McConville family to sue police and MoD

McConville family to sue police and MoD
BBC News
27 August 2013

The family of a woman murdered and secretly buried by the IRA more than 40 years ago are to sue the police and Ministry of Defence.

Jean McConville’s family say there was a failure to hold a prompt and efficient investigation into her abduction.

The civil action was announced on the 10th anniversary of her remains finally being found at a County Louth beach.

It is believed that she was tortured before being shot and buried.

The mother-of-10, one of those referred to as the Disappeared, was taken from her west Belfast home in December 1972 on suspicion of being a British informant.

Legal proceedings have been initiated against both the Chief Constable of the PSNI and the MoD over events surrounding her abduction, death and subsequent inquiries.

Solicitor Ciaran Mulholland said he has been instructed by members of the McConville family to pursue a claim over the “horrific events”.

He claimed Mrs McConville was found by a British Army patrol in the early hours of 1 December, 1972 “roaming the streets in a state” after first being interrogated by the IRA.

She was taken to a police station at Queen Street in the city but seized again later that day, according to Mr Mulholland.

He alleged that police were told of her abduction within hours, but refused to assist.

Further failures to act occurred over the next two months, it was claimed.

“The family still do not know the circumstances of this horrendous event,” Mr Mulholland said.

“Why was their mother taken? Why would the RUC not intervene or investigate the matter?

“The McConville family firmly believe that the RUC and subsequently the PSNI have utterly failed to assist the family’s quest for the truth.

“The family now feel that given the lengthy passage of time and the obstruction they continue to meet seeking the truth into the disappearance and murder of their mother that they have no alternative other than to hold the police and Ministry of Defence to account.

“Our clients’ feel that legal action is now essential in their journey for truth, and accordingly representations have been sent to both the chief constable and the Ministry of Defence.”

McConvilles to mount civil case in bid for justice

McConvilles to mount civil case in bid for justice
Adams could be forced to give evidence after benefactor backs murdered widow’s family
Sunday Independent
04 AUGUST 2013

THE family of murdered widow and mother-of-10 Jean McConville has received an offer of financial assistance to mount a civil legal action, which they hope could lead to Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams being forced to give evidence in court.

The family has not decided on what form of action to take. But they could follow the civil case taken by relatives of the 1998 Omagh bomb victims against five suspects, four of whom were found by the High Court in Belfast to have been involved in the atrocity that killed 29 people, including Avril Monaghan, 30, who was pregnant with twins.

Mrs McConville’s daughter Helen McKendry and her husband, Seamus, have confirmed they have an offer of assistance from a wealthy benefactor who wishes to keep his identity secret.

“He is very generous and concerned to see the truth about what happened to Jean and the family brought out,” Mr McKendry told the Sunday Independent.

The couple has already contacted the Omagh families who brought the civil action against dissident republican figures deemed in the action to have been responsible.

“We are currently seeking legal representation,” Mr McKendry said.

A similar case to the McConville murder would be likely to see the tapes of interviews with former Provisional IRA figures brought into play.

Currently, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has possession of one set of tapes of an interview with former IRA woman Dolours Price in which she named Gerry Adams as the local IRA commander who gave the order for Mrs McConville’s murder and secret burial in December 1972. Price, who suffered from depression, took his own life in January

Mr Adams, who denies any involvement in Mrs McConville’s murder, was also named by another former IRA man, Brendan Hughes, as being the commander of the Belfast unit that abducted the mother-of-10 from her home in the Divis Flats complex.

Hughes, who died in February 2008, also claimed in a taped interview to researchers from Boston College that Mr Adams gave the order for her secret burial.

The PSNI is currently seeking tapes from six other former IRA members referring to the murder of Mrs McConville as part of a historic case review. These are expected to be handed over in coming weeks.

If the PSNI and Northern Ireland’s Prosecution Service decides there are insufficient grounds to mount a criminal case, the Boston College files could become part of a civil action where the grounds of “probability” rather than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” in criminal law apply.

Gerry Adams has consistently denied that he was even a member of the IRA at any time and also that he had any part in Mrs McConville’s murder. A number of women were in the gang, including the then head of the women’s IRA on the Falls Road, Madge McConville, no relation of the victim.

Madge McConville died in July 2009 and was described as a “republican icon” in an obituary in the Sinn Fein weekly paper, An Phoblacht. It was well known in the lower Falls area that she was involved in the abduction of Mrs McConville after she was seen to give assistance to a British soldier who was injured near her front door.

At the time, the IRA had set up units in Belfast to attack anyone who was seen as sympathetic to the police or British Army. Dozens of women were abducted and beaten up and several young women had their heads shaved, were tied to lampposts and had black paint and feathers poured over them.

The claims of Mr Adams’ involvement have been raised on a number occasions in the Dail.

Last month, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said there would be a “clarion call” for clarification if such an accusation was made against any other TD.

Mr Adams replied that he had “consistently rejected claims that I had any knowledge of, or any part in, the abduction or killing of Jean McConville”.

Weeks before her abduction, Mrs McConville, 38, was brutally beaten up by a gang of local IRA men and women because of her perceived sympathies to British soldiers. A decision was then made to murder her as an example to others to avoid contact with soldiers or police. Local sources said the decision to murder her was taken because she was a Protestant who had married a Catholic.

