Jean McConville murder: Veteran republican Ivor Bell to stand trial

Jean McConville murder: Veteran republican Ivor Bell to stand trial
By Alan Erwin
BelfastTelegraph.co.uk
Published 07/07/2016

A veteran republican is to stand trial over the killing of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville, a judge ordered today.

Ivor Bell’s lawyers had attempted to have charges of soliciting to murder the victim, one of the so-called Disappeared, thrown out at a preliminary stage.

But District Judge Amanda Henderson ruled today that the 79-year-old has a case to answer.

She said: “Having regard to all the evidence I’m satisfied to the required standard of proof that at this stage there’s evidence to admit the accused for trial.”

Standing in the dock at Belfast Magistrates’ Court, Bell showed little emotion as the decision was announced.

The accused, from Ramoan Gardens in the city, denies allegations that he encouraged or persuaded others to kill the mother of ten.

Mrs McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried.

Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.

Post-mortem examinations revealed she was killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

The case against Bell centres on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers involved in the Boston College history project with ex-paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Although it was believed transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, pledges of confidentiality were rendered meaningless when a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

It is alleged that Bell was one of the project interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

His legal team had claimed the case against him was not strong enough to have him returned for trial.

Dressed in a navy jacket, grey shirt and cardigan, Bell arrived at court on bail with relatives and supporters.

Behind him in the public gallery were some members of the McConville family.

During the preliminary inquiry a librarian from Boston College accepted defence claims that former paramilitaries were misled into thinking they could reveal their activities to the study with complete impunity

Dr Robert O’Neill confirmed a contract between the university and the project director guaranteed confidentiality only to the extent American law allowed.

But the court heard separate “donor agreements” with interviewees gave them the impression nothing would be disclosed without their consent prior to their deaths.

Appearing via video-link from America, Dr O’Neill insisted any impression interview tapes would remain secret during their lifetime was down to an oversight in that contract.

A voice analyst also testified that interviewee Z was likely to be Bell.

Defence counsel argued it had not been proven that the case involved original, authentic recordings.

He pointed out the two men said to have carried out interviews for the Boston project, Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, had not featured in the hearing.

But Judge Henderson held that the tapes were admissible based on the evidence before her. Following her ruling the charges were formally put to Bell.

Asked if he wanted to say anything in response to the allegations, call witnesses or give evidence at this stage he replied in a hushed voice: “No.”

With the judge having established he has a case to answer, she ordered him to be returned for trial at Belfast Crown Court on a date to be set.

Mrs Henderson also granted an application by defence counsel to amend Bell’s bail conditions, reducing his reporting to police to once a week.

Jean McConville, Ivor Bell, and the Denouement that Never Comes

Jean McConville, Ivor Bell, and the Denouement that Never Comes
Chris Bray
chrisbrayblog.blogspot.ie
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.

Judgment reserved on Jean McConville trial challenge

Judgment reserved on Jean McConville trial challenge
newsletter.co.uk

Judgment has been reserved at a hearing to determine if a veteran Belfast republican is to stand trial over the killing of Disappeared victim Jean McConville.

Lawyers for Ivor Bell are seeking to have his prosecution on charges of soliciting to murder dismissed at a preliminary stage.

But following two days of evidence and legal arguments at Belfast Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Amanda Henderson said she will try to give a decision next week.

She explained: “There have been lengthy submissions made and I would like to refer to those.”

Bell, 79, from Ramoan Gardens in the city, denies charges against him connected to an allegation that he encouraged or persuaded others to kill the mother of 10.

Mrs McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried.

Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.

The case against Bell centres on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers involved in the Boston College history project with ex-paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Although it was believed transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

It is alleged that Bell was one of the project interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

His legal team claim the case against him is not strong enough to have him returned for trial.

Dressed in a dark shirt, Bell showed little expression as he sat in the dock throughout the proceedings.

Behind him in the public gallery were some of his relatives and members of the victim’s family.

