Ivor Bell ruling may jeopardise future Troubles prosecutions

Ivor Bell ruling may jeopardise future Troubles prosecutions
Judge dismisses recordings and directs jury to find Bell not guilty of soliciting murder
Gerry Moriarty, Brian Hutton
Irish Times
18 October 2019

Future prosecutions based on taped interviews with Troubles-era paramilitaries could be in jeopardy after a judge ruled that recordings of Ivor Bell used in his trial for soliciting the 1972 murder of Jean McConville were inadmissible.

Mr Justice John O’Hara was highly critical of the Belfast Project oral history archive after finding that republican and loyalist paramilitaries who provided accounts of their involvement in the conflict did so under the “false guarantee” of confidentiality to protect them from prosecution.

The judge yesterday directed a jury at Laganside Crown Court in Belfast to find Mr Bell (82) not guilty of soliciting Gerry Adams and the late Pat McClure to murder Ms McConville, a mother of 10.

Mr Bell did not provide evidence during the case as he is suffering from vascular dementia, so a trial of the facts was held. This is a court process that can be held when an accused is judged unfit to stand trial due to serious ill-health. The trial sought to establish if Mr Bell committed the alleged acts, and no reporting of the proceedings was allowed until it concluded.

Interviews inadmissible

The judge said the lead researcher on the project, Anthony McIntyre, who conducted the inadmissible interviews with Mr Bell, was guilty of bias and had his “own agenda against Mr Adams, the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement”.

Mr McIntyre, a former IRA prisoner, worked on the Belfast Project under the directorship of writer Ed Moloney, while the overall project was run from Boston College.

Mr Moloney said he “refutes absolutely” any bias on the part of the project and that it would in time be regarded as “a very important body of work”.

“I’m sorry, but these people have not read the entire archive,” he said. “The judges haven’t – they’ve read one or two interviews from a vast hoard of what Ivor Bell did and made these sweeping generalisations. It’s absurd, it’s nonsense, they can’t do that.”

Mr Moloney said it “goes without saying” that he regrets that the PSNI was able to obtain the interview with Mr Bell.

Ivor Bell case: IRA totally wrong to have shot and secretly buried’ disappeared victims, Gerry Adams told court

Ivor Bell case: IRA totally wrong to have shot and secretly buried’ disappeared victims, Gerry Adams told court
BelfastTelegraph.co.uk
October 17 2019 2:03 PM

As the trial of veteran republican Ivor Bell entered its second week, former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was called to give evidence.

Mr Adams – now a TD for Louth – again rejected claims he was a member of the IRA and said he had “no part to play” in the abduction, murder and disappearance of Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.

On Monday, October 14, Mr Adams was called as a defence witness.

Five of Jean McConville seven surviving children attended every day of the hearing. In the public gallery, they heard Mr Adams deny he was a member of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade staff when their mother was abducted from her home.

They also heard Mr Adams say “the IRA were totally wrong to have shot and secretly buried these folks” and in his opinion “the IRA did things, including this, that were totally wrong.”

The 71-year-old former Sinn Fein president was asked to comment on an oral interview.

Audio of excerpts of the Boston College tapes were played to the jury last week, including sections where ‘Interviewee Z’ – Ivor Bell – named Gerry Adams as both Officer Commanding of the Belfast IRA in 1972 and of being instrumental in the plan to ‘disappear’ Mrs McConville.

In the tapes, Mr Bell claimed he attended a meeting in west Belfast where he, Gerry and a man now deceased called Pat McClure discussed an informer.

Barry MacDonald QC, for the defence, relayed the alleged conversation in which Mr Bell claimed the woman was being paid for passing information to the British Army, that the discussion included what to do with her, and that “Gerry” had talked to the local priest, who had refused to help with the situation.

Suggesting “the Gerry referred to you was you, Gerry Adams,” Mr MacDonald said: “The question I have for you Mr Adams is whether that conversation ever took place?”

Mr Adams replied: “It didn’t. I never had any discussions with Ivor Bell or indeed any others about Jean McConville. I want to deny categorically any involvement in the abduction, killing and burial of Jean McConville.”

When he was asked if he thought she should have been shot, Mr Adams said “No, I don’t think Mrs McConville should have been shot.”

