16 Sept 2016Ivor Bell leaves Laganside Court on Friday. The Veteran republican is due to stand trial for the involvement in the 1972 murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville. (Picture: Pacemaker)A veteran republican charged in connection with the IRA murder of a mother of 10 is to undergo medical examination to determine whether he is fit to plead.
Ivor Bell, 79, faces two counts of soliciting Jean McConville's killing in 1972.
The defendant was due to plead at a scheduled arraignment hearing in Belfast Crown Court ahead of his trial.
But the hearing was adjourned after Bell's barrister told the judge a medical exam was to be commissioned.
Granting the four week adjournment, judge Seamus Treacy said: "This relates to unfitness to plead issues."
White-haired, moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, sat in the dock during the brief legal exchanges.
His lawyers have made clear the pensioner denies the offences at previous hearings.
A number of Mrs McConville's children watched on from the public gallery.
The 37-year-old mother was dragged from her home in Belfast's Divis flats complex by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women.
She was accused of passing information to the British Army - an allegation later discredited by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.
Mrs McConville was shot in the back of the head and secretly buried 50 miles from her home, becoming one of the "Disappeared" victims of the Troubles.
It was not until 1999 that the IRA admitted the murder when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.
Her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth by a member of the public in August 2003.
Nobody has been convicted of her murder.
The case against Bell is based on the content of tapes police secured from an oral history archive collated by Boston College in the United States.
Academics interviewed a series of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries for their Belfast Project on the understanding that the accounts of the Troubles would remain unpublished until their deaths.
But that undertaking was rendered meaningless when Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) detectives investigating Mrs McConville's death won a court battle in the US to secure the recordings.
It is alleged that one of the interviews was given by Bell - a claim the defendant denies.
Wright is believed to have been abducted, interrogated, shot dead and buried in secret by the IRA in 1972
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
15 Set 2015Friends and family carry the remains of one Séamus Wright. (Photograph: Cathal Mcnaughton/Reuters) The tragedy of Northern Ireland’s “disappeared” was all the more painful because so many of these victims were young, a priest has told mourners at the funeral of an IRA victim missing presumed dead for more than four decades.
After 43 years ex-IRA member Séamus Wright was finally laid to rest in his native Belfast on Tuesday.
He vanished in 1972 alongside Kevin McKee after the IRA suspected the pair of working as undercover agents for a secret army unity known as the Military Reconnaissance Force, which was carrying out a covert war against the IRA in Belfast during the Troubles’ bloodiest year.
They are believed to have been abducted from their homes in west Belfast, driven across the border, interrogated, shot dead and buried in secret.
DNA tests confirmed that remains found this summer at a bog in County Meath in the Irish Republic were those of Wright and McKee, whose funeral took place in Belfast on Monday.
At a requiem mass for Wright at St Agnes’s parish church in the Andersonstown area of west Belfast on Tuesday, mourners heard that Wright was a “deeply committed” family man with a “strong religious dimension” to his life.
The parish priest said: “He died a young man – just 25 years of age – and the death of a young person seems to hit us harder.” In his homily during mass Father Brendan Callanan added: “It has taken a long time for us to come to this point but we are here.”
Digging is continuing at the site where their remains were found. The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains believes the remains of another victim, the former monk turned IRA activist Joe Lynskey, are also in Coghalstown bog.
The most notorious case of the disappeared was that of Jean McConville, a widow and mother of 10 who was kidnapped, taken in a car from west Belfast across the border to the republic, shot dead and buried at a beach in Co Louth.
The former Belfast IRA commander and hunger striker Brendan Hughes claimed the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, had given the order for McConville to be killed and buried in secret to avoid political embarrassment for the republican movement. Adams has always denied any connection to the McConville murder or even being in the IRA.
Four people remain on the disappeared list, three of them believed to have been kidnapped and killed by the IRA. The missing presumed dead include SAS Captain Robert Nairac, who vanished while on a covert mission in South Armagh.
The other person on the list is Séamus Ruddy, a County Down schoolteacher and member of the Irish Republican Socialist party. He was abducted, tortured and killed by a faction of the Irish National Liberation Army in Paris in the 1980s. Despite searches in the French capital and in a forest in Normandy, Ruddy’s remains have never been found.
14 Sept 2015Relatives of one of the "Disappeared", victims of Northern Ireland's Troubles, have given him a Christian burial more than 40 years after his murder.
Kevin McKee's remains lay in bog land in the Irish Republic for almost 43 years before they were found earlier this year along with another man the IRA shot and secretly buried during the conflict.
IRA men Mr McKee, 17, and Seamus Wright, 25, both vanished in Belfast in October 1972.
The IRA shot them on the suspicion they were working as British agents.
Fr Michael Murtagh, former Rector of Clonard Monastery, told mourners who had packed into St Peter's Cathedral in West Belfast: "We are here to give Kevin McKee a Christian burial. This is happening 43 years late but it is still important that we do it.
"It is important for Kevin and for his family that they are given the chance to grieve publicly and acknowledge the awful tragedy his murder and secret burial was."
Funerals for both men - Mr Wright's will take place on Tuesday - were arranged after a summer-long wait for confirmation of DNA tests.
Their bodies were recovered from the same shallow grave on reclaimed bog land in Coghalstown, Co Meath, in June during a dig to find a third man killed and "Disappeared" by the IRA.
Mr McKee's disappearance took its toll on each family member, the priest said.
"We remind ourselves how this affected each of his family members, those living and those dead, especially his late mother Mary.
"We acknowledge 43 years of pain, of wondering, of uncertainty and not knowing what had happened.
"We acknowledge that at times there were very few to turn to and it was a lonely road for them to travel."
The hunt for the Disappeared has been overseen by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) - an independent body set up during the peace process to find 16 victims secretly buried by republicans.
The ICLVR was on site for several months this year searching for the remains of former Cistercian monk Joe Lynskey when the two other bodies were found.
It is also only a few miles from where the body of Brendan Megraw was discovered last year following searches at Oristown, Co Meath.
The searches for Mr Lynskey have to date been unsuccessful.
Fr Murtagh commended the process set up to locate the Disappeared.
He said: "It is part of our sometimes faltering peace process that is working."
Mr McKee will lie beside his mother at Blaris cemetery in Lisburn, Co Antrim.
Suspected remains of former monk and one other unearthed on land that was believed to be secret burial place of IRA victims who went missing in 1972
Press AssociationThe Guardian
25 June 2015**Please see also this article by Ed Moloney at The Broken Elbow for further insight: Have The Remains Of Seamus Wright And Kevin McKee Been Found In Co. Meath Bog?The scene in Coghalstown where human remains have been found on reclaimed bogland. (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA)The remains of two bodies have been found on reclaimed bogland in the Irish Republic where three of the so-called IRA Disappeared are believed to have been secretly buried.
