on the Boston College archive conflict. Aaron Edwards is a historian and former journalist with The Other View magazine. Views expressed here are his own.

Academic historians have been conspicuous by their absence in the debate over the Boston College case. This is extremely disappointing but it is not surprising and seems to reflect a risk adverse culture that has facilitated the public upbraiding of individuals who have taken great personal risks to bring us much-needed alternative perspectives on the past. While I have never had any personal association with the Boston College case, I am not prepared to stand idly by while the debate is poisoned by ill-informed perspectives that reduce discussion of the case to a question of the integrity of the personalities involved and not the merits of the enterprise itself.

There are occasions when those who care about the craft of history have to stand up and be counted. This is clearly one of those occasions.

We live in inauspicious times for the study and practice of history when the people involved in the collection of the traces from the past – from the gifted amateur to the most accomplished professor – are under increasing pressure to justify both their motivations and the research methods employed to yield their research findings. This pressure is particularly acutely felt in those societies deeply divided along ethnic, national and religious lines and which are emerging out of armed conflict.

Of course, there are consummate bureaucrats out there who will point to the existence of ethical guidelines available to anyone involved in research of this nature. However, while this might well be the case, it has been privately acknowledged by many academics that these guidelines (produced by universities and learned associations) are principally about mitigating the risk of litigation that may be levelled against institutions. One has only to consult the small print of the contracts drawn up between academics and scholarly journals and book publishers – the main vehicles for academics to disseminate their research findings – to know that by signing a copyright form the academic author essentially indemnifies the publisher from any legal action that may arise out of the work in the future. In other words, researchers who generate, collate and disseminate findings from their research are taking a huge gamble with both their reputations and their financial wellbeing when they decide to go rummaging around in a troubled past.

Consequently, there has been a tendency for historians to err on the side of caution and avoid controversial subject areas for fear of risking litigation. Unfortunately, the by-product of avoiding these uncomfortable aspects of the past can have a very real chill factor and lead invariably to the reproduction of a sanitised version of the past. Perhaps even more worrying is that it can lead invariably to a recasting of history as ethnic folk wisdom that bears no resemblance to what actually happened. In his compelling novel The History of the World in 10½ Chapters (1989) Julian Barnes makes the telling observation: ‘We make up a story to cover the facts we don’t know or can’t accept; we keep a few true facts and spin a new story round them. Our panic and our pain are only eased by smoothing fabulation; we call it history’.

In conflicts where ethnic, national or religious identities remain the key fault-lines dividing peoples, the temptation to resort to ‘smoothing fabulation’ is obvious. But it is also incredibly dangerous. We know from experience of other places that by doctoring the historical record in a way that explains away human rights abuses, genocide and ethnic cleansing may trigger a reoccurrence of violence in the future.

We have recently seen the recasting of history in which the ‘alleged’ former Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA explained away the death of a non-combatant in a proxy bomb attack on a security forces base as being ‘open to interpretation’. At the same time he minimised his own involvement in the operation by claiming that he was elsewhere at the time, ‘allegedly’ (that word again) knee-deep in discussions with Margaret Thatcher’s government in a bid to lay the foundations of the ‘peace process’.

While this interpretation of the past may gain traction within a narrow political constituency, it has been contested by unionists – and it must be said by some republicans too – as being disingenuous or plainly untrue. It is, therefore, the responsibility of historians to subject such claims to the white heat of scrutiny – and in light of the available evidence. In a world where non-state actors (like terrorist groupings) rarely recorded on paper the process by which orders were given and received it is obvious that oral testimonies are of vital importance to understanding what happened, why, and with what consequences. This is why academic initiatives like the Belfast Oral History Project are so invaluable for historians like me who may not have had an opportunity to interview key players – at whatever level – so that we can assemble all of the available evidence and draw accurate conclusions from it.

I should add here that my own research interviews with republicans, loyalists and members of the British state security forces over the past 15 years were based on my belief that you cannot understand the armed conflict in this part of Ireland without factoring in the roles played by all sides.

I would be the first to admit that historians do not come to the past with a clean slate. They bring their own experiences, prejudices (some subconscious, others not) and intuition to bear on the facts. For what it is worth I am from a working class Protestant background and a community in North Belfast that suffered much and, in turn, inflicted terrible hurt on its neighbours, both Protestant or Catholic, during the ‘troubles’. It is for this reason that I am conscious of the importance of recognising and declaring my own biases and not passing these off as ‘objective truth’. In this at least I defer to the words of renowned writer George Orwell, who made the point that, while it may not be possible to ‘get rid of these feelings simply by taking thought’, it was possible to ‘at least recognize that you have them, and prevent them from contaminating your mental thought processes’.

It is for these reasons that I believe that the Boston College case has thrown up profound questions for historians – and for anyone who lived through the ‘troubles’ and wishes to understand what happened – but these questions will go unanswered if we insist on reducing the debate to one that simply calls into question the integrity of the personalities involved. To truly audit the past we must consider the wider processes in play so as to avoid an ill-informed view of history that obscures more than it reveals.

