Jean McConville, Ivor Bell, and the Denouement that Never Comes
Friday, July 1, 2016
There’s nothing there. It’s a shadow of a shadow of a shadow.
Prosecutors in Belfast have now presented their case against Ivor Bell, in a preliminary inquiry meant to show that their evidence is strong enough to be advanced to trial. The Public Prosecution Service alleges that Bell aided and abetted in the 1972 murder of the Belfast widow and mother Jean McConville, joining others in the solicitation of murder.
Don’t take my word for what I’m about to say: Take a few minutes to review some of the news stories about the preliminary inquiry. Here’s a story from the Belfast Telegraph. Here’s another story from the same newspaper. Here’s a story from the BBC. Here’s a story from the Times of London. (Remarkably, I can’t find any stories about the preliminary inquiry from the Irish Times.)
The preliminary inquiry lasted two days, and the testimony covered in news stories all focused on the Boston College tapes. Notice what testimony doesn’t appear in the news stories, and what kind of facts were apparently absent from the courtroom:
What are the names of the people Ivor Bell allegedly aided and abetted?
Specifically, what are the criminal events, in sequence, in which Bell allegedly participated?
What is the name of the person who is alleged to have actually ordered the kidnapping, murder, and disappearance of Jean McConville?
Other than Ivor Bell, what are the names of the Provisional IRA leaders who allegedly discussed the subject of McConville’s murder and disappearance? There was a meeting: Who was there?
Previous accounts of McConville’s kidnapping from her home in Divis Flats suggest that about a dozen members of the Provisional IRA participated in the abduction. What were their names?
McConville was buried on a beach in the Republic of Ireland. What are the names of the people who dug her grave?
Who shot Jean McConville?
Quite simply, unless it happened but the reporters in the courtroom completely missed it, prosecutors have outlined no crime at all. They have laid out no charges, advanced no facts, and described no events. They have not said who did the things that Ivor Bell is alleged to have assisted with; indeed, they have not said in any particular detail what actions he aided. They have no theory of the case they wish to advance in court, can publicly offer no timeline, and have named no names but one. They do not fully describe a plot and its procedure, placing Bell inside well-explained events in his particular context. They do not appear with witnesses who can testify firsthand about what they saw, heard, and did as McConville was carried from her home, killed and buried.
All they have – five years later – is the tapes. Which they present with a shrug, and some general testimony from a librarian about the project to record them.
Who ordered the murder of Jean McConville, and who shot her? It wasn’t Ivor Bell. To prosecute him for aiding and abetting without clearly and convincingly answering those two questions in an open courtroom is a sham and an embarrassment.
More than five years after the first subpoenas arrived at Boston College, we still have not seen the police or prosecutors in Northern Ireland venture a public answer to the most obvious questions of all.
This is a sideshow, staged by circus clowns, who stand over the grave of a murdered woman.