She was driven to north Co Louth and taken to Templetown beach where she was brought to a shallow grave, shot and buried. Her children, including a baby, were left abandoned and went without food as local people were too afraid to help them. They were eventually taken into care by social services and placed in separate orphanages and foster homes.

Mrs McConville’s body was discovered by accident on Templetown beach by a family in August 2003 when part of the sand dune she was buried in eroded.

The inquest into her death found she had been killed by a single gunshot to the back of her head, probably fired downwards indicating she was made to kneel at her graveside before being murdered.

Further Reading


Moloney and McIntyre seek access to British regiment’s war diaries

Moloney and McIntyre seek access to British regiment’s war diaries
Documents could assist in establishing true details about murder of Jean McConville, they contend
Gerry Moriarty
Irish Times
Mon, Jul 15, 2013

A journalist and former IRA prisoner are to lodge a freedom of information inquiry with the British government in an effort to cast further light on the IRA murder of Jean McConville.

Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre have invited members of the McConville family to join them in the freedom of information request to access the war diaries of the British army’s First Gloucestershire
Regiment who were operating in west Belfast for periods in 1971, 1972 and 1973.

The diaries, which record daily military events during a regimental tour, cannot be opened until January 2059. They are the only regiment to have served in Divis in west Belfast around that period and whose war diaries have been embargoed in this way, according to journalist Mr Moloney and former IRA prisoner and academic Dr McIntyre.

They have approached the McConville family seeking their support for the request while former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Baroness Nuala O’Loan has told them that in principle she would support the opening of the diaries if they served a useful purpose.

“The First Gloucesters served in the Divis Flats area of west Belfast at the time Jean McConville came under IRA suspicion of working for British military intelligence and was subsequently abducted, murdered and her body hidden in a secret grave,” Moloney and Dr McIntyre said in a statement yesterday.

They said they wanted to access the diaries to see if they contained any information which might indicate what happened to Ms McConville, the widowed mother of 10 who was abducted from her apartment in the Divis Flats, shot and buried in a Co Louth beach.

The McConville family has always insisted that their mother was not carrying out such work and that she was killed by the IRA because she had comforted a British soldier who had been wounded outside her door.

Baroness O’Loan in her 2006 investigation found that Ms McConville was not acting in any informer capacity for the British army. She questioned what value the diaries might be as the First Gloucesters were not actually in west Belfast when Ms McConville was abducted sometime in late November/early December 1972. They served from December 1971 to April 1972 and from April 1973 to August 1973, she said.

Nonetheless, Baroness O’Loan added that if it could assist the murder investigation such documents should be handed over to the PSNI while, with possible redactions because of threat to life considerations, they could also be made available to Mr Moloney and Mr McIntyre. “Anybody who has any information about what is a murder investigation should hand that information over,” she said.

Could Boston interview tapes spell trouble for Adams?

Could Boston interview tapes spell trouble for Adams?
by Peter Geoghegan
Sunday Business Post
14 July 2013

In October 2010, Voices From The Grave appeared on Irish television screens. The RTE documentary gave a unique glimpse into the history of the Troubles as seen through the eyes of two leading protagonists, loyalist David Ervine and his republican counterpart Brendan ‘The Dark’ Hughes.

But more than two and a half years after it first aired, Voices From The Grave continues to haunt Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.

Hughes, a former IRA commander in Belfast, claimed that Adams ordered the killing of mother-of-ten Jean McConville in 1972, allegedly for being a British spy.

Voices From The Grave, which was also a best-selling book, was based on interviews given by Ervine and Hughes as part of the Belfast Project, a larger oral history project involving numerous loyalist and republican prisoners and conducted by researchers under the auspices of Boston College.

Ervine and Hughes died in 2007 and 2008, respectively.

Accusations of Adams’s involvement in the killing of McConville resurfaced last week, as the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) confirmed that tapes of interviews with IRA bomber Dolours Price, which were being held by Boston College, had been handed over to them.

Price died last January. Before her death, she claimed that Adams was her IRA officer commanding in the early 1970s, and was responsible for ordering McConville’s disappearance.

Adams has always denied that he was a member of the IRA or that he played any role in the death of McConville, whose body was found in a beach in Co Louth in 2003.

“I have consistently rejected claims that I had any knowledge of, or any part in, the abduction or killing of Jean McConville,” Adams said in the Dáil last week.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny called on Adams to make a statement about McConville’s disappearance. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil: “Nobody except Deputy Adams believes he wasn’t in the IRA.”

Ed Moloney, erstwhile director of the Boston College project, said that there had been a “very political element” to the PSNI’s determination to get hold of the interviews with Dolours Price and others, conducted as part of the project.

“The PSNI knew that, at the end of the road, they would end with Adams,” Moloney told The Sunday Business Post. “There is an element there of going down this road knowing it will cause [Gerry Adams] an awful lot of trouble.”

Moloney, who was the Irish Times northern editor during the Troubles and is now based in New York, fears that the US court decision to have the tapes released could lead to issues for Adams and other senior political figures that could undermine the political situation in the North and also inhibit attempts to learn more about exactly what happened during the Troubles.

“The only way we are going to get a truth recovery process is if there is a guarantee that there won’t be prosecutions. Prosecutions just keep the war going,” he said.

The issue of the past has been centre stage in the North in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the Policing Board said that it had no confidence in the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), which was set up to re-examine deaths during the Troubles.