A dig on the farmland in Coghalstown, Co Meath, as part of the search for the remains of former monk Joe Lynskey unearthed one body on Thursday morning, the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) said.
A second body was discovered as further examinations took place at the site and preparations were made to take the first body out the ground.
IRA victims Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee are believed to be buried in the same area, the ICLVR said.
“We have always said that we think three bodies are in that area and until there is further identification we just don’t know,” a spokesman said.
It is understood the second set of human remains was unearthed as specialists cleared ground around the first body to prepare it for removal.
Lynskey’s family, who have endured a 43-year wait to give their loved one a proper burial, were notified of the initial discovery and were said to be shocked but relieved at the discovery.
The former Cistercian monk was abducted and murdered by the IRA in August 1972. The group only admitted his disappearance in 2010. Wright, another of the Disappeared believed to be dumped in the bogland, was also from Belfast.Joe Lynskey, a former monk who was executed and secretly buried by the IRA. (Photograph: Wave Trauma Centre/PA)
He was in the IRA and was murdered in the same year by his former colleagues, who accused him of being a British army agent and a member of its Military Reaction Force – an undercover unit.
Wright was married and 25 years old when he went missing in October 1972. He worked as an asphalt layer. McKee, again from Belfast, and in the IRA, he was also murdered in the same year.
He was also suspected of being in the British army agent and the Military Reaction Force. He was interrogated and murdered by the terror group.
Lynskey’s niece, Maria, had been expected to visit the site after the discovery and said her thoughts were with other families awaiting news.
“We would like to thank the [ICLVR] and those who have engaged with the commission in the search for Joe,” she said.
“Our thoughts are with the other families whose loved ones remain disappeared.”
Extensive searches have been carried out at the site for both Wright and McKee, but this year was the first dig for Lynskey’s remains.
Detectives arrest Storey as part of investigation into the abduction, killing and secret burial of Belfast woman in 1972
Press AssociationThe Guardian
27 November 2014Bobby Storey, who was arrested in west Belfast. (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA) A well-known republican has been arrested by detectives investigating the murder of Belfast woman Jean McConville.
Bobby Storey, 58, was detained in the west of the city as part of the overall investigation into the crime.
As well as the murder of the widow in 1972, police are also investigating linked alleged terror offences in the decades since, including IRA pronouncements made about the killing. It is understood Storey has been detained under the provisions of the Terrorism Act.
The abduction, killing and secret burial of McConville, a mother of 10, is one of the most notorious crimes of the Northern Ireland Troubles. The police case lay dormant for decades until a flurry of activity this year, with a series of arrests made, the most high-profile being the four-day detention of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.
Adams, who denies involvement, was released pending a report being sent to prosecutors for assessment.
McConville was dragged from her children in the Divis flats in west Belfast by a gang of up to 12 men and women after being wrongly accused of informing to the security forces. She was interrogated, shot in the back of the head and then buried, becoming one of the “disappeared” victims of the Troubles.
Her body was found in 2003 on a beach in County Louth, 50 miles from her home.
Storey has been taken to the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s serious crime suite in Antrim town for questioning.
Family of Brendan Megraw, who was kidnapped, killed and secretly buried in 1978, appeal for help to find others still missing, presumed dead
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
14 November 2014Brendan Megraw's brothers carry his coffin at his funeral in Belfast. He had been abducted at gunpoint from his home shortly after marrying his pregnant girlfriend. (Photograph: Charles Mcquillan/Getty Images) The family of one of the IRA’s “disappeared” who was finally buried on Friday, 36 years after he vanished in Belfast, have appealed to republicans to help find those victims still missing and presumed dead.
The call was made at the funeral of Brendan Megraw in west Belfast, who was kidnapped, killed and buried in secret by the IRA in 1978.
A priest told mourners that Megraw’s mother, who died in 2002, had prayed for the day when her son would have a Christian burial.
Father Aidan Brankin said Megraw’s family and friends were still praying that those still missing “too will soon be found”.
Brendan Megraw was abducted at gunpoint from his home shortly after he had married his pregnant girlfriend.
Earlier this month, the organisation tasked with finding the “disappeared” confirmed that remains discovered by specialist forensic experts in a Co Meath were those of Megraw.
The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains is currently searching for another missing man, the former Belfast monk Joe Lynskey, who they believe was buried in the same Oristown bog as Megraw.
During his homily at the requiem mass in St Oliver Plunkett church in West Belfast, Brankin said Brigid Megraw “prayed for this day, when Brendan was found and he could have a funeral and be buried in the family grave”.
He added: “Unfortunately, she didn’t get to see that prayer answered, but it is answered today. She wasn’t just praying for Brendan. She prayed for all those who had been taken.
“She shared in the joy of other families of the disappeared when their loved ones were found. She shared their disappointments when a search proved unsuccessful.”
Six of the “disappeared” are still missing – five of them killed and secretly buried by the IRA. They include SAS captain Robert Nairac who was abducted, killed and buried in secret in South Armagh.
The sixth, the only non-IRA victim, was Seamus Ruddy, an Irish National Liberation Army member who was murdered in Paris and then secretly buried somewhere in the French capital. Ruddy was killed as part of an internal INLA feud by a rival faction that kidnapped and tortured him in order to find out the whereabouts of arms and explosives in France destined for another rival grouping in the fractious republican socialist movement.
3 November 2014Brendan McGraw Brendan McGraw was abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1978Human remains found in County Meath at the start of last month were those of IRA murder victim Brendan Megraw, it has been confirmed.
Mr Megraw was one of the 16 murder victims who became known as the Disappeared
His remains were found in a drainage ditch on Oristown bog, near Kells, by contractors called in to prepare the site for forensic excavations.
DNA tests have positively identified the remains as those of Mr Megraw.
The coroner for the city of Dublin has accepted this as evidence of identification and will shortly authorise the release of the remains to the family.
Mr Megraw was 23 when he was abducted from Twinbrook in Belfast in 1978, and murdered by the IRA.
He had recently been married and was awaiting the birth of his daughter.
His kidnappers had drugged his wife Marie in their home as they waited for his return, and as they took him away they warned her not to worry or contact police.
The Megraw family were only told by the IRA in 1999 that he was one of the Disappeared and his body had been dumped on the bogland near the town of Kells in County Meath.
Three previous searches for Mr Megraw, the most recent in 2010, had been unsuccessful.The remains were discovered in a drainage ditch on Oristown bog, near Kells, County Meath
The Disappeared were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republican paramilitaries during the Troubles.
Separate searches have also taken place on bogland a few miles away from where Mr Megraw was buried in County Meath for the remains of Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright, both of whom were abducted by the IRA in October 1972.