Mr MacDonald then said “it has been suggested you have been involved in a plan to abduct and murder Mrs McConville and that Mr Bell was involved in it. Were you involved in it?” Mr Adams replied “no.”

He was then asked “do you have any idea why somebody might suggest you were involved?”

Mr Adams said: “Well reading the transcripts, I thought it was interesting that the interviewee Anthony McIntyre asked a lot of leading questions.

“Anthony McIntyre was involved with others in opposing, which he was entitled to do, the strategy I and others were involved in which subsequently led to the Peace Process and the IRA cessation and the end of the IRA, effectively.”

He said Ivor Bell was also opposed to the direction he and others were taking Irish Republicanism, but added “I am only conjecturing that.”

Mr Adams continued: “I have learned to put up with many of the accusations that are made against me. That comes with the work that I do, but suffice to say those who make those accusations were and are very very hostile to the work that I was doing.”

Mr Adams then said he and Martin McGuinness has been called traitors to the Republican cause and their homes attacked over their involvement in the peace process.

Mr MacDonald then asked Mr Adams about interviews given by Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price – both of whom claimed he was a former comrade in the IRA.

Regarding Mr Hughes, Mr Adams said: “Brendan was a very good friend of mine for quite a long time and his public pronouncements were vitriolic in his condemnation.

IRA murder victim Jean McConville’s son Michael outside Belfast Crown Court. October 17, 2019.

“At one point I saw an interview with him saying I should be shot and that he would do it. But if I bumped into Brendan before his death he would always embrace me and apologise for his latest outburst.”

He said Dolours Price also spoke out about his strategy, and that journalist Ed Moloney – who oversaw the Belfast Project – was an “opponent of the process.”

He branded the Boston College project “a most suspect project” with no real scholarly or historic value. He also said the situation in which the interviews were conducted as “ridiculous” and said “if they believe in what they are saying, why don’t they say it.”

Mr MacDonald returned to the allegations that Mr Adams had a role in or discussed the murder and abduction of Mrs McConville. Asked if there was any truth in this, Mr Adams replied: “None whatsoever.
May I also say that when an extract of the tape purporting to be Ivor Bell was played to me at Antrim Barracks when I was under interrogation, I didn’t recognise the voice of Ivor Bell.

“I haven’t talked to Ivor Bell for decades but I didn’t recognise the voice as being Ivor Bell’s and I said that to the police officer.”

IRA murder victim Jean McConville’s daughter Susie outside Belfast Crown Court. October 17, 2019.
Ciaran Murphy QC, for the prosecution, then questioned Mr Adams and asked if he was shocked by the allegation made against him. Mr Adams said “not entirely” as he had seen media reports about Mrs McConville then added: “If you are asking me on a personal level whether I was shocked he made this up, yes I was.”

Mr Adams was asked about his relationship with Mr Bell and he said they were part of a delegation which met the Secretary of State in 1972. He also confirmed they were interred in Long Kesh together.

Regarding the talks in 1972, Mr Murphy asked “were you not a member of the IRA at that time?”, to which Mr Adams said “no.” He was then asked what position Ivor Bell held in the IRA at the time, and said “I cannot comment on that. I don’t know what his position may have been.”

Escapes and attempted escapes from Long Kesh were then discussed, and Mr Adams was asked about Pat McClure. He said they were from the same neighbourhood, they were interned for a period together and when asked what his role in the IRA was, Mr Adams said “I don’t know.”

He then talked about the McConville family and said when he was approached by the family “about the disappearance of their mum, myself and a man called Father Alec Reid commenced the process of trying to establish what had happened.”

He said he and Fr Reid were involved in establishing a commission with the assistance of the Irish and British Governments to receive information on those missing.

Mr Adams said: “I was centrally involved in establishing the commission. Most of those killed by the IRA and buried have been returned but there is still ongoing work for a number whose remains have not been retrieved, and that work I continue to do to this day.”

Regarding his role in the commission, he said: “I was trying to give these families what they deserved, which was a Christian burial. My view, my firm belief, was that a grave injustice was done on them, which the IRA apologised for. These families should never have been left in the situation they were left in.”