The Policing Board said that the HET was investigating deaths involving soldiers with less rigour than cases with no state involvement. Moloney agreed, saying it was “a way of dealing with the past that says that there was only one guilty party – the paramilitaries, not the state. The state is left out of it completely.

“Fear of prosecution will prohibit people entirely from saying what they know and it will keep the war going in another guise, and that is what has been happening in recent years,” he said.

Moloney’s viewpoint has support on the other side of the Atlantic. Last week, the chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee, Robert Menendez, raised concerns about the impact of handing over the Price tapes to the PSNI.

In a letter to US secretary of state John Kerry, Menendez said that the release of material could “still have the effect of threatening the precious peace won by the Good Friday Agreement”.

In his letter, Menendez appealed for State Department experts on the North to examine whether the details contained in the interviews could “run counter to our national interests”.

Dealing with the past is expected to be top of the in-tray for Richard Haass, the US’s new peace envoy to the North. Haas, who was George W Bush’s envoy to Northern Ireland from 2001 to 2003, will head talks aimed at resolving troubling issues, including flags and parading. He is expected to report his findings by the end of the year.

In the North, opinions are divided on whether the release of the Boston College tapes to the PSNI will have any significant impact on the political situation on the ground.

Mick Fealty, editor of the influential blog site Slugger O’Toole, said that it would be difficult to prevent the PSNI or the HET going after other interviews in the Boston College archive, but that criminal prosecutions as a result of evidence from the tapes were “highly unlikely”.

“I don’t see material evidence coming out of this,” Fealty said. “[Dolours Price] can’t be interrogated; she can’t be brought before a jury.”

Fealty said the Boston College tapes could prove less damaging to Adams than other issues. “Adams has far more challenging stuff coming down the tracks. His brother’s trial [for child sex abuse] is coming up later this year. There is the stuff about mishandling of sex abuse within Sinn Féin.”

Irish News columnist Newton Emerson also believes there is little prospect of a criminal conviction arising from the Boston College interview with Price. “There is absolutely no conceivable possibility of this stuff being used in court,” he said. “The witness can’t be cross-examined. I’d be very surprised if you can even get this heard in court.”

The big concern for Adams would be a civil case being taken against him, said Emerson. “If you were a particularly determined grieving relative, you could decide to make the last ten years of Gerry Adams’s life miserable, even if the civil case had little chance of success.”

“Ultimately, the big issue is the assumption of a de facto amnesty that can never actually be delivered. The dam will break with a civil case,” he said, adding that there were tens of thousands of people in the North who could be motivated to bring a civil case against the republican leader.

Emerson draws parallels with other world leaders who were initially celebrated by sections of the international community, but who spent the final decades of their lives battling civil actions from relatives of victims killed by his regime. “It still all ended up in the courts. It’s very hard not to imagine that happening here,” he said.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson refused to discuss the prospects of civil cases arising from the Boston College tapes.

Emerson is sceptical about claims that the tapes could destabilise the political situation in the North. “Why would misfortune for Adams be a threat to the peace process? It’s very hard to believe the Provos kicking off again because Gerry has a hearing,” he said.

“I just can’t see any actual revelation from the Troubles bringing people out on to the streets in armed fury. It’s just too far away. Half the people in Northern Ireland have no living memory of the Troubles. When you talk about something that happened 40 years ago to a 20-year-old, it’s like talking about something that happened in the 1930s.”


Belfast Project timeline

Funded by Boston College, the Belfast Project was coordinated by Ed Moloney, the Irish journalist now based in New York.

Anthony McIntyre, a former republican prisoner with a PhD in history, and former loyalist prisoner Wilson McArthur conducted interviews with leading figures in the IRA, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association.

Crucially, all interviewees were promised that their recordings would not be released until after their deaths; – now these testimonies could provide evidence for criminal proceedings.

The Belfast Project began in 2001 and ended in 2006, but it remained a secret until 2010, when Moloney, with Boston College’s imprimatur, published Voices from the Grave, a book based on interviews given by former IRA officer commanding and hunger striker Brendan Hughes and former Progressive Unionist Party leader David Ervine.

In May 2011, British authorities issued Boston College with a subpoena, demanding tapes of interviews with both Hughes and Dolours Price, after the latter gave an interview to a Northern Irish newspaper intimating her role in Jean McConville’s disappearance. In August, a second subpoena followed, this time calling for all interviews that contained any information relating to the McConville case.

In December 2011, a Boston federal court judge upheld the first subpoena. Boston College criticised the verdict but surprisingly declined to appeal. Instead the case was taken to the US appeal courts by Moloney and McIntyre.

The researchers also called for Boston College to destroy all tapes of the interviews.

“The archive must now be closed down and the interviews be either returned or shredded since Boston College is no longer a safe nor fit and proper place for them to be kept,” they said in a statement.

Price died in January this year. On April 15, the Supreme Court reduced the amount of material to be handed over from 85 interviews (roughly half of the archive) to segments of 11 interviews.

Last month, the PSNI travelled to Boston to collect tapes and transcripts of interviews given by Dolours Price. However, Jack Dunn, director of public affairs at Boston College, denied claims that the university had handed over the tapes.

“The Dolours Price tapes have not been handed over to the PSNI by Boston College,” Dunn told the website Irish Central.

“If they have been given to the PSNI, they have been supplied by the Department of Justice. It has been inaccurately reported that PSNI detectives came to Boston over the weekend and took tapes from us. That is completely untrue.”