It is also suspected Joseph Lynskey, a former Cistercian monk taken from the Beechmount area of west Belfast in the summer of 1972, was also buried somewhere in the region.
Human remains discovered in drainage ditch on County Meath bog are believed to belong to 23-year-old missing since 1978
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
10 October 2014
**Please see also Ed Moloney's post: The Disappearance Of Brendan MegrawA body believed to be one of the IRA’s “disappeared” has been found during searches in the Irish Republic.
Specialist teams searching for Brendan Megraw, who has been missing presumed dead since 1978, discovered human remains on the Oristown bog in Co Meath on Wednesday. They were uncovered in a drainage ditch on the bog near the town of Kells.
The Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) – set up by the British and Irish governments to find the disappeared – confirmed a body was being recovered from the bogland.
“The [Irish] state pathologist will begin the process of a postmortem and formal identification,” a spokesman said.Brendan Megraw, one of the Disappeared
Megraw was one of 17 people kidnapped, killed and buried in secret mainly by the Provisional IRA during the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Ten bodies of those victims have so far been recovered.
The 23-year-old west Belfast man vanished from the Twinbrook area in April 1978 just before he was going to be a father. The IRA had accused him of being a state agent who worked for British military intelligence. However, they never revealed the whereabouts of his body after he was shot dead and his family has had to wait almost 40 years to give him a Christian burial.
Forensic archaeologists have been on the Oristown bog for a month searching not only for Megraw’s remains but also those of Kevin McKee and Seamus Wright. The IRA also accused McKee and Wright of working as agents for a clandestine British army unit in 1972.
The area around the bog is also the suspected burial ground of Joe Lynskey, a former Irish Cistercian monk whom the IRA also accused of being a British agent in 1972.
The practice of “bogging” victims accused by the IRA of informing or working for the security forces dates back to the early Troubles.Forensic archaeologists examine Oristown bog, near Kells, Co Meath, where a body has been found. (Photograph: Niall Carson/PA)
Jean McConville is the most famous of the disappeared to have been found so far. The mother of 10 was kidnapped, killed and buried in secret in December 1972 after the Belfast IRA claimed she was passing on information from the Divis Flats complex to the army – a charge her children have always denied.
The former Belfast IRA commander Brendan Hughes posthumously claimed in taped testimony, for the US university Boston College, that Gerry Adams gave the order for the widow to be shot dead but buried clandestinely in order to avoid any negative publicity for the republican movement.
Adams has always denied any connection with the murder and disappearance of McConville. The Sinn Féin president has also rejected allegations from Hughes and other IRA veterans that he was second in command of the Provisionals or was ever even a member of the organisation.
17 Sept 2014
**More links onsiteTributes have been paid to a forensic archaeologist who led the searches for the Disappeared - people murdered and secretly buried by republicans during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
John McIlwaine, grew up Portadown, County Armagh, but worked at the University of Bradford.
He died at the age of 49 on Tuesday night.
He was in charge of the team that recovered the remains of Danny McIlhone in 2008 and Charlie Armstrong in 2010.
Mr Armstrong's daughter Anna McShane recognised his dedication.
"I remember him as an awfully nice man who was so good to our family. He worked tirelessly in the most dreadful conditions to find my father," she said.
"May he rest in peace."'Huge contribution'
Mr McIlwaine had previously described it as a "privilege" to lead searches for the Disappeared and said their success had far outstripped predictions at the start of the process.Mr McIlwaine had previously described it as a "privilege" to lead searches for the Disappeared
Geoff Knupfer, the chief forensic scientist and investigator with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR), said: "John began work with the ICLVR in 2006 and with his great knowledge and experience made a huge contribution to our work.
"Searching for the Disappeared in bleak and inhospitable places requires a special kind of dedication and commitment as well as great skill and that is what John had in abundance."Charlie Armstrong Charlie Armstrong's daughter paid tribute to Mr McIlwaine and said he had worked tirelessly to find her father
Seventeen people - 16 men and a woman - were abducted and murdered by republicans between 1972 and 2003.
The ICLVR was established in 1999 to obtain information in strictest confidence that may lead to the location of the remains of the Disappeared.
The bodies of 10 people have been recovered.'Shock and sorrow'
Sandra Peake, from the Wave Trauma Centre, which has supported the families of the Disappeared since 1995, said: "John had a way of humanising the science which helped families understand more clearly what was being done to find their loved ones.
"There was a bond between John and the families and that is reflected today in the number of them who have contacted Wave to express their shock and sorrow."
A spokesman for the University of Bradford said staff and students had been left shocked by the tragedy.
"John was an incredibly motivated, loyal and reliable individual," he said.
"He inspired and supported hundreds of students in archaeological sciences, he supported the local community in West Yorkshire in so many ways and he achieved a life's ambition in helping to ameliorate the pain and suffering of families of the Disappeared.
"This is a very sad time for staff and students at the University of Bradford, both present and past."
Four decades after her mother was abducted and murdered by the IRA, Helen McKendry is still seeking justice
Elizabeth DayThe Guardian
6 July 2014Helen McKendry, daughter of Jean McConville: 'We knew the IRA had taken her, but being 15 you don't think they're going to kill her.' Helen holds the only photograph the family has of their mother. (Photo from Independent.ie.) The year 1972 was the worst of Helen McKendry's life. It started with the death of her father, Arthur McConville, from a brain tumour in January. It ended with the brutal abduction and murder of her mother, Jean, by the Provisional IRA just before Christmas.
Jean McConville was 38 at the time and the mother of 10 children. On the evening of 7 December a mob of four women and eight men stormed into the family's home in the Divis Tower in Belfast, a high-rise block of flats that looms over the intersection between the Falls and Shankill roads.
The 15-year-old McKendry had gone out to get fish and chips for tea. She left behind her six younger siblings, ranging in age from 11 to six-year-old twins. They witnessed their mother being hauled out of the flat at gunpoint and bundled into the back of a van, struggling for her life.
"When I came back, the kids were all screaming and shouting, 'They've taken our mother!'" McKendry recalls. "I was out of the house for 20 minutes. When I came back, she was gone. That was the time it took to take her."
She never saw her mother again. For a long time, the orphaned McConville children never knew what had happened to her. They were mystified as to why she had been targeted. There were rumours, in the aftermath, that their mother had been passing information to the British forces because her husband, Arthur, had been a soldier in the British army, like his father before him. There were whispers, too, that she had abandoned her family to pursue a love affair with a British soldier or that she had gone to live with a loyalist paramilitary and that she'd had more children with him.
"I'd like to know how, given she had a hysterectomy after the twins," McKendry says now with a short, bitter laugh.