When Mr Murphy raised asked Mr Adams when he first became aware of the murder of Mrs McConville, he replied: “My first recollection of being aware of it was when I met Helen McKendry. I was representative for west Belfast at the time. I’m not sure what year that was.”

When asked what he was doing in 1972, Mr Adams said he spent a lot of the time on the run due to harassment by the RUC and was “liable to be interned.”

Attention turned again to the Boston Tapes and Anthony McIntyre. Mr Adams said “I wasn’t on the Brigade staff”. He said he was aware of Mr McIntyre due to his opposition to the peace process and the “controversary around the Boston Tapes…but I don’t profess to know him, I certainly have no recollection to having known him.”

Mr Murphy said Mr Bell gave a detailed account of a meeting with “Gerry and Pat”, and Mr Adams replied “I was at no meeting and had no discussion and had no part to play in the abduction, killing and burial of Jean McConville.”

“He has made an allegation I was at a meeting with him and I wasn’t.” Mr Murphy talked of the “specifics” of the meeting, including an allegation that Mr Adams had talked to a local priest to try and “get her out.” This was denied.

Mr Murphy then said: “One of the issues about her being … she had ten children. During these interviews, Z states that had it been known she had ten kids, you may have looked at it differently.”

Mr Adams said: “Well, I have already answered the question that I was not at the meeting and I did not have any discussions about Mrs McConville. You see, I have never hidden my association with the IRA. I have never sought to distance myself. I have denied IRA membership, even though at the time that was a legitimate response to what was happening in Republican working class communities.

“Also, the IRA were totally wrong to have shot and secretly buried those folks. In particular that should be compassion shown to Mrs McConville – a lone woman with ten children. That should have begged compassion.”

“I have exhaustively spend my energy trying to correct this wrong. I cannot bring Mrs McConville and the others back, but at least I can try and rectify the injustice that has been done. I regret there was a conflict. I can say the IRA did things, including this, that was totally wrong.”

Mr Murphy then asked Mr Adams “what is your attitude to touts?” He replied: “I accept if people – I don’t like the word tout by the way – if people are agents or informers, that would go for me as anybody, then they were liable to be shot.”

When he was asked if touts should be shot, Mr Adams said: “It is a regrettable fact that when armies are engaged in war, they do kill those who they perceive to have assisted the enemy by giving information or in any way jeopardising … that goes for all combatants.

“It’s regrettable. It happened in the 20s, it happened I presume at other times. I think that the huge achievement of our time is that it no longer happens.”

He was then asked “would it be fair to say you personally don’t have a problem shooting informers”, to which Mr Adams said “I would have a problem shooting anyone. I think that’s a very leading question. I’m not on trial here.”

And when asked if he supported the IRA’s policy of shooting informers, Mr Adams said he didn’t support all the army’s actions, adding “I have been critical of a number of atrocities that have occurred. I don’t have a carte-blanche support for the IRA.

“I also think, as we reflect back on what has occurred in my lifetime, I am lucky enough to have survived.”

Mr Adams again referred to his work with Fr Reid and the commission which he said has been “harrowing, not least to the families.”

“There was a dig just ended in the last two weeks for Columba McVeigh.” He also appealed for information on the remaining missing bodies of Captain Robert Nairac, Joe Lynskey and Columba McVeigh, and said the remains of those already found were returned because people were prepared to come forward and also “down to the good work of the Commission and those involved in it.”

Mr Adams said he knew nothing about the internal workings of the IRA. Asked again about the meeting, Mr Adams said “I know you have to take me through all of this but if I was not at the meeting, how on earth can I comment on that.”

When it was put to him that Mr Bell said in the tape that Gerry gave the order to kill and disappear her, Mr Adams questioned why Mr McIntyre was not here, then said “I am being asked to comment on an alleged conversation they had about a meeting I have said clearly I was not at, discussing something I was not privy to.”

Mr Murphy spoke of Mr Bell’s detailed account, and Mr Adams said: “He did an interview which was not to be released until after his death, isn’t that correct? I am not going to take lectures from somebody like that. I have stated my position in relation to the IRA. Whatever his position was is a matter for him.”

When Mr MacDonald rose to his feet again following Mr Murphy’s questioning, the defence QC asked Mr Adams to explain what internment and Long Kesh were, “for the benefit of the younger members of the jury.