Moloney told The Sunday Business Post that Boston College had “abandoned” Belfast Project interviewees.

“This is a disgraceful episode in American academic history,” he said. “My advice to anyone interested in setting up a controversial research project is to avoid American universities because they will sell you down the river as soon as look at you.”

O’Loan: Release Army’s Belfast war diaries

O’Loan: Release Army’s Belfast war diaries
BBC News
14 July 2013

British military war diaries should be released to police investigating Jean McConville’s murder, former NI Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan has said.

The mother of ten was abducted and killed by the IRA in Belfast in 1972.

Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre have revealed they have discovered a number of diaries of Army regiments who were operating in the area at the time.

The two men are behind the Belfast Project archive recordings held at Boston College.

They have invited the McConville family to lodge a joint Freedom of Information request to have the war diaries released.

Under the current embargo, the war diaries will not be released until 2059.

‘Jeopardise lives’

However, Dame Nuala O’Loan told RTE there were procedures that police could follow to help secure documents. She said this had been demonstrated by the PSNI in its efforts to obtain interviews from the Boston College archive.

She said any information in the diaries that could put lives in jeopardy should not be released.

The Belfast Project recordings are of former republicans and loyalists talking about their actions in the Troubles.

Interviewees were promised that their accounts would not be published until after they had died.

The project director, Ed Moloney, and his researcher, Anthony McIntyre, had resisted attempts by the PSNI to obtain the transcripts, and had hoped that the US Supreme Court would overturn a Boston Federal Court decision to hand the tapes over.

Earlier this month, however, transcripts of interviews with former IRA member Dolours Price, who died in January, were handed to police in Northern Ireland.

Could British war diaries help solve the Jean McConville murder?

Could British war diaries help solve the Jean McConville murder?
The diaries are under embargo until 2059.
Sinead O’Carroll
14 July 2013

THE FAMILY OF Jean McConville may submit a Freedom of Information request to the British government to release a number of war diaries of regiments stationed at the Divis Street flats at the time of the mother-of-ten’s disappearance.

The diaries, the existence of which was discovered by journalist Ed Moloney and former IRA member Anthony McIntyre, are embargoed until 2059 but may hold a key to unlocking the truth about the 1972 abduction and murder.

Moloney, who is behind the Boston Tapes project detailing the history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, believes the diaries should be released in the search for the truth and in the name of fairness.

Tapes of interviews with convicted IRA bomber Dolours Price that were recorded during that research, are due to be handed to the PSNI following a court wrangle in the US.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme today, Moloney said that the accusation that McConville was an informer “will just not go away”, despite her family’s insistence and a Police Ombudsman’s report which proclaimed her innocence.

“If she wasn’t an informer, we deserve to know that,” he said, adding that “contemporaneous documents are very convincing”.

However, he also said that if the diaries reveal her to be an informer that was caught or confessed, then the British Army could be accused of exploiting her by returning her to activities.

Former Police Ombudsman’s Nuala O’Loan, also interviewed by RTÉ Radio One today, said there is a duty on the PSNI to seek any information which is relevant to a crime and that the diaries should be released to investigating officers if they haven’t already seen them.

She said she does not know if the documents were available to her team during her 2006 probe.

“I don’t know whether we had access to these particular documents. I do know that we had access to contemporaneous military records at the time,” she said.

“There’s always a possibility of additional evidence coming forward in respect of any investigation,” she continued. “What I can say, categorically, is that all the information saw Jean McConville was not an informant.

“What was interesting to me was that there was no reference to her in any of the archives prior to the incident which occurred at some point just before she was murdered where a woman was found in a distressed stage in the street in west Belfast having been beaten by the IRA. And, that appears to be the first mention in any records.

After her death, there was no information apart from her children reporting that she had been abducted. We don’t know when she was abducted…the IRA haven’t even told her family that.

The deceased’s son Michael has indicated that he might jointly launch the FOI request in the search for more information about his mother’s murder.

Documents such as the war diaries are usually released under the 30-year-rule but those from Divis Street in the early 1970s have been exempt.

Adams faces quiz over murder of McConville

Adams faces quiz over murder of McConville
PSNI could receive tapes linking SF chief to mother of 10’s death
Sunday Independent
14 JULY 2013

Gerry Adams faces questioning by detectives if a federal court in Boston rules that transcripts of interviews with seven former IRA members about the murder of widowed mother-of-10 Jean McConville can be released to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Mrs McConville’s family is also exploring the possibility of launching a civil action against the Sinn Fein president in the event of no prosecution taking place.

Mr Adams maintains he had “no hand, act or part in” the December 1972 murder, despite claims by two of his former IRA associates, Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes, that he gave the order for the killing and secret burial (in Co Louth) of the Protestant woman who had been living in the Catholic Falls Road area.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin told Mr Adams in the Dail last week that it is time to “come out of the shadows” on the issue of his past relationship with the IRA.

“Far from the passage of time erasing memories of these issues, they are instead becoming clearer and more relevant,” he said, referring to the escalating controversy over Boston College tapes allegedly linking the Sinn Fein leader to the death of Mrs McConville.

Mr Martin spoke of the murder by the IRA of the woman struggling to bring up her children.

“Brendan Hughes, who was a key member of the Belfast brigade of the IRA at the time, pulls no punches in his claims of who ordered that killing,” he said. “It is a very sordid tale. Deputy Adams owes it to the House to make a comment on it.”