McConville was taken at the height of the Troubles, at a time when the long-running conflict between unionists and republicans had escalated into regular bomb attacks and terrifying sprees of violence. It was a nightmarish era when bad things just happened and no one wanted to ask questions as to why they were happening for fear of swift and brutal reprisal. For years, no one spoke out. The police did not investigate properly. The children were split up and went into care.
In 1999, the IRA finally admitted responsibility for the murder. Jean McConville's body was not recovered until 2003, when it was found by walkers on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth, across the border in the Irish Republic. In the intervening years, a fragile peace had broken out, cemented by the 1998 Good Friday agreement and the eventual disarmament of the IRA.The sons of Jean McConville carry her remains to St Pauls church, in October 2003, past Divis Tower, from where she was abducted. (Photograph: Getty Images)
More than four decades have passed since the night of her mother's abduction but McKendry still remembers every detail with horrible clarity. She remembers that her mother was wearing black trousers, a white blouse and a purple cardigan. She remembers that her mother had been running a bath. She remembers, too, the last thing Jean ever said to her: "Don't be stopping for a sneaky smoke. Get straight back."
McKendry chuckles as she repeats the words. She is sitting on a garden chair on the open terrace of the house near Strangford Lough she shares with her husband, Seamus. The house has wooden shutters and flowerbeds filled with mature roses, and overlooks a stretch of fields. The beauty and peace of the setting sit oddly with the story McKendry is recounting. But the deep lines on her 56-year-old face tell a different tale: of endurance, pain and survival. She takes a final long drag on a cigarette, stubbing it out in an ashtray already littered with butts.
"I'm back on the cigarettes, which I was off for the last year," McKendry says. "And then, come April, when Mr Adams was arrested, the first thing I did was reach for a cigarette."
Just over two months ago, Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin, was arrested by Northern Ireland police in connection with the Jean McConville murder. His name had been cited by two former republicans, Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, in a series of interviews with ex-paramilitaries conducted by Boston College in America as part of an oral history project on the Troubles. The tapes were made on the proviso that no material would be released until after the participants' death.
But the Police Service of Northern Ireland launched a legal battle in 2011 to gain access to the transcripts and they were eventually handed over. Both Price and Hughes, who viewed Adams as a traitor for negotiating the Good Friday Agreement, had claimed that he was involved in McConville's murder and that McConville was an informer to the British army. Hughes, a former hunger striker, alleged that Adams, as a fellow IRA commander, had ordered McConville's killing and her secret burial so that her death could not be blamed on the organisation.
When Adams presented himself at a police station on the evening of 30 April for questioning, he dismissed the case against him as "malicious allegations". Sinn Féin said the arrest was politically motivated, coming as it did just a few weeks before the European elections. He was released after four days of questioning.
But McKendry believes that Adams was involved. She is waiting to see whether there is enough evidence for the Public Prosecution Service to proceed. If not, she is considering mounting a civil action against him.
Have the McKendrys ever confronted Adams with what they claim to know?
"We had a meeting with him years ago, in early 1995," says Seamus. "He arrived at our front door on a Sunday with bodyguards…"
"…like he was a celebrity," Helen interjects.
"It was all the usual bullshit," Seamus continues. "[He said] 'Sinn Féin can say categorically they aren't involved.' He wouldn't look Helen in the eye."
"He wouldn't use my mother's name," she says. "He just referred to her as 'she' and 'her'."
At some point during the meeting, Helen started listing the names of the people she believed to have been involved in the abduction of her mother.
"Each name, he'd say: 'Och, I know her. She's a great girl. There's no way she'd do anything like that,'" says Seamus, shaking his head.
Despite seven arrests, the only suspect charged to date in relation to the McConville case is veteran republican Ivor Bell. The 77-year-old former IRA negotiator with the British government has been charged with aiding and abetting the murder, which he denies. Even if he is found guilty, the other members of the mob who broke into the McConville flat that winter's night in 1972 are still at large.
Today, the McKendrys insist they are ready to cooperate with the police. "I will name names," says Helen. "I'm not scared of dying. If I die, I know I have five children who will carry on the campaign." Helen is convinced she knows who kidnapped and killed her mother, terrorising six small children in the process and dramatically changing the course of her own life. She says she sees some of them in the street. Once, she ran into one of them in McDonald's in Belfast when she was with her 15-year-old daughter and the woman in question started shouting at McKendry to stop "harassing" her.
Whoever the perpetrators might be, there is little doubt that there has been a conspiracy of silence around the McConville killing. For years she was categorised simply as one of the "disappeared" – one of the lost people abducted, killed and buried at secret locations by the IRA whose ghosts were never quite laid to rest.
Even now that her body has been found, feelings still run high. On the drive out to the McKendrys' house there is a red-brick wall on the outskirts of Belfast scrawled with graffiti denouncing Jean McConville as a "tout" (local slang for an informer).
It is an accusation McKendry has no time for – and indeed a police ombudsman investigation found no evidence to support the charge that she was an informer. "My mother brought us up to respect law and order," she says. "Any sign of trouble at all, she made sure we were all in the house. If she heard my brothers were picking up stones to throw, she'd have been mental, like."
But in the Lower Falls district, it was Jean McConville's misfortune to stand out. She had been born a Protestant, had married a British soldier and had no family roots in the area. She had once been seen helping a wounded British soldier in the street outside her home. Her card was marked.
When, in the autumn of 1972 the Provo leadership in Belfast was concerned about information being passed to British soldiers by local women attending discos in the army barracks at Mulhouse Street, it seems they decided to make an example of someone. They chose Jean McConville.
There are those who believe the McKendrys should let sleeping dogs lie, that by continuing their fight for justice they are raking over the past and doing more harm than good. They point out that if Adams is put on trial, it has the potential to derail Northern Ireland's fragile peace.
"Those who say that have never really been harmed by what went on in this country," Helen insists. "It's easy for them to say. I just want them to tell the truth. That's all."
The McKendrys are used to threats – in 2000, their neighbour's barn was set on fire in an attack the police believe was meant for them. Until three years ago, they had security cameras surrounding the house and a direct line to the police station.
"We took everything down," says Helen. "I didn't want my grandchildren being around it. That's not a way to live. I spent my life being afraid of those people and I refuse to do it any longer."
Isn't she scared?
"No," she says. "Not at all. Because if I give up fighting, they've won."Jean McConville's children being interviewed on TV in 1973, after their mother had been abducted.
It took a long time for Helen McKendry to fight. In the immediate aftermath of her mother's disappearance, she was left in charge of her younger siblings. Her older brother and sister went to live at their grandmother's. Her eldest brother, Robert, had been interned as soon as he turned 17, after the authorities deemed him a terror suspect. So at the age of 15, McKendry found herself in loco parentis. She had no money and no one she trusted to call on for help. For a week she roamed the local streets, looking for her mother.
"We knew the IRA had taken her," McKendry says now. "But being 15, you don't think they're going to kill her."