As Mr Adams started talking about how Long Kesh was built to imprison internees, Mr Justice O’Hara interjected and said: “The jury does not need a history lesson, Long Kesh became the Maze prison.”

He then addressed the witness and said “Mr Adams, you are free to go.”

The Troubles: Former IRA man Ivor Bell cleared of Jean McConville charges

The Troubles: Former IRA man Ivor Bell cleared of Jean McConville charges
By Lesley-Anne McKeown
BBC News NI
17 October 2019

The first prosecution linked to the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville over 40 years ago has found a former senior IRA leader not guilty.

The 1972 killing was one of the most notorious of the Troubles.

On Thursday, Ivor Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, was cleared of soliciting the widow’s murder.

The court also heard allegations that former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams had recommended her murder and disappearance.

However, Mr Adams, who was called as a defence witness at Belfast Crown Court, strenuously denied involvement.

Tapes ‘unreliable’

The case against the 82-year-old Mr Bell was based on alleged admissions made to a Boston College oral history project, which were played in public for the first time during the legal action.

Reporting restrictions were placed on the court case, but they were lifted on Thursday.

During the hearing, the jury was played taped recordings of an interview with a man – alleged to be Bell – who said Gerry Adams was the IRA’s “officer commanding” in Belfast and had been involved in the decision to kill and secretly bury Mrs McConville.

The judge later ruled the tapes were unreliable and could not be used as evidence against Mr Bell.

Addressing the jury, Mr Justice O’Hara said: “There is now no evidence which the prosecution can put before you in order to support the case.

“My role now is to direct you to return a verdict of not guilty, because you simply cannot find him to have done the acts alleged.”

‘Some truth’

Five of Mrs McConville’s children were in court and in a statement issued afterwards, Mrs McConville’s son, Michael, said the family was “bitterly disappointed” the Boston tapes could not be used as evidence and demanded a full public inquiry.

He said: “Throughout this, we have got many doors closed on us and we have walked many a road.

“This is the closest that we are going to get to justice.”

Susan Townsley, who was aged six when her mother was abducted, choked back tears as she said: “This is the only thing we are going to get at the end of the day.

“As a family we are just going to have to stick together. It has been very hard on all of us.”

Mr Bell’s solicitor, Peter Corrigan, said his client had been vindicated and that the Boston tapes were “inherently unreliable”.

‘Complex legal issues’

The Public Prosecution Service defended the decision to take the case.

Deputy Director Michael Agnew said: “This case presented the PPS with a number of novel and complex legal and evidential issues. Whilst we respect the ruling of the judge, we remain satisfied the proceedings were properly brought.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Bobby Singleton of PSNI’s Legacy Investigation Branch said: “First and foremost our thoughts are with Jean’s family on what will have been a day of mixed emotions.

“We will take some time to consider judgement and its implications on similar cases. It was always our firm belief that we had assembled a strong case and that it was in the public interest for the details to be heard.”

Secret burial

Mr Adams has always denied being in the IRA and, in his evidence, he said he had no part to play in Mrs McConville’s abduction, murder or secret burial.

Appearing in court on Monday, the former west Belfast MP told the jury: “I categorically deny any involvement in the abduction, killing and burial of Jean McConville, or indeed any others.”

Mr Adams, who spent over an hour giving evidence, said he believed Mrs McConville should “not have been shot”, but should have been shown “compassion”.

Mrs McConville, who was wrongly accused of being an Army informer, was dragged from her west Belfast home in front of her children in December 1972.

She was shot and secretly buried by the IRA, becoming one of the Disappeared victims of the Troubles.

Her body was recovered from Shelling Hill Beach in County Louth in 2003.

Disappearance ‘recommended’

Ivor Bell’s defence team argued it could not be proven that he was the man on the tapes, known as ‘Interviewee Z’ and that he had been living in County Louth at the time of the murder.

In a ruling on Wednesday, the judge said there was “overwhelming” evidence it was Mr Bell speaking on the recording.

The so-called Boston tapes collated accounts from former IRA and UVF paramilitaries about their activities during the Troubles on the understanding these would not be made public until after their deaths.

