Boston College tapes led to charge over McConville’s disappearance

Boston College tapes led to charge over McConville’s disappearance
John Mooney
Sunday Times
23 March 2014

AN ALLEGED member of the IRA has been charged in connection with the death of Jean McConville after police obtained a taped recording of an interview he gave to researchers for an oralhistory project organised by Boston College.

Ivor Bell, 77, was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of McConville, a 37-year-old mother of 10 kidnapped and killed by the IRA in December 1972.

A solicitor who represented Bell at Belfast Magistrates’ Court yesterday said “the evidence was not credible”. Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan told Judge Amanda Henderson the prosecution case was that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as Z, was his client. The solicitor insisted the person interviewed had denied any involvement.

“During those interviews Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville,” Corrigan said. He also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.

“The defence submits the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.

A PSNI detective inspector rejected Corrigan’s interpretation of the Boston College interview. He said the transcript indicated Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville”.

The officer opposed bail on the grounds the defendant would likely flee the jurisdiction. He revealed Bell had previously used an alias to travel to Spain and predicted he could use contacts within the IRA to travel beyond Northern Ireland.

Corrigan said this was out of the question, since his client suffered from a range of serious medical conditions, his family was based in Belfast, and he had “every incentive” to stay in Northern Ireland to prove his innocence.

Judge Henderson said she was more convinced with the argument the prosecution had made.

Bell was remanded in custody to appear again on April 11. He waved to supporters in the public gallery as he was led out of the dock.

The grandfather, who has suffered two heart attacks and has neck and bowel problems, was arrested at his home in Andersonstown last Tuesday.

The PSNI obtained tape recordings of interviews given by republicans following a protracted legal battle in the American courts.

The interviewees had been given assurances by the researchers that the tapes would only be released after they died, but a US court directed them to disclose the recordings.

A number of former IRA members who co-operated with the Boston College project sought legal advice following Bell’s arrest.

Bell was allegedly a senior figure in the IRA’s Belfast Brigade. He accompanied Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness to London to attend secret talks with the British government in 1972 in an effort to reach a political agreement to end the violence engulfing Northern Ireland.

Yesterday Michael McConville, Jean’s son, said his family hoped that all those involved in the abduction and death of his mother would be brought to justice.

Adams said he could not comment on the decision to press charges against Bell for legal reasons, but said McConville’s killing and the disappearing of her remains were wrong and a “grievous injustice” to her family.