For six long weeks, she battled to keep everyone's head above water. Clothes went unwashed because she had no money to go to the launderette. She had to beg neighbours for bread and butter. On Christmas Eve, a community worker turned up and took her to the local shop where a shopkeeper handed over a bag of toys.
"He told me my mother had been paying those toys off for weeks," says McKendry. "That Christmas morning, no one wanted to know. And the Christmas before, we'd had to take the decorations down because my father was expected to die on Christmas Day."
In January, a man appeared at the door and handed over Jean McConville's purse, which contained 52p and three of her rings. Still, McKendry refused to believe her mother was dead: "I thought they'd found it somewhere."
Eventually, McKendry cracked. The younger children were "going a little bit wild. I think it was to draw attention to ourselves so that someone would help, but no one did… I just couldn't take it any more so I asked welfare to take us into care. We were all split into different homes."
She talks neutrally, in an even tone. There is no visible emotion as she recounts this horrifying period of her young life. Her entire demeanour suggests a kind of forced acceptance, as though terror and trauma were simply things you had to live with and get through as best you could. Because Belfast in the 1970s was a place where you got used to mayhem.
The McConvilles had already been "hit from every side" during the course of the Troubles. Jean, born a Protestant, had converted to Catholicism to marry her husband. In 1969, the family were dragged out of their house in a loyalist area and made to leave. When they ended up in Divis Tower, their home was raided "every other night" by the IRA.
"You just lived with it," McKendry explains. "You spent half your time outdoors because there was a bomb indoors. We didn't have normal teenage years. You hadn't really much of a life."
Nor was this the first time Jean McConville had been kidnapped. McKendry says that the night before her death, the IRA had bundled her into a van and taken her to a derelict building but she had managed to escape and was later found by soldiers wandering the streets barefoot and bedraggled.
"I had to go to the barracks and bring her home," says McKendry. "She didn't want to go to bed. She barricaded up the front door. I begged her to go to her mother in east Belfast, but she wouldn't do it."
Her decision to stay with her family would prove to be a fatal one. And it would have lasting consequences on the lives of all her children.
When the children were taken into care, Helen ended up in Nazareth Lodge, a children's home run by nuns on Belfast's Ravenhill Road. She hated it. The nuns were strict and subjected their charges to physical punishments.
"We weren't shown any love or affection or anything," Helen recalls.
"They ran it like a stalag," says Seamus.
It was at Nazareth Lodge that the couple first met. Seamus had been working in the home as an apprentice joiner for his uncle and he remembers Helen catching his eye in the canteen. Two years later, they met again at a working men's club where Helen was waitressing. They married at 18.
From the beginning Seamus, who describes himself as "a serving republican", was committed to finding out the truth of what had happened to Jean McConville. But he told his young wife that if he ever discovered she had indeed been an informer, he would walk away.
"As a friend said to me: 'You must be the only man in Ireland going out looking for his mother-in-law.'" He laughs.
Tentatively, the couple began putting out feelers – asking the odd discreet question here and there and seeking out people who might be able to tell them what happened. But it wasn't until Helen's eldest sister, Agnes, died in 1992 at the age of 39 that she realised she had to go further. Agnes had suffered a brain injury as a baby and lived a life in and out of institutions.
"The coffin came into the house and I looked inside and she looked so like my mother – so like her," Helen says. "I made a promise to my sister that she would be the last one to go to her grave without knowing what had happened to my mother.
"Before the campaign I suffered an awful lot with depression. I was drinking. I relied on drink to get me to sleep at night and I didn't want to be an alcoholic. The only thing to do was get off my arse and do something about it."
By the early 1990s, Northern Ireland was changing. There was open talk of a ceasefire. On the 22nd anniversary of Jean McConville's disappearance, Helen gave an interview to a local radio show demanding that the Provisional IRA admit responsibility for the killing. For years, she had lived with the shameful feeling that no one believed her.
"The day the programme came out, the phone was ringing off the wall," she says. "Call after call after call of people saying 'We're so sorry, we never knew…'"
Her candour encouraged many other relatives of missing loved ones to come forward and the issue of the "disappeared" finally emerged from the silent shadows.
But it hasn't been easy. Her openness caused a rift with some of her siblings, who thought the best thing to do was to keep quiet. Her brother Michael had told his children their grandmother died of cancer. It seemed less painful that way.
It has taken a toll, too, on the McKendrys' marriage and their five children. There were occasions when they thought they wouldn't make it. They had blazing rows and Seamus would disappear for days at a time.
"It was pent-up anger," he says now. "Campaigning publicly gave us a release valve."Jean McConville (left) with three of her children before she vanished in 1972. (Photograph: Pa/PA Archive/Press Association Image)
At one point they thought about emigrating to Australia, but Helen couldn't leave with questions unanswered. She still can't.
She tells me she is not resentful about the past – there's no point: she was just unlucky to get caught up in the mayhem. In the end, all you could do in that mad, mad time was withstand. All you could do was keep on surviving. You couldn't try to understand it.
"It makes no sense," she says. "What should have been the best years of our lives were ruined. And for what?"
There is only one photograph of Jean McConville. It's black-and-white, a bit blurry. Over the years, Helen has got used to posing with it in her hands for television interviewers and newspaper photographers, but she doesn't think it does her mother justice. She was, Helen says, a good-looking woman – dark-haired and olive-skinned, what the Irish call a "Galway Spaniard". The photograph doesn't capture her, not entirely.
Helen prefers to remember her at a party, when both her parents were still alive.
"My mother didn't drink but somebody had given her a drink that night and she got up and started singing," Helen recalls. "My father was very embarrassed. He was saying 'We have to get you home.' She sang I'm Nobody's Child. She always loved that sort of country and western music."
McKendry lets the thought drift, like a wisp of smoke from the cigarettes she should have given up. It was the last song Jean McConville would ever sing: Nobody's Child, but somebody's mother to the end.
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK
Associated PressWashington Post
30 April 2014Gerry AdamsDUBLIN — Police in Northern Ireland arrested Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams on Wednesday over his alleged involvement in the Irish Republican Army’s 1972 abduction, killing and secret burial of a Belfast widow.
Adams, 65, confirmed his own arrest in a prepared statement and described it as a voluntary, prearranged interview.
Police long had been expected to question Adams about the killing of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of 10 whom the IRA killed with a single gunshot to the head as an alleged spy.
According to all authoritative histories of the Sinn Fein-IRA movement, Adams served as an IRA commander for decades, but he has always denied holding any position in the outlawed group.
“I believe that the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice to her and her family,” Adams said. “Well publicized, malicious allegations have been made against me. I reject these. While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs. McConville.”