In 2014, the PSNI won a trans-Atlantic court battle and seized some of the tapes.

Ivor Bell was subsequently charged with two counts of soliciting murder. He was deemed unfit to stand trial in 2018 and a legal process known as a ‘trial of the facts’ was launched to establish the truth of the allegations.

He was excused from attending the court hearings on health grounds.

On the tapes, Z was asked if there was “a possibility” that allegations Mr Adams had given the order for Mrs McConville’s killing and disappearance were wrong.

‘Policy of disappearing informants’

Interviewee Z replied: “The only thing I have to say is this – Gerry would have just passed the information back to GHQ [IRA’s general headquarters] that one, she was a tout, two, she was taking money, three, she had to be executed. Right?

“Whether he knew she had 10 kids or not, I don’t know.”

Interviewee Z was also asked about a “policy” of disappearing informants.

He claimed it would have ultimately been a decision for the IRA’s general headquarters, but that the “Belfast brigade” would have “advocated” it.

Interviewee Z claimed Mr Adams was the IRA’s commanding officer (OC) in Belfast at the time.

‘We should shoot touts’

He said: “He was the OC of Belfast. I was operations officer. Pat [McClure] was the IO [intelligence officer]. Pat handled it and directly tied in with Gerry.

“The first I knew about that woman was [when] I was told she was being shot as a tout and the reason for it was she was an informer.

“They told me about radios, signals and pulling the curtains up and down.

“I said: ‘I don’t know anything about anything, other than we did not have jails so we should shoot touts.’

“The people who came to me was Pat and Gerry.”

The interviewer also asked about Mr Adams’ attitude towards “burying” Mrs McConville.

Interviewee Z said: “Just that she was a tout and she should be shot.

“I wouldn’t say he would have liked it very much.”

Z further described his own attitude towards informants.

“At the end of the day, she’s an informer,” he said. “Worse than that, she’s an informer for money.

“Whatever is decided, I will back that up. I said: ‘I don’t have a problem with shooting touts.’

“But they said: ‘We are going to bury her.’

“I said I didn’t agree with that… If that’s done, it’s done without my agreement. It defeats the entire purpose.”

‘Second thoughts’

He later added: “I said: ‘If she’s a tout, the fact that she’s a woman shouldn’t save her.’

“I wasn’t told she had 10 kids and no husband.

“I can’t say for sure that I would have said: ‘No, don’t shoot her.’

“But I may have had second thoughts.”

St Peter’s priest

Meanwhile, it was also alleged Mr Adams had asked a priest to get Jean McConville out of Belfast.

According to Interviewee Z: “Gerry said that they asked a priest to get her out of town and the priest for St Peter’s refused.”

When asked about his motivation for taking part in the oral history project, Z provided two reasons – historical accuracy and annoyance at discovering he was being blamed for the controversial killing.

The court heard claims high-profile republican Bobby Storey, referred to as a “clown” called at Z’s house to make enquiries because Sinn Féin were coming under political pressure over the Disappeared.

Z said: “What annoyed me, he sent an idiot to my house to ask about the woman in the flats.

“I told him… my knowledge of that would be second-hand, why don’t you ask Gerry?

“The annoying thing is, he actually believed Gerry.”

Most of the Boston College interviews with republicans were carried out by former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre, an outspoken critic of Sinn Féin.

The judge ruled Dr McIntyre had asked leading questions, which tainted the evidential value of the tapes.

Mr Justice O’Hara also ruled the false promise that testimony would remain confidential until the contributor’s death could have liberated Mr Bell to speak the truth, but could also have given him the freedom to lie, distort, blame or mislead.

There was clear bias that both Mr McIntyre and Mr Bell had an agenda and were “out to get” Mr Adams and others, the judge said.

Earlier in the case, Professor Kevin O’Neill, a director of Irish Studies at Boston College, said the project was now held up as a model of how not to conduct oral history.

But Ed Moloney, the journalist behind the Boston College project, said he welcomed Mr Bell’s acquittal and called on the authorities to drop all other cases related to the tapes.

He added those who criticised the project overlooked the fact that because of it the McConville family knows more about her disappearance than before.

He said: “If they had been reliant on the PSNI they would be in for a long wait.”