During the preliminary inquiry a librarian from Boston College accepted defence claims that former paramilitaries were misled into thinking they could reveal their activities to the study with complete impunity.

Dr Robert O’Neill confirmed a contract between the university and the project director guaranteed confidentiality only to the extent American law allowed.

But the court heard separate “donor agreements” with interviewees gave them the impression nothing would be disclosed without their consent prior to their deaths.

Appearing via video-link from America, Dr O’Neill insisted any impression interview tapes would remain secret during their lifetime was down to an oversight in that contract.

In closing arguments Barry Macdonald QC, for Bell, claimed it had not been proven that the case involved original recordings.

He pointed out the two men said to have carried out interviews for the Boston project, Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre, had not featured in the hearing.

“In the absence of their evidence there is no evidence to the effect that these recordings are original, authentic recordings,” Mr Macdonald contended.

“We invite the court to decide this material is not admissible.”

Judge Henderson will now re-examine all submissions before reaching her verdict on whether Bell has a case to answer.

Trial decision due in case of republican charged with aiding McConville murder

Trial decision due in case of republican charged with aiding McConville murder
BelfastTelegraph.co.uk
Published 29/06/2016

A decision on whether a veteran republican should stand trial for involvement in the murder of a mother-of-10, could be made next week, a court has heard.

Ivor Bell, 79, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast is charged with aiding and abetting the kidnap, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville in 1972.

He is further charged with membership of the IRA.

District Judge Amanda Henderson told Belfast Magistrates she would consider whether the evidence, heard during a two day preliminary enquiry, was strong enough to return the accused for trial.

The judge said: “There have been lengthy enough submissions made.

“I will try to get a decision through by next Thursday (July 7).

“If the defendant is to be returned for trial then arrangements can be made.”

Mrs McConville, a widow, was dragged from her home in the Divis flats by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast – an allegation discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home. The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

Mrs McConville became one of the Disappeared and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth, by a member of the public.

Nobody has been convicted for her murder, one of the most notorious of the region’s bloody Troubles.

Part of the Crown’s case against Bell is based on a tape police secured from an oral history archive collated by Boston College.

Academics interviewed a series of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries for their Belfast Project on the understanding the accounts of the Troubles would remain unpublished until their deaths.

But that undertaking was rendered meaningless when the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) won a court battle in the US to secure the recordings.

It is alleged one of the interviews was given by Bell – a claim the defendant denies.

Throughout proceedings, grey-haired mustachioed Bell, who was prosecuted in 2014 and denies all charges, sat in the dock beside a single prison guard, listening impassively. He was dressed in a dark coat and dark shirt.

Just a few feet away, in the public gallery, were members of the McConville family including some of the widow’s children who have spearheaded a lengthy campaign for justice.

The case was adjourned for mention on July 5.

The McConville family declined to speak outside court.

Boston College ‘misled’ paramilitaries over tapes confidentiality

Boston College ‘misled’ paramilitaries over tapes confidentiality
newsletter.co.uk
28 June 2016

Former paramilitaries were misled into thinking they could reveal their activities to an American university study with complete impunity, a court has heard.

But a librarian from Boston College insisted any impression interview tapes would remain confidential during their lifetime was down to an oversight in a contract they signed.

Dr Robert O’Neill was giving evidence at a preliminary inquiry to decide if veteran Belfast republican Ivor Bell is to stand trial over the killing of Disappeared victim Jean McConville.

Bell, 79, from Ramoan Gardens in the city, denies charges of soliciting to murder connected to an allegation that he encouraged or persuaded others to kill the mother of 10.

Mrs McConville was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried.

Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.

The case against Bell centres on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers involved in the Boston College history project with ex-paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Although it was believed transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

It is alleged that Bell was one of the project interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

His legal team claim the case against him should be dismissed.

During a hearing at Belfast Magistrates’ Court to examine the strength of the evidence Dr O’Neill, Burns Librarian at the College, appeared by video link from Boston.