Mr Martin said he has written to Hillary Clinton on the issue, and will be asking the Taoiseach “whether he sees the need to discuss the pursuit of this by the PSNI and the British authorities with the American authorities”.

The concerns of the opposition leader provoked a sharp response from Mr Adams, who claimed that “the IRA, which is now on ceasefire, has left the stage and is not around, apologised for what it did” and added that “those who make the accusation against me, apart from those in the Dail, are implacable opponents of the peace process”.

Mr Adams’s denials, said Mr Martin, “fundamentally lack credibility, and were it any other politician who stood accused of what Mr Adams is, they would be facing, at a minimum, a Dail inquiry or a commission of inquiry”.

Brendan Hughes died in 2008 and Dolours Price took her own life last January at her home in Malahide, Co Dublin. Both had given accounts to researchers for Boston College stating that Mr Adams had given the order for Mrs McConville’s murder in his role as head of an IRA unit in Belfast whose job was to seek out and punish anyone seen as collaborating with the British Army or the RUC.

Last Friday week, the PSNI took possession of the Dolours Price transcript, which had been in the possession of the US Department of Justice since last year. It and the tapes – part of a Boston College collection of recordings of former republicans and loyalists – is unlikely to lead to any action being taken against Mr Adams as Price had known mental health issues.

However, a federal court in Boston is expected to give final judgement next month in the appeal by Boston College in relation to 11 interviews with seven former IRA members also relating to the McConville murder and which are still held by the college.

In April, the Federal Appeals Court ordered that these tapes be handed over to the Department of Justice by the end of this month. Boston College is still considering this order but, if as appears likely it is compelled to release the tapes, the PSNI would then have no option but to question the former IRA members and Mr Adams.

Boston College said last week that reports that it had handed over the Dolours Price tapes and transcript were untrue. The tapes were passed into the possession of the Department of Justice after a court ruling last year.

The college said it assumed the department handed the tapes over to the PSNI, but could not be certain. It said reports last weekend that more transcripts or tapes were handed over were not true, and these remain in its possession for the time being.

Jack Dunn, the public affairs director at Boston College, said last week that he did not know if the Price tapes had been handed over to the PSNI by the department, and “it’s not my place to speak for them. They could have. The DoJ have been in possession of the Price tapes for more than a year. They’ve had them since January 2012”.

He pointed out that the contents of the Price tapes had already been widely reported in Ireland, where she gave extensive interviews to the media.

Mr Dunn said in an interview: “She referenced the tapes in those interviews and mentioned she drove a getaway car and she implicates Gerry Adams in the tapes too. Those things have been disclosed repeatedly.

“There’s nothing on the Dolours Price tapes that will be a surprise. There’s no reason for the tapes not to be sent to law enforcement, because the legal recourse of the United States has been exhausted regarding the Dolours Price tapes.”

In relation to the remaining 11 tapes from the seven other IRA members, he added: “The college has until the end of the month to decide whether to accept or appeal that court ruling. We’re in the process of making the determination as to what we will do over the course of the next several weeks.”

Seamus McKendry, the husband of Mrs McConville’s eldest daughter, Helen, said yesterday: “We are not certain what use the (Dolours Price) tapes will be. The sad thing is she was available for questioning while she was alive in either jurisdiction but there was no action taken despite her living admissions in the media. They waited too long.

“We are exploring the idea of a civil action. We have spoken to lawyers and are considering this. The Omagh families took their action after there was no justice for them.”

Call for British government to release war diaries relating to Jean McConville’s murder

Call for British government to release war diaries relating to Jean McConville’s murder
RTE News
Sunday, 14 July 2013

Former Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland Nuala O’Loan has said British military war diaries locked under embargo should be released to the PSNI detectives investigating Jean McConville’s murder.

The widow and mother of ten was killed after being abducted by the IRA from her home at Divis Street flats in Belfast in December 1972.

The two men behind the Belfast Project archive at Boston College have revealed that they have discovered a number of war diaries of regiments who were operating in the Divis Street flats.

The diaries are exempt from the 30-year rule and will not be released until 2059.

Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre have invited the McConville family to lodge a joint Freedom of Information request to have the papers released.

Michael McConville told RTÉ News that his family was “all for” anything that would reveal further information on their mother’s disappearance and murder.

He said he would examine the detail of what Mr Moloney was suggesting regarding the joint request, but said at present he is positively disposed to it.

Speaking to RTÉ’s This Week programme, Ms O’Loan said that she did not know if the documents under embargo were available to her investigation in 2006.

She said that the police investigating the murder of Mrs McConville will now be aware of the documents and have a duty to acquire them.

Ms O’Loan said processes can be followed by police that will help secure documents, as had been demonstrated by the PSNI in its efforts to secure interviews from the Boston College archive.

She said that the state is obliged to protect life, adding information in the war diaries that could put people in jeopardy should not be released.

Mr McConville said that he had no concerns about what could be revealed in the war diaries at Kew.

He said his family is confident their mother was not an informer and said there is no evidence to suggest she was.

See also: FOI Request for British Archive War Diaries

FOI Request for British Archive War Diaries

July 14th, 2013

Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre are today announcing their intention of lodging a Freedom of Information request with the British government archive at Kew, Surrey seeking the lifting of an 84 year embargo on the war diaries of the First Gloucestershire Regiment compiled in 1972 and 1973. The diaries, which record daily military events during a regimental tour, cannot be opened until January 2059.