Why have the Boston College tapes and the death of Mrs Jean McConville become entwined?

Why have the Boston College tapes and the death of Mrs Jean McConville become entwined?
Mick Hall
Organised Rage

“It’s the obligation of a researcher to destroy their material before allowing it to fall into the hands of anyone who would bring it to harm. Boston College had an obligation to engage in an act of civil disobedience.” –Anthony McIntyre

The furore over the Boston College Tapes has been slow burning and it is worth recapping how we reached where we are today. The tapes were part of a Belfast oral history project which was under the auspices of the Irish studies department of Boston College a prestigious US academic institution. They consisted of a series of interviews with former members of Irish republican and loyalist paramilitaries. Those who agreed to participate did so after receiving guarantees the tapes would not be released until they were dead.

The lead researcher in Ireland Anthony McIntyre believed his interviewees had a solid guarantee from the college that their recollections were secure. He certainly wasn’t aware of MLAT a US-UK treaty, although he might have been if the college had carried out its duty of care and checked with their lawyers before collecting an archive of interviews in which former members of the PIRA and UVF spoke in some detail about their paramilitary careers.

During the period when the Belfast Oral History Project (BOHP) was being set up, a firm belief was developing amongst a number of former members of the PIRA that the history of their struggle was being rewritten in an attempt to justify the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, and not just by the British government and their mainstream media friends but also by the current leadership of Sinn Féin.

As one former IRA man said to me: “Not one volunteer went to war so Martin McGuinness could become deputy first minister in a British owned statelet but that is how our struggle is being spun today.”

It’s true on the republican side the majority of those who were interviewed for the oral history project were no longer supporters of Sinn Féin, however if the Sinn Féin leadership had not placed a three line whip against its members participating it may have been more balanced, but just because this was not the case it does not invalidate it as Gerry Adams recently said.

It’s not true as some have claimed the republican interviewees belonged to, or supported dissident republican groups. Far from it in fact as most, including Brendan Hughes and McIntyre, welcomed the ceasefire, and the ending of the military campaign. The line they would not cross was Sinn Féin’s support for British institutions in Northern Ireland, especially the police. Which is not really surprising as opposition to British institutions in Ireland has been a bedrock policy of Irish republicanism since the 19th century. Even many of those who remain in SF will tell you accepting the writ of the PSNI has been a very bitter pill to swallow.

The Belfast oral history project is an academic study which collated first hand accounts about why, and how the men and women interviewed volunteered for Óglaigh na hÉireann and fought the bloodiest military insurrection against the British State since the English civil war. Surely a worthwhile project which would have had great value for future historians and political strategists.

Gerry Adams was being disingenuous when he claimed last week the project was “flawed and biased from the outset. It was an entirely bogus, shoddy and self-serving effort. It was not a genuine or serious or ethically based history project.” Not least because he has attempted to airbrush out of Republican history former comrades who went on to disagree with his strategy and tactics.

If he had his way some of the most prominent players within the IRA over the last four decades would have been permanently consigned to the cutting room floor. The whole purpose of oral history is to give people a voice in the future which is far too often denied them. As L P Hartley said: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” The BOHP was an attempt to ensure when future generations study the PIRA’s insurgency it will not alone be through the prism of the British and Irish establishments and the mainstream media. The BOHP would have at the very least preserved a public record of those who fought on the losing side in that conflict, yet refused to make the compromises demanded of them.

Although we do not know what is on all of the tapes, only Moloney and McIntyre know that, we have caught a glimpse of their importance to future historians  The interviewees have undoubtedly revealed information about the inner workings of the IRA and shed new light on important historic events.

The trust and confidence the republican interviewees have in Anthony McIntyre is best demonstrated by the fact since this brouhaha blew up not one has publicly criticised him or doubted his integrity. As one of them said:  “I needed to know the guy I was telling this to could be trusted one billion percent.”

The Project begins to unravel

Sadly the thing started to unravel after the death of two of its participants, David Irvine, a former member of the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and later a leading politician and member of the Progressive Unionist Party, and Brendan Hughes, a senior member of the IRA who along with Ivor Bell and Gerry Adams made up the trio of northerners who developed and oversaw military strategy and tactics for much of the 1970s.

In March 2010, Ed Moloney’s book Voices from the Grave was published, which featured interviews with Hughes and Ervine, compiled by researchers for Boston College. Moloney, who was the project director of the Belfast Oral History Project, based the book on the interviews given by Hughes and Ervine. Excerpts from the book have Hughes discussing his role and the role of Gerry Adams in the IRA, including their alleged role in regards to the contentious disappearance of Jean McConville, a mother of ten who was executed by the IRA for acting as an informer for the British Army. In October 2010, RTÉ also broadcast a documentary co-produced by Moloney based on Voices from the Grave in which similar accusations were made.