He confirmed a contract between the college and the project director guaranteed confidentiality only to the extent American law allowed.

But the court heard separate “donor agreements” with interviewees gave them the impression nothing would be disclosed without their consent prior to their deaths.

Cross-examining the librarian, Barry Macdonald QC, for Bell, asked: “Do you now see how they were all misled, those people who were interviewed?”

Dr O’Neill replied: “Yes.”

He also accepted counsel’s suggestion they received guarantees that should never have been given, leaving them feeling “free to make all sorts of claims in respect to themselves and other with impunity”.

The librarian agreed it was accurate to say interviewees believed there was no prospect of facing prosecution or having their accounts tested during their lifetimes.

Challenged on why he did nothing to correct the impression, he responded: “It was an oversight on my part and I will accept responsibility for that, that the agreement with the interviewees did not include the restriction ‘to the extent American law allows’.”

During the hearing it also emerged that he received 25 per cent of the royalties from journalist and author Ed Moloney’s book ‘Voices from the Grave’, based on Brendan Hughes’ and David Ervine’s contributions to the oral history project at Boston before their deaths.

Continuing with questioning, Mr Macdonald contended that interviewees were effectively induced into giving accounts of their involvement because they felt there would be no come back.

“Do you see how interviewees might have been led to believe by the terms of this agreement that they could, if they wanted to, settle old scores, or implicate people in things they hadn’t done, or implicate themselves in things they hadn’t done,” the barrister asked.

“In other words, the contracts themselves permitted the state of affairs which led to these interviews being inherently unreliable.”

Although Dr O’Neill accepted there may have been misunderstandings, he stressed that there could never be absolute confidentiality.

He went on: “It was widely believed that these stories were going to go to the grave.

“With the interviewees’ accounts there was an opportunity to record their stories, the entire project was motivated on the basis of recording as much as possible, the stories of participants in the paramilitary movement.”

Pressing him to confirm the donor agreement oversight was completely innocent, Mr Macdonald put it to the librarian that the consequences for those taking part could be “dire”.

He continued: “The question arises whether this was not inadvertent or accidental, but a deliberate omission in order to encourage all those interviewees to speak on the understanding that there would be no implications for them during their lifetimes.

“In other words it was deliberately done to loosen their tongues.”

Dr O’Neill replied: “I can only say it was not deliberate on my side.”

The hearing continues.

Challenge against Boston College evidence in Jean McConville case

Challenge against Boston College evidence in Jean McConville case
22 June 2016
newsletter.co.uk

Evidence against a veteran republican charged over the killing of Disappeared victim Jean McConville has been unlawfully obtained from America, a court has heard.

Ivor Bell’s lawyer claimed excessive material was disclosed from the Boston College history project in breach of an international treaty.

A legal bid will now be mounted to have the information excluded from a hearing to decide if the 79-year-old should stand trial.

Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, faces charges of soliciting to murder connected to an allegation that he encouraged or persuaded others to kill Mrs McConville.

The victim, a mother of ten, was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried.

Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.

The case against Bell centres on an interview he allegedly gave to US researchers from Boston College as part of a project with former paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

It is alleged that Bell is one of the Boston interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her.

A voice analyst has been enlisted as part of the case.

The accused – who is currently on bail – denies any role in events surrounding the murder, claiming he was not even in the city at the time.

Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard that a Federal Court judge in America had ordered disclosure of Z’s interviews was to be limited to only material relating to the Jean McConville case.

Defence lawyer Peter Corrigan argued that the tapes handed over to police went beyond those restrictions.

“That evidence has been unlawfully obtained and should be excluded,” he claimed.

Mr Corrigan told the court that material put to Bell during police interviews was “way beyond the Jean McConville murder”.

“It was unfairly obtained and in clear contravention of an international treaty.”

The charge against Bell is set to be examined at a preliminary inquiry hearing where witnesses can be cross-examined.