The First Gloucesters served in the Divis Flats area of west Belfast at the time Jean McConville came under IRA suspicion of working for British military intelligence and was subsequently abducted, murdered and her body hidden in a secret grave.

They are the only regiment to have served in Divis in these years whose war diaries have been embargoed in this way.

Moloney & McIntyre have approached the family of the late Jean McConville seeking their support while former police ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan has said she would, in principle, support the opening of the war diary.

The detailed case for lifting the embargo on the First Gloucestershire Regiment files is outlined by Ed Moloney below.

FOI Request for 1972 War Diaries
Bid For British Army Papers
Ed Moloney
The Broken Elbow

Today myself and Anthony McIntyre are extending an invitation to members of Jean McConville’s family to join with us in lodging a Freedom of Information request at the British government’s archives at Kew in Surrey to obtain the release of the war diaries of the First Gloucestershire Regiment, which served in Divis Flats at the time, in early 1972, that Jean McConville allegedly came under IRA suspicion as an informer for the military.

The First Gloucesters, one of the oldest and most battle hardened regiments in the British Army, was the only one of the nine regiments to have served in the Divis district of West Belfast during the early 1970’s whose war diaries have been embargoed and closed to the public, in that regiment’s case for an exceptional 84 years, until the year 2059. Under the 30 year rule the war diaries should have been made available by now but an extra embargo of over 50 years was imposed. It is our understanding that the British Ministry of Defence has the final say in such decisions.

We are also planning to ask that the war diaries for 39 Brigade of the British Army, that is the Belfast command of the military, between August 1st, 1971 and September 30th 1971, and between June 1st 1972 and June 30th 1973 be opened for scrutiny. These documents have been embargoed for between 84 and 100 years.

We will be filing the requests in order to see if the war diaries, which are a daily account of a regiment’s military activity, contain any information which might indicate what happened to Jean McConville, the widowed mother of ten who was abducted from her apartment in the Divis Flats complex by the Provisional IRA in December 1972, taken across the Border to the Dundalk area, shot dead and her body secretly buried in a beach on the edge of Carlingford Lough.


In particular the request might settle for once and for all the question of whether the IRA killed Jean McConville because she worked as an intelligence source for the British Army.

Significantly, Nuala O’Loan, the former NI Police Ombudsman who investigated the Jean McConville ‘disappearance’ and whose report challenged suggestions that she had been a British Army informer, told in a phone interview this weekend that she had never heard of these war diaries until now.

She said that she would be ready to lend her support to our efforts to get the embargo lifted. “I am always ready for documents to be examined but I don’t know anything about them. I don’t know why they have been embargoed. I think I could be supportive of getting the documents out. I think there may be issues attached, there may have to be sections redacted. But I think that would be my only proviso.”

We wish to stress that we are not conducting this exercise to prove that the IRA was telling the truth when it claimed that Jean McConville was killed because she was working for the British Army. We have enormous respect and understanding for the family’s view that their mother was killed and disappeared for reasons unconnected to any military exigency on the part of the IRA.

Nor do we wish our proposal to be regarded as an attempt to vindicate this heinous act by the IRA. What happened to Jean McConville was not only unjustified but was callous, cynical, barbaric and unnecessary and both of us are on public record repeatedly as saying so. I have also written that in my view her killing was a war crime; so has Anthony McIntyre. Strikingly, a significant number of former IRA activists have told me this is their belief also, and that they are ashamed that this act was carried out in their name.

There is no doubt either that certain key figures in the IRA of that time have lied about their part in Jean McConville’s disappearance and have done so repeatedly and grossly. Nor can there be doubt that such lying has infected the IRA’s account of Jean McConville’s death and the reason for her murder.

At the same time two credible IRA figures have come forward both to denounce that lying and also to say that her role as an informer was the reason Jean McConville was killed. Both Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price are now dead and cannot be quizzed about their versions of events but they both gave lengthy, credible and coherent accounts, Hughes in the book Voices From The Grave, which was derived from his interviews with Boston College, and Price in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph.

On the other hand, the former Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan has reported that from her inquiries in security circles she could find no evidence to verify the allegation that Jean McConville worked as an agent for the military or any other branch of the British security apparatus. But she has declined to go into detail and has, for instance, refused to say who in security world she spoke to or at what level.

No-one can doubt Nuala O’Loan’s integrity, nor that what she reported she genuinely believed to be the truth. But at the same time, if the IRA account is true, some in the British Army and others in the intelligence and political hierarchy may have had as much reason to lie and dissemble to the Police Ombudsman as does the IRA’s then Belfast leadership to the people of Ireland.

Remember Brendan Hughes’ account. According to his version, Jean McConville was uncovered as a spy when a radio transmitter was found in her apartment. According to Hughes she admitted her role when confronted with the evidence but because of her family situation, she was given a so-called ‘Yellow Card’ by Hughes and let go. But later the IRA discovered evidence she had resumed spying and that sealed her fate.

Nobody knows whether Brendan Hughes’ account is accurate but if it is, it means that the British Army continued to use as an agent someone whose cover had been blown, thus putting the agent’s life in great peril. And, if Hughes’ account is accurate, the army would have known Jean McConville’s cover was blown because her radio had been confiscated by the IRA.