Reflecting the embarrassment associated with killing a widowed mother, the IRA did not admit the killing until 1999, when it claimed responsibility for nearly a dozen slayings of long-vanished civilians and offered to try to pinpoint their unmarked graves. McConville’s children had been told she abandoned them, and they were divided into different foster homes.
Her remains were discovered only by accident near a Republic of Ireland beach in 2003. The woman’s skull bore a single bullet mark through the back of the skull, and forensics officer determined she’d been shot once through back of the head with a rifle.Jean McConville and children
Adams was implicated in the killing by two IRA veterans, who gave taped interviews to researchers for a Boston College history archive on the four-decade Northern Ireland conflict. Belfast police waged a two-year legal fight in the United States to acquire the interviews, parts of which already were published after the 2008 death of one IRA interviewee, Brendan Hughes.
Boston College immediately handed over the Hughes tapes. The college and researchers fought unsuccessfully to avoid handover tapes of the second IRA interviewee, Dolours Price, who died last year.
Both Hughes and Price agreed to be interviewed on condition that their contents were kept confidential until their deaths.
In his interviews Hughes, a reputed 1970s deputy to Adams within the Belfast IRA, said McConville was killed on Adams’ orders. Hughes said Adams oversaw a special IRA unit called “The Unknowns” that was committed to identifying, killing and secretly burying Belfast Catholic civilians suspected of spying on behalf of the police or British Army. An independent investigation by Northern Ireland’s police complaints watchdog in 2006 found no evidence that McConville had been a spy.
Hughes told the researchers he led the IRA team that “arrested” McConville, but her fate was sealed following a policy argument between Adams and the man he succeeded as Belfast commander, Ivor Bell.
He said Bell wanted McConville’s body to be put on public display to intimidate other people from helping the British, but Adams wanted her killing kept mysterious.
“There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed,” Hughes said in the audio recording, which was broadcast on British and Irish television in 2010. “That man is now the head of Sinn Fein. I did not give the order to execute that woman. He did.”
A 2010 book written by the lead researcher, journalist Ed Moloney, “Voices From the Grave,” also quoted Hughes as describing Adams as the IRA’s “Belfast Brigade” commander who oversaw planning of the first car-bomb attacks in London in March 1973.
Adams and Hughes were arrested together in July 1973, when the British Army pounced on an IRA commanders’ meeting in West Belfast. Both were interned without trial. Adams was repeatedly interrogated for suspected involvement in IRA bombings and shootings, but was never convicted of any IRA offense besides a failed prison escape during his mid-1970s internment.
Last month Belfast detectives investigating the McConville killing arrested and charged Bell, now 77, with IRA membership and aiding McConville’s murder.
Price, who was a member of the IRA’s 1973 London car-bombing unit, died last year of a suspected drug overdose. She gave interviews to journalists admitting she had driven McConville across the Irish border, where another IRA member shot McConville once through the back of the head. It remains unclear what precisely she told the Boston College project.
Adams was the longtime British Parliament member for West Belfast, although like all Sinn Fein politicians he refused to take his seat in London, citing the required oath of allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II.
He never held a post in Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government, the central peacemaking institution established in the wake of the Good Friday accord of 1998. He stepped down as West Belfast’s MP in 2011 and won election to the Republic of Ireland parliament, where he represents the same border area, County Louth, where McConville’s body was found.
Suzanne Breen Independent.ie
24 March 2014Sources close to the investigation said it was "far from over" and that detectives want more information on anyone suspected of involvement in the murder, including Mr Adams.
The Sinn Fein president strongly denies any involvement in the Belfast mother of 10's abduction and death in 1972.
The PSNI is also seeking to question former IRA man turned writer Anthony McIntyre about his Boston College interviews with ex-Provisionals on Ms McConville's murder.
As the interviewer for the US university's oral history project, Mr McIntyre's evidence would be crucial in the case against Bell – and any other alleged former IRA leaders who may in future be charged with involvement.
Belfast Magistrates Court heard on Saturday that Bell was an interviewee in one of the tapes and was known as 'Man Z' – something which Bell denies.
The 77-year-old is charged with IRA membership and aiding and abetting in the murder of Jean McConville.
Other alleged former IRA members are expected to be arrested in coming weeks by detectives – who have in their possession tapes of seven republicans, who are all still alive, allegedly discussing the McConville killing.TAPE
It is understood the PSNI wants to question Mr McIntyre about Bell's alleged interview and the conditions in which it took place, in order to corroborate the claims allegedly made on the tape.
Mr McIntyre would also be quizzed as to whether Bell was 'Man Z'.
However, sources said there were "absolutely no circumstances" in which Mr McIntyre would co-operate with police.
Refusal to do so could result in him facing charges of withholding information – but the sources said he would "go to jail rather than compromise source protection".
Mr McIntyre is a member of the National Union of Journalists and the issue is to be raised with the union this week.
The ex-IRA man has previously said he has "every sympathy with the McConville family in their search for truth recovery" – but added that "journalists, academics, and researchers need protection if they are to gain the necessary information which offers a valuable insight into the past".
As the lead researcher for the Belfast project for Boston College between 2001 and 2006, Mr McIntyre conducted over 170 interviews with 26 republicans. They were undertaken on the agreement that they wouldn't be released until after the interviewee's death.
Tapes of now-deceased IRA members Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes – who both accused Gerry Adams of ordering Jean McConville's murder – were handed over to the PSNI by Boston College.
However, a major legal battle followed over the taped interviews of republicans who are still alive.
Ivor Bell (77) refused bail on charges relating to 1972 murder of Jean McConvilleIrish Times
22 March 2014The police case against a veteran republican charged in connection with the notorious IRA murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at a US college, a court has heard.
The claim was made as Ivor Bell (77) was refused bail and remanded in custody by a district judge in Belfast accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.
Boston College interviewed a number of former paramilitaries about the Troubles on the understanding transcripts would not be published until after their deaths.
But that undertaking was rendered ineffective when a US court last year ordered that the tapes be handed over to PSNI detectives.
The interviews included claims about the murder of Mrs McConville, who was abducted by the IRA at her home at Divis Flats, Belfast in 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
Applying for bail, Peter Corrigan, representing Bell, told district judge Amanda Henderson that the prosecution case was that an interviewee on one of the Boston tapes, referred to only as ‘Z ’, was his client.
But the solicitor insisted the person interviewed on the tape had denied any involvement in the murder.
“During those interviews Z explicitly states that he was not involved with the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Mr Corrigan also questioned the evidential value of the interviews, pointing out that they had not been conducted by trained police officers.
“The defence submits that the evidence does not amount to a row of beans in relation to the murder of Jean McConville,” he said.
Grey-haired moustachioed Bell, from Ramoan Gardens in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast, sat impassively in the dock wearing a grey jumper as his lawyer made the claims.
Some of Mrs McConville’s children watched on from the public gallery.