Defence lawyers contend that he does not have a case to answer and will attempt to have the prosecution thrown out at that stage.

But following Wednesday’s developments District Judge Amanada Henderson requested further submissions on the lawfulness of the evidence.

Evidence from US witness sought in Jean McConville case

Evidence from US witness sought in Jean McConville case
The Irish Times
Mon, May 16, 2016

Efforts are being made to obtain evidence from an American witness in the case against a veteran republican charged over the killing of Jean McConville, a court heard today.

A prosecution lawyer disclosed attempts to have them compelled to testify about alleged offences linked to Ivor Bell.

The 79-year-old faces charges of soliciting to murder connected to an allegation that he encouraged or persuaded others to kill Mrs McConville. The victim, a mother of 10, was seized by the IRA from her Divis Flats home in west Belfast in 1972 after being wrongly accused of being an informer.

Following her abduction she was shot dead and then secretly buried. Her body was discovered on a Co Louth beach in 2003.

Mr Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of the city, was arrested and charged in March 2014. The case against him centres on an interview he allegedly gave to US researchers from Boston College as part of a project with former paramilitaries about their roles in the Northern Ireland conflict.

Transcripts

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

It is alleged Mr Bell is one of the Boston interviewees, given the title Z, who spoke about the circumstances surrounding the decision to abduct her. A voice analyst has been enlisted as part of the case.

The accused – who is currently on bail – denies any role in events surrounding the murder, claiming he was not even in the city at the time. His lawyers contend that he does not have a case to answer.

They are expected to mount an attempt to have the charges thrown out at a preliminary inquiry hearing where witnesses can be cross-examined in a bid to test the strength of the evidence.

At Belfast Magistrates’ Court on Monday, prosecution lawyer John O’Neill provided an update on proceedings. He indicated that efforts have been made to compel an unnamed witness from America to give evidence. However, that person remains unwilling to comply with requests.

An application may now be made to have this evidence admitted on a hearsay basis.

The case was then adjourned until next month when the prosecution is expected to finalise its position.

Jean McConville case dragging on

Jean McConville case dragging on
newsletter.co.uk
2 April 2015

A case against a veteran republican accused of involvement in one of Northern Ireland’s most notorious murders is dragging on, a court has been told.

Ivor Bell, 78, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, is alleged to have aided and abetted in the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville, who was abducted from her home in west Belfast in 1972. He is further accused of IRA membership.

Defence solicitor Michael Crawford told Laganside Magistrates’ Court the case was centred on historic allegations.

Mr Crawford said: “Really, it is dragging on and there needs to be some focus.”

Grey haired and moustachioed Bell, who was wearing a purple coat and purple jumper with an open-neck white shirt underneath, sat impassively in the dock as the case was briefly mentioned.

The hearing lasted less than two minutes.

A prosecutor said a meeting with senior counsel was due to take place on April 13 to discuss a “very lengthy” recommendation from the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on whether to proceed with the legal action.

Adjourning the case, district judge George Conner said he expected the final decision by the middle of next month.

The judge said: “If it is not made, I would expect to know what the delay is.”

The pensioner was released on continuing bail and left the court accompanied by a man and woman.

Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow, was dragged from her home in the Divis flats by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast – an allegation discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home. The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed on to police in the Irish Republic.

She became one of the “Disappeared” and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.

Nobody has ever been convicted of her murder.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was arrested and questioned as part of the police investigation into Mrs McConville’s death.

The Louth TD has consistently rejected allegations by former republican colleagues including Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price that he had a role in ordering her death.

The allegations contained part of an oral history archive collated by Boston College and the Police Service of Northern Ireland launched legal action on both sides of the Atlantic to gain access to the tapes.

Testimony from former paramilitaries had been given on the basis that it would not be made public until after their death.

The case has been adjourned until May 14.