If all this is true the British Army contributed significantly to the series of events that led to her murder. If all this is true the British Army acted recklessly and selfishly and was at least partly responsible for ten children losing their mother. If all this is true then British soldiers, possibly senior ones, had good reasons to lie and to keep these facts from the public and the McConville’s. And the McConville family have good reason to seek the maximum redress.

It should also be remembered that the British Army has a track record of telling lies, in one notorious case a massive lie, about its intelligence operations. When John Stevens, the former Cambridgeshire Deputy Chief Constable was sent to Northern Ireland in 1989 to investigate intelligence leaks to Loyalist paramilitaries he was told at a high level military briefing that the British Army ran no intelligence agents in Northern Ireland.

In fact, as he soon found out, the army not only ran agents but it had an entire dedicated detachment, the Force Research Unit, which did nothing else except run agents. The British Army lied then to cover up its role in the UDA murder of Pat Finucane; in such a context it is not inconceivable that they may have lied to cover up the death of Jean McConville.

Conflicting Accounts

So we have conflicting accounts, dead witnesses, lies told by one side and possibly lies told by the other. What we do not have enough of is truth that can be backed up by independent, contemporary evidence. That is why today we are announcing our plans to seek the opening of British Army files and asking the McConville’s to join us.

We are seeking only the truth. It may be that the files contain nothing of interest or significance and if that is the case, then so be it. It may be that the files support Nuala O’Loan’s suggestion that Jean McConville never worked for the British Army. It may be that they show she did but that her handlers exploited her and helped usher her to an early death. If that is the case, then so be it.

Over the past two years, the PSNI and the British government have sought to obtain interviews lodged in the archive of the Belfast Project at Boston College in their search for facts in the investigation of Jean McConville’s murder and disappearance. We also seek to obtain files lodged in the UK’s archives at Kew in our search for facts in the investigation of Jean McConville’s murder and disappearance.

With the appointment of Dr Richard Haass as the new US Special Envoy with the brief of charting a way to deal with the past, it is becoming clear that any effort to find out what happened during the Troubles will be fatally flawed unless there is absolute balance between competing sides, between paramilitary groups and security forces. The leadership of the Historical Enquiries Team is currently learning the hard way what happens when a process of investigating the past become tainted with double standards.

And so, if the PSNI is to be allowed access to Boston College’s files by the US courts, then we who were responsible for creating them should be allowed access to the British Army’s archive. Otherwise we have an investigatory process that is doomed to be one-sided and whose conclusions will be respected by only one part of the community. Such an outcome can only breed mistrust and further division.

So, why do we single out the First Gloucestershire Regiment in this Freedom of Information request?

The first reason has to do with the unusual act of requesting an embargo on the regiment’s war diaries and the length of that embargo, eighty-four years. This means that unless the embargo is successfully challenged the diary will not be opened until January 1st, 2059, by which time most of those reading this article will be long dead.

To put the embargo into context, it is the same length or just slightly shorter than the embargo placed on 39 Brigade war diaries at a time when the Brigade commander was Brigadier Frank Kitson and he was busy creating the Military Reaction Force (MRF), a super secret undercover unit which allegedly was involved in a series of drive by shootings and killings in Belfast.

In other words to qualify for an 84 year or 100 year embargo as 39 Brigade has, the activities in question need to be the sort that you really don’t want the world to know about, at least for a very long time, and long after those responsible have shuffled off this mortal coil.

The full list of 39 Brigade embargoed war diaries is below. By contrast British Army brigade war diaries in Europe and Britain are open for public inspection:

So what was it that soldiers from the First Gloucestershire Regiment did in Divis Flats in 1972 and also in 1973 that they want hidden until 2059?

None of the other military units that served in Divis during these years felt that way. According to records compiled by our resourceful researcher Bob Mitchell, nine British regiments served in Divis Flats between October 1970 and April 1975. The list can be seen below in the graphic and it records that only one regiment cannot be traced in the Kew archive, the Third Battalion Light Infantry. Of the other eight, all can be traced and aside from the Gloucesters, none asked that its war diary(ies) be embargoed or were ordered by the MoD to be embargoed even though some of them, like the Royal Green Jackets and the Royal Anglian Regiment were posted to Divis during the worst periods of violence.

So what was it that the First Gloucesters were involved in, in Divis Flats that made them so different from seven of their brother regiments?

Our research also brought us to journals and magazines produced by British regiments during the 1970’s which describe in sometimes fascinating detail their activities while posted to Northern Ireland. The Royal Green Jackets (RGJ) Chronicle is a particularly rich source of information.

The RGJ were posted to Belfast for the second time in August 1973 and a single company, ‘B’ Coy, was sent to Divis where, according to the account produced in that year’s Chronicle, priority was given to cultivating sources in the local population. While the Chronicle makes light of the way this was done, it seems that female residents of Divis were especially targeted. The account, which can be read in full below, concludes: “….by the end of the tour, all sections had established a friendly contact here and there.”

Standard Practice

So cultivating and recruiting intelligence sources from the population of Divis Flats, and possibly from female residents, appears to have been standard operating practice for British units, which common sense suggests would be the case. It is something the British would have done as a matter of course and not just in Divis.

A key part of Brendan Hughes’ story concerned the radio that was allegedly discovered in Jean McConville’s flat and with which she is supposed to have communicated with her handlers in Hastings Street RUC station which had become the British Army’s local HQ. In his interview with Boston College, Hughes did not describe the radio in any detail but it appears that it was what most people would know as a walkie-talkie type radio, small and compact, easy to hide and use.