A PSNI detective inspector, who earlier told the judge he could connect the accused with the charges, rejected Mr Corrigan’s interpretation of the Boston College interview.
He claimed the transcript actually indicated Bell had “played a critical role in the aiding, abetting, counsel and procurement of the murder of Jean McConville”.
The officer said he opposed bail on the grounds that the defendant would likely flee the jurisdiction. He revealed that he had previously used an alias to travel to Spain and predicted he could use contacts within the IRA to travel beyond Northern Ireland.
But Mr Corrigan said that was out of the question, noting that his client suffered from a range of serious medical conditions, that his family was based in Belfast and that he had “every incentive” to stay in Northern Ireland to prove his innocence.
“Are the prosecution seriously suggesting that a man in this serious ill health, who can’t walk up steps, is going to abscond for an offence where he has every incentive to attend court?” he said.
Judge Henderson said the case was a very “significant and sensitive” one and praised those in court for acting with dignity through the hearing.
She said she was more convinced with the argument the prosecution had made.
“I am persuaded by the prosecution in this case and on that basis I am refusing bail,” she said.
Bell was remanded in custody to appear before court again next month.
He waved to supporters in the public gallery as he was led out of the dock.
Mrs McConville was dragged away from her children by an IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused of passing information to the British Army in Belfast.
An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the allegations.
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 gardaí.
She became one of the so-called Disappeared, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.
Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.
After the hearing Mrs McConville’s son Michael said the family’s thoughts were with their mother.
“The pain of losing her has not diminished over the decades since she was taken from us murdered and secretly buried,” he said.
“She is in our hearts and our thoughts always. Whatever the future holds nothing will ever change that”.
Ivor Bell appears in court over 1972 murder of Jean McConville, in case which could implicate senior Irish republicans
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
22 March 2014Even two decades after the IRA ceasefire, it is a crime from the bloodiest year of the Troubles that continues to haunt senior Irish republicans including Gerry Adams and could yet have fresh ramifications for the peace process.
In a sensational development inside a Belfast court it was alleged that a former IRA negotiator with the British government named fellow republicans involved in the kidnap, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville – one of the most notorious murders of the conflict.
The ex-IRA commander Ivor Bell appeared in Laganside court on Saturday morning where he faced charges of aiding and abetting in the shooting and disappearance of the mother of 10 in 1972.Ivor Bell (BBC image)
The children and grandchildren of the murdered widow were in court to hear a detective allege that Bell was "Mr Z" on a tape recorded for Boston College in the US as part of the Belfast Project, a series of interviews with former IRA and loyalist paramilitaries.
Speaking outside the court, McConville's daughter Helen McKendry told The Observer that she hoped the case would lead to others going on trial for her mother's killing by the IRA.
"I hope this goes all the way up to the top," she said, "All the way up to Gerry Adams. There are more people who need to be in this court to answer what happened to my mother."
The McConville family, along with the former IRA Belfast commanding officer Brendan Hughes, have alleged that Adams created a secret unit to hunt down and kill informers in the city during the early part of the Troubles.
Before his death Hughes claimed that Adams gave the order for McConville to be abducted from her home in Divis Flats in west Belfast, taken across the Irish border, killed and buried in secret.
The Sinn Féin president has always denied any involvement in the McConville murder or that he was ever in the IRA.
It was alleged in court that in the recording, Bell implicates himself and other top republicans in the McConville case.
But his defence solicitor, Peter Corrigan, denied Bell had any involvement in the crime and said "the evidence was not credible".
The recording for the Belfast Project, which the Police Service of Northern Ireland obtained through the US courts, is the centrepiece of the crown's case against Bell.
His solicitor said Bell denied any involvement in the IRA murder of McConville.
Appealing for bail for his client, Corrigan stressed that Bell has not been a member of the Provisional IRA since 1985 and had no network around him to aid him to flee Northern Ireland. He told the judge that they would accept "any conditions that you see fit to impose on this defendant".
However, there was light applause from the McConville family in court when the judge, Fiona Bagnall, refused bail.
McConville was the most famous of the "Disappeared" – 16 people whom the IRA accused of being informers and who were shot and buried secretly across Ireland.
The IRA only admitted her murder in 1993 and her body was not discovered until 2003 on a beach in County Louth. No one until today has ever been charged in connection with her murder.
The IRA accused her of passing information to the British army but her family always denied this, claiming she was singled out because she had tended to a wounded soldier outside her flat.
An investigation by the Northern Ireland police ombudsman rejected the allegation she was an informer.
Bell was a senior IRA officer at the time McConville was seized by armed men and women, and torn away from her children in December 1972.
Six months earlier Bell was part of an IRA delegation that secretly met Willie Whitelaw and several British government officials at the late MP Paul Channon's flat in London.
Bell, allegedly alongside Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, the future deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, met Whitelaw and his team to discuss a ceasefire. However, the truce later broke down amid ongoing violence in Belfast.
Bell was later expelled from the IRA for plotting a coup d'etat against its leadership in the mid-1980s and warned he would be "executed" if he set up a rival republican organisation.
The full trial against the veteran republican will begin on 11 April.
21 March 2014Ivor Bell in 1983 when he was released after Supergrass, Robert Lean, withdrew evidence against 11 men (Photo: Belfast Telegraph)A veteran republican has been charged in connection with the IRA murder more than 40 years ago of Belfast mother of 10 Jean McConville.
Ivor Bell, 77, is due to appear in court in Belfast tomorrow accused of aiding and abetting in the murder as well as membership of the IRA.
He was detained at his home in the Andersonstown district of west Belfast on Tuesday.
Mrs McConville, 37, was abducted by the IRA at her home at Divis Flats, Belfast in December 1972, shot dead and then secretly buried.
He murder is one of the most notorious incidents of the Troubles.
She was dragged away from her children by a IRA gang of up to 12 men and women after being accused her of passing information to the British Army in Belfast at the time
An investigation later carried out by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman rejected the allegations.
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 Republic.
She became one of the so-called Disappeared, and it was not until August 2003 that her remains were eventually found on Shelling Hill beach, Co Louth.
Nobody has ever been charged with her murder.
Bell was among of a delegation of republicans, which included Gerry Adams, now the Sinn Féin president, and Martin McGuinness, the North's Deputy First Minister and a former IRA commander in Derry who were flown by the RAF to London to have ceasefire talks with British ministers in 1972.
But the truce collapsed within days.
77-year-old held by detectives investigating IRA's kidnapping, killing and secret burial of Belfast widow Jean McConville
18 Mar 2014A former IRA chief of staff and negotiator for the Provisionals with the British government in 1972 is in custody tonight being questioned about the murder and disappearance of a widow whose death in the same year left 10 children orphaned.