Storey arrest ‘based on information given to oral history project’

Storey arrest ‘based on information given to oral history project’
Irish News
FRIDAY DECEMBER 5 2014

It was like listening to Walter Mitty and Billy Liar being interviewed by Lord Haw Haw — Bobby Storey

BOBBY Storey has described his arrest in connection with the disappearance of Jean McConville as “politically motivated’ and said it was based on information given to the Boston College project.

The senior republican and northern chairman of Sinn Féin was arrested last week and questioned for several hours in connection with the 1972 abduction, murder and secret burial of the west Belfast mother of 10.

The 58-year-old, who would have been 16 at the time of Mrs McConville’s abduction. said he was questioned solely about information contained in interviews made by former IRA men as part of an oral history project.

He also claimed his arrest, and that of other senior republicans, including party leader Gerry Adams, was aimed at stunting “the rapid growth of Sinn Féin”.

In an interview with the Belfast Media Group the former IRA prisoner, who was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, said he was “innocent of any involvement” in the disappearance of the west Belfast woman.

“There is absolutely no need to use coercive legislation to deal with legacy issues but someone clearly wanted a headline-grabbing arrest,” he said.

However, he added “despite my arrest, we (Sinn Féin) will not allow old agendas to get in the way of progress.

“I will continue to support efforts to make the PSNI accountable”.

The senior Sinn Féin member said he was read transcripts of the Boston College tapes by detectives in Antrim who told him the names of the interviewees.

The interviews were carried out by former IRA man Anthon McIntyre as part of a project directed by journalist Ed Moloney.

While the former IRA members interviewed were given assurances that the recordings would be kept secret until after their deaths, a number of tapes were handed over to the PSNI following a legal battle in the USA.

Mr Storey, who was part of an IRA gang who escaped from the Maze in 1983, said having heard transcripts of the interviews he “understood” while those involved were keen to keep the project secret.

“They are shameful if not a bit pathetic… they are full of contempt, anger and vitriol.

“It was like listening to Walter Mitty and Billy Liar being interviewed by Lord Haw Haw. It all sounded like self inflated, ego tripping, propagandising rants.

“A typical question was like a mini speech with a question mark at the end of it. In everything they read out to me the question was four or five
times longer than the answer,” he added.

To date nine people — four men and five women — have been questioned in connection with the historic investigation into the murder of Mrs McConville.

One man Ivor Bell (77) has been charged with IRA membership and aiding and abetting the murder.

Boston Tapes Read to Storey

BOSTON TAPES READ TO STOREY
QUESTIONED: Bobby Storey is scathing about the tapes’ contents

Content ‘shameful and pathetic’ says SF chair
It was like listening to Walter Mitty and Billy Liar being interviewed by Lord Haw Haw. It all sounded like self inflated ego-tripping, propagandising rants.” Bobby Storey

BY ANTHONY NEESON
Andersonstown News
Saturday Edition, 6 December 2014 (published 4 December 2014)

EXTRACTS from the controversial Boston College tapes formed the basis of the interrogation of the leading Belfast republican Bobby Storey After his arrest last Thursday.

The Sinn Féin six county chair was questioned for several hours in Antrim Serious Crime Suite about an IRA investigation into the whereabouts of Divis mother- of-ten Jean McConville, who was abducted and shot dead by the IRA in 1972 before being secretly buried. Her remains were found in 2003.

The tapes were recorded as part of the now discredited Boston College Belfast Project in which conflict protagonists gave interviews on the understanding that they would not be made public until after their deaths.

Despite this, the tapes were handed over to the PSNI after a US court battle. Some interviewees say they now plan to sue Boston College.

Speaking to the Andersonstown News this week, Mr Storey said his arrest was politically motivated and followed a pattern which has seen the recent arrest of several senior republicans. He added that the arrests are an attempt to “thwart the rapid growth of Sinn Féin”.

“When the PSNI arrived at my home they said, ‘You’re under arrest as part of the investigation into the murder of Jean McConville.’ I replied,

‘Jean McConville? Seriously?’ such was the ridiculousness of it to me. The cop looked awkward. I said to my partner before I left, ‘This is the politics of the day, I’m arrested because I’m the chair of Sinn Féin in the six counties. This is about the party, not me.