The problem is that some people have raised doubts about whether the British Army had access to such equipment in the early 1970’s and that the only radios in use at that time were heavy, bulky sets totally unsuitable for use by an agent such as Jean McConville. In fact that is not true and the source for this is the Saville report on the Bloody Sunday killings of January 1972.

Paragraph 181.13 of the report reads:

“We should also record that there is evidence that before Bloody Sunday some of the resident battalions were, at platoon level only, using portable Stornophone radios in place of Larkspur radios. A number of former soldiers serving in Londonderry recalled having Stornophone radios available on 30th January 1972. Often nicknamed “Stornos”, these radios, like the Pye radios discussed above, were a commercially produced system purchased by the Army. There is little doubt that the use of Stornophone radios was a consequence of the fallibility of Larkspur radios in built-up areas.”

Stornophone radios were ideal for agent use. Manufactured by the Norwegian Storno Company, the average set was 10” long. 2.5” wide and 1” thick, it had a rechargeable battery pack and a simple ‘push to talk’ operation. The question then is whether Stornophone radios were available to British troops in Divis in early 1972 and the answer is yes.

The answer comes from the ‘Soldiers of Gloucestershire’ website, which is dedicated to all things to do with the Gloucestershire Regiment, including a massive collection, dating back to the 18th century, of paintings, prints and photographs of the regiment during its various campaigns and wars, including its various tours to Northern Ireland.

One photograph shows a soldier from the Gloucesters on patrol in Divis Flats in 1972 holding and maybe using a Storno-type hand held radio.

Here is the photo:


So a hand held walkie-talkie type radio of the sort that Brendan Hughes said was found in Jean McConville’s flat was in use by soldiers from the First Gloucestershire regiment in Divis Flats in 1972, the year she was abducted & killed, and the war diary for that tour has been embargoed until 2059. A cloud now hangs over the Gloucestershire regiment which can only be dispelled by full disclosure of the unit’s archives.

Military Sources

There is one final issue that arises out of the Police Ombudsman’s report on Jean McConville’s disappearance. It derives from a section of her report dealing with intelligence reports on the whereabouts of Jean McConville after she disappeared from Divis. That section was summarised in a press release dated August 13th, 2006 from the Police Ombudsman’s office. Here is the relevant section:

“There is no intelligence about or from Mrs McConville until 2 January 1973. An examination of RUC intelligence files show that the first intelligence was received on January 2 1973 when police received two pieces of information which said that the Provisional IRA had abducted Mrs McConville.

“On January 16 1973, Mrs McConville’s disappearance and the plight of her children were reported in the media. A police spokesman was quoted as saying that although the matter had not been reported to them, it was being investigated.

“RUC intelligence files show that the next day police received two pieces of information about the disappearance: One claimed that Mrs McConville was being held by the Provisional IRA in Dundalk. The other also alleged that the Provisionals were behind the abduction and suggested it was related to drug dealing.

“The RUC intelligence files also show that the police later received two separate pieces of information from military sources which suggested that Mrs McConville was not missing: The first was received on March 13 1973 and suggested that the abduction was an elaborate hoax. The second piece of information, which was received 11 days later, said that Mrs McConville had left of her own free will and was known to be safe.”

There is a clear pattern here. Intelligence coming in to the RUC in the first weeks after her disappearance was remarkably accurate. The Provisional IRA had abducted her. Check. Jean McConville was being held in Dundalk. Check. A second report again said that the Provisonals had abducted her. Check. The same report claimed a drug connection which was clearly wrong. But this is the only piece of inaccurate intelligence coming into the RUC at this time.

But then in mid-March the story changes dramatically. Two separate pieces of intelligence from military sources throw cold water on the abduction explanation. One, on March 13th, says that the story of Jean McConville’s kidnapping was “an elaborate hoax”. A second report on March 24th claimed she had left Belfast of her own free will and was safe.

So who were these military sources?

Nuala O’Loan does not tell us. But here is an interesting coincidence. On April 2nd, 1973 the First Gloucestershire Regiment arrived in Belfast for a four month tour – their second since late 1971, early 1972 – and two days later took over duties from the Queens Lancashire Regiment.

It was standard operational procedure for advance parties to arrive several weeks ahead of the main regimental force and included in them would be an intelligence unit. This was done so that the new regiment would be able to ease in to its new duties. So an intelligence unit from the 1st Gloucesters would likely have been in West Belfast when those reports were sent to the RUC saying that Jean McConville was safe. Did the 1st Gloucesters create those intelligence reports or have any hand in them? We don’t know. Perhaps the information is contained in those embargoed War Diaries. That’s another reason they should be opened.

As I say, the war diary may reveal absolutely nothing about Jean McConville at all, in which case her surviving family have everything to gain by knowing this. And so do the First Gloucesters, whose name deserves to be cleared if the regiment is innocent of any suspicion attached to it.

But if the diary does reveal information that the family would probably regard as unwelcome then they and everyone else will have to deal with it. We need to know the truth about what happened to Jean McConville. Hiding facts behind embargoes is unacceptable when others are being forced by legal measures to disclose theirs. Equally, lying about the past by those involved in these events is as intolerable as continuing to exploit an agent whose cover has been blown.

One way or another we need to know what is written in the embargoed War Diaries of the First Gloucestershire regiment.