Ivor Bell found not guilty of soliciting murder of Jean McConville

Ivor Bell found not guilty of soliciting murder of Jean McConville
Judge directs jury to not guilty verdict, ‘you cannot find him to have done the acts alleged’
Gerry Moriarty
Irish Times
17 October 2019

The trial of Ivor Bell, charged with soliciting Gerry Adams and the late Pat McClure to murder Jean McConville, concluded on Thursday with the jury on the direction of the judge returning a verdict of not guilty.

There were reporting restrictions placed on the eight-day trial which began last Monday week but these were lifted by Mr Justice (John) O’Hara on Thursday at its conclusion.

On Thursday morning the judge told the jury “there was no evidence that the prosecution can put before you supports the case” against 82-year-old Mr Bell.

“My role now is to direct you to return a verdict of not guilty because you simply cannot find him to have done the acts alleged,” said the judge.

The prosecution lawyer, Ciaran Murphy, QC, said there would be no appeal of this decision.

Mr Justice O’Hara gave his instruction to the jury after on Wednesday ruling that evidence from the Boston tapes featuring Mr Bell was inadmissible.

The prosecution case that Mr Bell “encouraged” or “endeavoured to persuade” Mr Adams and Mr McClure to murder the 38-year-old widowed mother of ten children in late 1972 largely rested on interviews Mr Bell gave to the Belfast Project, also known as the Boston tapes.

The project was an oral history of the Troubles run by Boston College in the US under the directorship of journalist and writer Ed Moloney where former republican and loyalist paramilitaries gave interviews about their roles in the conflict with the commitment these interviews could not be published until after their deaths.

Mr Bell, a former alleged IRA chief of staff gave interviews to the lead researcher in the project, former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre, a history PhD graduate.

Tapes

During the trial two tapes of the interview given by Mr Bell were played in court where he alleged that Mr Adams said Ms McConville should be shot as an alleged informer – an allegation that the former Sinn Féin president, who also gave evidence, strongly denied.

In the tape when asked what was Mr Adams’s attitude to burying Ms McConville Mr Bell replied: “just that she was a tout. She should be shot.”

Mr Bell told Mr McIntyre he (Mr Bell) had no objection to shooting “touts” but that he disagreed with burying or disappearing them because it “defeats the entire purpose” of killing them.

He said he made that point clear to Mr Adams and the late Mr McClure who, it is alleged was directly involved in the shooting of Ms McConville at Shellinghill Beach in Co Louth, but that Mr Adams and Mr McClure said she should be buried.

When Mr McIntyre asked Mr Bell did he recall Mr Adams or Mr McClure saying that she “should be disappeared” he replied, “Yeah. They said they couldn’t take the heat from throwing her on the street.”

This happened, said Mr Bell, at a night meeting on the Falls Road late in 1972 attended by him, Mr Adams, Mr McClure and a “girl” who stayed in the background.

During Mr Adams’s evidence the prosecuting counsel, Ciaran Murphy, QC, asked the former Sinn Féin leader would he have had a problem “shooting touts”.

“I would have a problem shooting anyone. That’s a very loaded question. I am not on trial here,” Mr Adams responded.

Mr Adams denied the allegations, insisting that he attended no such meeting on the Falls Road with Mr Bell and Mr McClure in late 1972.

With five of Ms McConville’s children looking on from the public gallery on a number of occasions Mr Adams denied involvement in their mother’s murder.

‘Deny involvement’

“I categorically deny any involvement in the abduction, killing and burial of Jean McConville or indeed any others,” he said.

Mr Adams said Ms McConville should not have been killed. It was “totally wrong to have shot and secretly buried these folk”. He said there should have been “compassion shown to Mrs McConville – a lone woman with 10 children – that should have begged compassion”.

Mr Adams under cross-examination from Mr Murphy said during the Troubles if people were agents or informers they were liable to be shot.

“It is a regrettable fact that when armies are engaged in war they do kill those that would have been perceived as having assisted the enemy by giving information or in any way jeopardising (the organisation),” he said.

Mr Adams also was highly critical of Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre and the Belfast Project which he said was “most suspect” with no “real scholarly, historical process of evaluating and bringing forward facts about Irish history”.