West Belfast republican Ivor Bell was arrested in the city earlier today in connection with one of the most controversial murders of the early years of the Northern Ireland Troubles – the case of "disappeared" mother of 10 Jean McConville. The 77-year-old was detained in the city earlier today by detectives investigating the IRA's kidnapping, killing and secret burial of the Belfast woman in 1972.
Bell was part of an IRA delegation that met William Whitelaw at future Tory minister Paul Channon's flat in London six months before McConville's disappearance.
He and other IRA leaders were trying to negotiate a ceasefire with the British which broke down in the summer of 1972. The republican veteran went on to become a leading figure in the Provisionals but was later sentenced to death by the organisation for allegedly trying to stage a coup d'etat against Gerry Adams in the early 1980s because he became convinced the then West Belfast Sinn Féin MP and others around him were determined to "run down the war" and abandon armed struggle. Since his departure from the IRA, Bell has kept a low profile and effectively bowed out of republican politics.
Jean McConville became one of the most famous of the "disappeared" and her body was not found until 2003 on a beach in Co Louth.
Ex-IRA Belfast commander Brendan Hughes has accused Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin president, of organising a secret unit which abducted and murdered McConville. The unit was charged with smoking out informers for the British within nationalist-republican areas and in most cases killing them and burying their bodies in secret. Adams has always denied the charge from his former friend and also insisted he was never in the IRA. Hughes made his allegation about Adams on tapes for a Boston College academic project in which ex-IRA and loyalist paramilitaries would speak frankly about their roles in the conflict but which would be released only when they died.
The man arrested today is being questioned at the Police Service of Northern Ireland's serious crimes suite in Antrim Police station. In 1999, the IRA admitted that it murdered and buried at secret locations nine of the Disappeared.
The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains was established in 1999 by a treaty between the British and Irish governments, which gave de facto amnesties for any IRA members who had knowledge about the whereabouts of the missing to come forward without fear of prosecution. It lists 16 people as "disappeared". Despite extensive searches, the remains of seven of them have not been found.
By Philip Bradfieldp.email@example.comNews Letter
11 November 2013The man who allegedly shot Belfast mother-of-10 Jean McConville was yesterday named as former Sinn Fein councillor and Belfast IRA commander Pat McGeown.
It was claimed yesterday that he also shot dead ‘Good Samaritan’ Protestant workman Sammy Llewellyn when he went to help Catholics on the Falls Road board up windows after an IRA bomb in 1975.
“I was recently approached by grassroots republicans who were sympathetic to the McConville family,” Jean McConville’s son Jim said yesterday in a Sunday paper.
“I was given some details of what happened and only two weeks ago I gave Pat McGeown’s name to my solicitor.”
The paper claimed that McGeown was only 17 when he shot Mrs McConville in the back of the head, and that he later rose to become a close political confidant of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams.
The News Letter
understands McGeown’s name had been widely linked to Mrs McConville’s murder before he died in 1996.
Gerry Kelly MLA said at McGeown’s funeral that he had been a prisoner in “Cage 11” of the Maze with Gerry Adams. Adams officially launched the Pat McGeown Community Endeavour Award at Belfast’s Upper Springfield Development Trust in 1998.
He described McGeown as “a modest man with a quiet, but total dedication to equality and raising the standard of life for all the people of the city”, adding that McGeown “would have been one of the last people to expect an award to be given in his name, and yet few others could have deserved the honour more”.
Mr Kelly said McGeown started “barricade duty” at 13 and then joined the local unit of the IRA in the Beechmount area. He added that “at one point he held the most senior rank in the Belfast brigade of the IRA”.
The book Lost Lives
, which lists all those who died during the Troubles, said McGeown’s health never recovered after 47 days on hunger strike.
He was jailed in the Republic for explosives offences aged 14 and at 16 was interned before being imprisoned for a bombing attack.
He served 15 years for bombing the Europa Hotel and was the Officer Commanding of the IRA in the Maze. After being released in 1986, he went on to become group leader of Sinn Fein on Belfast City Council.
Sinn Fein yesterday declined to offer any comment.
Another Sunday paper yesterday reported that the IRA member, then aged 16, who drove Mrs McConville away from her children has phoned her daughter Helen McKendry to apologise.
Recording of deceased Belfast IRA commander Brendan Hughes names Sinn Féin president as giving execution order
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
2 November 2013Jean McConville, who disappeared from west Belfast in 1972, with three of her 10 children. (Photograph: PA)A tape recording of a deceased Belfast IRA commander in which Gerry Adams is accused of ordering the murder and secret burial of a widowed mother of 10 in 1972 will be broadcast for the first time this week.
A former IRA hunger striker, Brendan Hughes, alleges the Sinn Féin president was one of the heads of a unit that kidnapped, killed and buried west Belfast woman Jean McConville. Hughes, who died in 2008, is recorded as saying: "There was only one man who gave that order for that woman to be executed – and that man is now the head of Sinn Féin." Hughes also says that Adams went to the McConville children after their mother was abducted and promised an internal IRA investigation. "That man is the man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. I did not give the order to execute that woman. He did."
Adams is challenged on the BBC's Storyville
programme over whether he was a senior Provisionals commander in Belfast at the time McConville was abducted, just before Christmas 1972. "That's not true," Adams replies, adding that he has not "shirked" his own responsibilities in the conflict. The Sinn Féin leader has always insisted that he was never in the IRA.
In response to the tape, Adams, who is the Sinn Féin member for Louth in the Irish parliament, accuses his former friend of lying. "Brendan is telling lies," Adams tells the programme. He adds: "I had no act or part to play in the abduction, killing or burial of Jean McConville or any of the others."
An expert forensic detective tells the joint BBC Northern Ireland-RTE production that the IRA sometimes weighed bodies down with heavy stones to ensure that the corpses would not surface if the bogs they were buried in ever dried up.Storyville
reveals that the first of the "disappeared" to be found back in 1999, north Belfast man Eamon Molloy, had received the last rites from a Catholic priest. The priest saw Molloy tied naked to a bed and asked his captors if any of them had rosary beads that their prisoner could hold when he was to be shot.
Security sources in the Republic told the Observer
last week that up to four additional men who were "disappeared" by the IRA have not yet been identified by the organisation set up to find the Troubles' missing victims. The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains (ICLVR) has so far found eight of the "disappeared", including McConville, but seven on their official list are still unaccounted for.
A spokesman for the ICLVR, Geoff Knupfer, said: "At this moment there is no information to suggest there is any addition to the list." However, security sources insist that at least four IRA victims were buried in secret. The film is to be broadcast on BBC4, BBC Northern Ireland and RTE on Tuesday.
It includes a reading of the late Seamus Heaney's poem 'The Bog Queen'
, which the Nobel laureate agreed could be used in the programme to remember the plight of the "disappeared".