Once this book was published the British police in Ireland took a keen interest in the tapes and with the full support of the UK government they eventually asked and then demanded access to the Boston College tapes archive under the mutual legal assistance treaty, as they claimed they were relevant in an ongoing murder enquiry.

To cut a long story short the first subpoena arrived on May 5, 2011. Its contents were under seal. Boston College was told the U.S. Department of Justice, acting under a mutual-legal-assistance treaty with the UK, was seeking the interviews of Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, for help in a criminal investigation in Northern Ireland involving kidnapping and murder.

Within weeks Boston College turned over the Hughes interviews to the US Justice Department and it became clear the college had no intention of fighting within the US legal system to uphold an imported academic principle. Thus Moloney and McIntyre decided to continue the struggle on their own, although they fought a rearguard action and did gain some support in the USA, but without the college in their corner it was always a long shot, and by issuing the following statement the college spokesman Jack Dunn had clearly moved into the camp of the Justice Department:

“Had our efforts gone to Congress in identifying supporters, to work with the State Department and the Department of Justice, we could have been more effective. But our efforts were involved in legal matters and distancing ourselves from the reckless rhetoric of Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre.”

Eight months after the first subpoena was served, Judge William G. Young of the U.S. District Court in Boston ordered Boston College to turn over Dolours Price’s interviews as well as 85 interviews of seven other former IRA members that he deemed relevant to the investigation. It should be noted by fighting their rearguard action in the US courts McIntyre and Moloney did restrict the British police gaining access to all of the tapes.

Given Mr Adams harsh criticism of the Belfast oral history project I feel it is only fair to remind him what Judge Young said about the project after reading the transcripts of the tapes.

“This was a bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit …  These materials are of interest, valid academic interest historian, sociologist, the student of religion, the student of youth movements, academics who are interested in insurgency and counter-insurgency and terrorism and counter-terrorism. They’re of interest to those who study the history of religions.”

That is a long way from what Gerry Adams claimed:

 “flawed and biased from the outset. It was an entirely bogus, shoddy and self-serving effort. It was not a genuine or serious or ethically based history project.”

What can one make of this brouhaha?

For the wider world what this case highlights is treaties between the USA and less powerful nations are not the harmless entities they’re often portrayed as. There is a reason why they are signed under the radar, they are designed to chip away our democratic rights and freedoms as is witnessed here by the use of the mutual legal assistance treaty. (MLAT)

Since the middle of the last century there has been a move away from the great man theory of history to how ordinary people shape big historical events. As most people do not write books or leave a written narrative of their lives, oral history has come to be seen as a way of filling a massive gap.

With the English ruling class once again firmly in the political saddle they are trying to turn this march of time back, and turn the historical spotlight back onto them and theirs. One only has to watch historical documentaries on TV today to understand this. If those who participate in historic times which challenge the force of the state lose confidence in the security of oral history projects, understandably they will refuse to participate and we and future generations will be the losers.

Sadly this is already happening, according to Richard English, director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, he has heard from a number of researchers seeking advice about whether to pursue research on political violence if it includes interviewing those involved in conflict. “I think the fallout is much wider than Northern Ireland,” he says. “There has been a shadow cast over this kind of research.”

Perfidious Albion

What made the PSNI with the full support of the British government go after the Boston College Tapes with such vigour? Only they know for sure, but as most lawyers seem to believe they could not be used as evidence in a criminal trial, it may have been a shot across Sinn Féin’s bows as Gerry Adams does seem to be the main target. Could their purpose have been to pressurise SF to agree not to pursue their demand that members of the British security forces who shot dead 13 civilians on Bloody Sunday and colluded with loyalist paramilitaries in the murder of Pat Finucane and others be brought before a court of law. Was it a case of you leave us alone and we will leave you alone and especially your leader Gerry Adams.

There is another hypothesis, it’s of the who will rid me of this troublesome priest variety. It’s possible the British security services are sick and tired of Anthony McIntyre continuingly snapping at the heels of their Irish agents of influence? People have had their lives ruined by the police and security services for far less.

As to the Belfast history project, I will let former IRA man Dixie Elliott have the last word, as he brings some dignity to this whole sorry charade. Read it and you get an idea why history demands ‘ordinary’ IRA volunteers are heard.

“Lets get this straight those who left testimonies on those tapes were Republicans who had risked their lives and freedom for decades, they were not, as some seem to claim, naive nor easily led.

They knew what they were doing and that was to ensure that recent history was recorded in way that future generations could decide what was and was not the truth.
While young men and women carried guns and bombs in the hope of achieving freedom, Adams and McGuinness only carried their coffins to early graves.

They urged that the fight would go ahead while talking about ending it behind the backs of those they encouraged to fight. If they weren’t in the IRA then they were nothing other than demagogues.

History demands that the truth is left behind and that is precisely what the Boston Project was about.”