On Wednesday Mr Justice O’Hara, following an application by defence lawyer, Barry MacDonald, QC, ruled that the Boston tapes used by the prosecution should be inadmissible.

Mr MacDonald over the course of the trial had argued that the Belfast Project had been discredited by academics. One of the witnesses, history professor Kevin O’Neill from Boston College said the project was “now held up as a model of how not to do oral history”.

Mr MacDonald contended that Mr McIntyre “was a man on a mission and had an agenda to discredit Gerry Adams and other architects of the peace process”.

Mr Justice O’Hara said Mr McIntyre was not a “neutral interviewer”. He said he and Mr Bell had a “clear bias and were out to get Gerry Adams”.

His version of the truth

The judge added that “while Mr Bell may have felt he was free to tell his version of the truth…..the difficulty is he also may have felt free to lie, distort, exaggerate, blame and mislead”.

After the case a statement was issued on behalf of Mr Bell and his family. They acknowledged that the “entire process has been a difficult and at times frustrating process for the family of Jean McConville, who have been seeking truth and justice for over 50 years”.

They added, “From the outset of this process Ivor has vehemently denied the allegations levelled against him relating to the murder of Jean McConville. He put forward an alibi at the earliest opportunity at the police station.

“In the course of this trial process the court heard evidence which corroborated Ivor’s alibi, and that he was not in the jurisdiction at the time of the murder.”

Mr Bell and his family added that the “court has rightly held that the Boston College tapes are inherently unreliable. we now look forward to putting this case and its ill-founded allegations behind us”.

Peter Corrigan, Mr Bell’s lawyer added: “The Boston tapes were of no benefit from a historical perspective, never mind meeting the threshold of evidence in a criminal trial.

“The process from start to finish was fatally flawed, which lacked the relevant safeguards and as described by one expert during the course of the trial ‘is exactly not to conduct an oral history project’.”

Ivor Bell Found Not Guilty of Soliciting Jean McConville Murder

Ivor Bell found not guilty of soliciting Jean McConville murder
Belfast Newsletter
17 October 2019

Judge Mr Justice O’Hara directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty having earlier ruled that taped interviews, which were the central plank of the prosecution case, were inadmissible.

A veteran republican has been cleared of soliciting the murder of a mother of 10 in 1972, after a trial which heard a claim that Gerry Adams recommended her secret burial.

The former Sinn Fein president rejected the allegation as he appeared as a witness at a trial of the facts into two charges against Ivor Bell.

Five of Jean McConville’s surviving children were at Belfast Crown Court on Thursday as a jury of four women and eight men found Mr Bell not guilty of encouraging her murder.

Mr Bell, 82, of Ramoan Gardens in Belfast, was not present for the trial of the facts which came after he was found medically unfit to stand trial in December last year. He was excused from attending due to his health.

Judge Mr Justice O’Hara directed the jury to return a verdict of not guilty having earlier ruled that taped interviews, which were the central plank of the prosecution case, were inadmissible.

“As a result of some legal rulings which have been made over the last two days there is now no evidence that the prosecution can put before you to support the case it was putting against Mr Bell,” he said.

“My role now is to direct you to return a verdict of not guilty because you simply cannot find him to have done the acts alleged.”

The judge also lifted restrictions that had prevented reporting of the two-week trial of the facts.

Mr Justice O’Hara told the jury at Belfast Crown Court: “As a result of some legal rulings which have been made over the last two days there is now no evidence that the prosecution can put before you to support the case it was putting against Mr Bell.

“My role now is to direct you to return a verdict of not guilty because you simply cannot find him to have done the acts alleged.”

Mr Justice O’Hara lifted reporting restrictions which had prohibited the reporting of the trial of the facts following the verdict.

A jury of eight men and four women were directed to reach the not guilty verdict following a trial of the facts after Mr Bell, 82, of Ramoan Gardens in Belfast was found medically unfit to stand trial in 2018.

The aim of a trial of the facts is to determine the truth of the allegations against the defendant.

It cannot result in a conviction, but if the court is not satisfied that the accused committed the acts alleged, then he will be acquitted.

Mr Bell was excused from attending proceedings at Belfast Crown Court over the last two weeks due to his health.