‘Let me be very clear, I am innocent of any involvement in the conspiracy to investigate, abduct, kill or bury Mrs McConville. ”

The former IRA prisoner said his arrest could have been handed differently.

“There is absolutely no need to use coercive legislation to deal with legacy issues but someone clearly wanted a headline- grabbing arrest. There are two standards operating here. No British soldiers or RUC officers involved in killings, conspiracies or collusion are subject to the same treatment. But the nationalist community is not fooled by all this. The amount of support I’ve received since last week is phenomenal. I see that as a clear sign that people know well this is not about the tragedy around Mrs McConville. This is about assailing Sinn Féin.”

‘Boston tapes questions longer than answers’

“Our communities have watched on as the British government reneged on its commitment to hold an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane, refuses a Hillsborough-type inquiry into the Ballymurphy Massacre and continues to cover up the role of the British state in collusion and killings.

“It all emphasises the need to deal with the past, not cynically exploit it. This is why we need a proper process such as that proposed by Richard Haass and Meaghan O’Sullivan.

“I want to also make it clear that, despite my arrest, we will not allow old agendas to get in the way of progress.

I will continue to support the efforts to make the PSNI accountable. Obviously this is work in progress, but I’m determined to work with others to build a genuinely civic policing service.”

Mr Storey said his questioning ran the gamut “from comedy to farce”.

“It was an almost surreal scenario where a very tragic situation was being used, in my firm opinion, as part of a political demonisation agenda against members of the Sinn Fein leadership,” he said. “I was presented with this following picture, which is becoming a recognised concoction against republicans in recent times.

“Person ‘A’ requests to meet the IRA. The IRA allegedly agrees to meet them to assist them. The meeting then allegedly takes place. Person ‘A’ subsequently goes to police to tell them about the supposed meeting. Person ‘A’ then wants the people they say they met charged with membership. So Person ‘A’ created and shapes the whole scene, then wants to use it to condemn who they say they met. This is the third such similar case in recent times.

“I was questioned on allegations from the infamous Boston tapes. Police told me the names of the interviewer on the tapes and the interviewees and the information that they provided on army volunteers, meetings, units, structures and operations, naming individuals and events.

“The tapes that were read out to me were read out in full – who said what. The PSNI told me these tapes were made in the belief they would not be released until after the interviewee’s death. It’s only when you listen to them that you appreciate why that proviso would be in there.

They are shameful, if not a bit pathetic.

“What strikes one upon listening to them is they are full of contempt, anger and vitriol. It’s also clear to me, listening to them, that truth is a casualty, as the interviewer and interviewee throw flowers at themselves as they demonise and ridicule everyone they regard as a political enemy.

“It was like listening to Walter Mitty and Billy Liar being interviewed by Lord Haw Haw. It all sounded like self-inflated ego-tripping, propagandising rants.

“The interviewer set the context and tone, and each question was leading by nature. A typical question was like a mini-speech with a question mark at the end. In everything they read out to me the question was four to five times longer than the answer. The answer was like an acceptance with the context of the question.”

Mr Storey says that despite his arrest Sinn Féin will “work flat-out making policing accountable”.

“We promote good civil policing in society and we condemn bad policing,” he said. “We need to get beyond the old agendas, this is policing at its poorest.

“We’ve had the party president arrested earlier this year and two councillors in the past few days, as well as myself. I would say most people would see it as politics.

“This is all going on at a time when two things are happening. There is a rapid growth in Sinn Féin and we are at our strongest since 1918. Our political opponents thought we had peaked at almost half a million votes in the European elections north and south. However, polls are indicating that our vision of a modern Irish republic based on equality continues to click with people.

“Secondly, we in Sinn Féin are the subject of the biggest demonisation campaign ever and it’s right across the island. Both these things are connected as our political opponents fear our vision.”