The trial was the subject of blanket reporting restrictions which were lifted on Thursday following a challenge from a number of media organisations including the PA news agency.

Mr Bell had been charged with encouraging murder and endeavouring to persuade people to murder.

The prosecution case centred on an interview given by interviewee Z to Anthony McIntyre for the Boston College-sponsored Belfast Project, an oral history project of Northern Ireland’s troubled past.

Tapes from the project were seized by the PSNI in 2014 following a transatlantic court battle. The prosecution argued that Z is Mr Bell.

Following the Crown Court ruling, the McConville family said they are “bitterly disappointed”.

In a statement they said: “It was not easy to listen to Ivor Bell’s confession and we are bitterly disappointed that it cannot be used in evidence in this case.

“But whatever happens (with) the legal technicalities, everyone in the court this week heard how the abduction, murder and disappearance of our mother 47 years ago was planned.

“For 20 years the IRA denied they had anything to do with murder and disappearance and they only admitted it when it suited them.

“She was not an informer and Gerry Adams has confirmed in court that he didn’t believe that she was.”
The McConville family have demanded a full public inquiry into their mother’s death.

“She was a loving, working class widowed mother doing her best to raise 10 children,” their statement added.

“They murdered her because they could.

“We may not have got justice but we have got some truth. But this cannot finish here.

“We need and demand a full public inquiry. We’ve heard Gerry Adams often call for inquiries.

“Will he support this one?”

A statement issued on behalf of Ivor Bell and his family said: “At the outset the family would like to acknowledge that today and the entire process has been a difficult and, at times, frustrating process for the family of Jean McConville who have been seeking truth and justice for 50 years.

“Today’s ruling vindicates Ivor Bell and comes as exoneration after a five-year-long legal battle.

“From the outset of this process, Ivor has vehemently denied the allegations levelled against him relating to the murder of Jean McConville.

“He put forward an alibi at the earliest opportunity at the police station.

“In the course of this trial process, the court heard evidence which corroborated Ivor’s alibi, and that he was not in the jurisdiction at the time of the murder.

“The court has rightly held that the Boston College tapes are inherently unreliable. We now look forward to putting this case and its ill-founded allegations behind us.”

Ivor Bell’s solicitor Peter Corrigan said: “The Boston Tapes were of no benefit from a historical perspective, never mind meeting the threshold of evidence in a criminal trial.

“The process from start to finish was fatally flawed, which lacked the relevant safeguards, and is described by one expert during the course of this trial as ‘exactly not how to conduct an oral history project’

Bell found not guilty of encouraging Adams to murder McConville

Bell found not guilty of encouraging Adams to murder McConville
RTE NEWS
Updated / Thursday, 17 Oct 2019 11:20
By Vincent Kearney
Northern Correspondent

Former self-confessed senior IRA member Ivor Bell has been found not guilty of encouraging Gerry Adams and another man to murder and secretly bury mother of ten Jean McConville.

The former Sinn Féin president categorically denies any involvement in the killing in 1972.
A judge in Belfast Crown Court ruled that the key prosecution evidence against former IRA member Mr Bell from west Belfast was inadmissible.

Mr Justice O’Hara this morning directed the jury of eight men and four women to find him not guilty.
“The jury has confirmed, by my direction, Mr Bell is not guilty of the two offences of soliciting the murder of Mrs Jean McConville,” the judge said.

The trial began last week and took place over seven days, but the media were banned from reporting until today.

The prosecution case was based on interviews Mr Bell gave as part of an oral history project by Boston College.

During the interviews he alleged that Gerry Adams and another man discussed the killing and disappearance of Ms McConville during a meeting shortly before she was killed.

Questioned as a witness on Monday, the former Sinn Féin leader said he had not attended any such meeting and never discussed Ms McConville with anyone.

“I want to categorically deny any involvement in the abduction, killing and the burial of Jean McConville,” he told the court.

After seven days of hearings, the judge yesterday ruled that the tapes were inadmissible as evidence.
Mr Justice O’Hara said the person who conducted the interviews, former IRA member Anthony McIntyre, was a man with an agenda who was “out to get Mr Adams”.

This morning he directed the jury to enter a finding of “not guilty”.