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18th-May-2016 05:59 am - Evidence from US witness sought in Jean McConville case
Ivor Bell alleged to have given interview about killing to Boston College researchers

Irish Times
16 May 2016



Ivor Bell leaving Belfast Laganside Court last year after he faced counts of aiding and abetting the killing of Jean McConville. (File Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire)

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

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

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

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

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

Transcripts

Although transcripts were not to be published until after the deaths of those who took part, a US court ordered the tapes should be handed over to PSNI detectives investigating Mrs McConville’s killing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

4th-Jun-2015 04:47 pm - McConville murder suspect to be prosecuted
BreakingNews.ie
4 June 2015



Ivor Bell

The prosecution of a veteran republican accused of involvement in the murder of Belfast mother of 10 Jean McConville is to proceed.

After a number of court extensions to consider their case, prosecutors had been given a final deadline of today to indicate whether they would be pursing the case against Ivor Bell.

A lawyer for the North's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) ended mounting public uncertainty around the case this morning when he told judge George Connor it would be proceeding.

“A decision has now been taken to prosecute this defendant,” he said.

Bell, 78, from Ramoan Gardens in west Belfast, was arrested and charged in March last year.

He is charged with aiding and abetting the murder of the widow who was abducted from her home in west Belfast in 1972.

He is further accused of IRA membership.

Bell, wearing a dark grey shirt, sat impassively in the dock of Belfast Magistrates’ Court during the short hearing.

Two of Mrs McConville’s children, Michael and Suzanna, watched proceedings from the public gallery.

Boston College tapes

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

The college interviewed a series of former paramilitaries on the understanding their accounts would remain unpublished until their deaths.

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

Detectives claim one of the interviews was given by Bell – a claim the defendant denies

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

She was shot in the back of the head and buried 50 miles from her home.

The IRA did not admit her murder until 1999 when information was passed to police in the Irish Republic.

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

No-one has been convicted of her murder.

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

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

The PPS continues to review a file on Mr Adams.

2nd-May-2014 09:04 am - Boston tapes are reason why Adams is being questioned over McConville murder
Sinn Féin leader says former friend Brendan Hughes was hostile to him over peace process

Gerry Moriarty
Irish Times
2 May 2014



Former IRA man Brendan “The Dark” Hughes, in Long Kesh prison with then best friend Gerry Adams. (Photograph: Photopress)

Some 3,600 people died in the Troubles. Many thousands more were maimed, injured and bereaved. Yet the circumstances of the murder of Jean McConville can still leave a cold feeling in the pit of one’s stomach.

She was a 37-year-old woman, a Protestant widow who had been married to a Catholic, and was the mother of 10 children who were left orphaned and desolate.

The campaign to recover her body, which was finally found on Shelling Hill beach in Co Louth in 2003, led to the creation of a North-South commission to locate the bodies of 17 people known to have been “disappeared”. So far 10 bodies have been recovered.

The so-called “Boston tapes”, potentially, are why Gerry Adams is being questioned for involvement in the December 1972 abduction, interrogation, murder and secret burial of McConville.

The Boston College oral history of the Troubles project was the brainchild of journalist and writer Ed Moloney and involved the interviewing of former republican and loyalist paramilitaries based on guarantees their testimonies would not be released until after their deaths.

The early deaths of former senior IRA figure Brendan “the Dark” Hughes and former Progressive Unionist Party leader and ex-UVF man David Ervine, both of whom participated in the project, allowed Moloney publish a book, Voices From the Grave, four years ago.

The book recorded Hughes’s account of how McConville was first lifted by the IRA, allegedly for working as an informer by having a British army transmitter in her flat.

Hughes said she was “let go with a warning” but when another transmitter allegedly was put in her house she was abducted by an IRA gang.

“There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. That . . . man is now the head of Sinn Féin,” said Hughes.

Evidence

As this is posthumous evidence there is a heavy question mark over whether it can have much – or any – legal evidential value.

The McConville family and former Northern Ireland police ombudsman Nuala O’Loan rejected the informer allegation against McConville.

Regardless, in his account Hughes said Adams and a senior IRA commander agreed that she should be “executed” but argued over whether her body should be left on the street in west Belfast as a warning to potential informers – as regularly happened – or secretly buried.

Hughes said that Adams won the day, and it was decided she should be secretly buried.

“I think the reason why she [was] disappeared was because she was a woman,” Hughes said.

Adams emphatically denied the allegations, and made the point that Hughes, his former friend and an IRA member, was antagonistic both to him and to how the IRA and Sinn Féin had managed the peace process.

But then Old Bailey bomber, the late Dolours Price, who also gave evidence to the Boston College project, made similar allegations, which Adams again denied.

He also pointed out that she was also antagonistic to him and the peace process.

The result was a huge controversy over the PSNI seeking access to the Boston tapes, which could have proved of evidential value to the police investigation, certainly while Price was alive.

Consternation

The police pursuit of the tapes caused consternation because handing them over would mean that the pledge given to participants of anonymity and non-disclosure ahead of their deaths would not be honoured.

It also triggered a quarrel between, on one side Moloney and his chief researcher Anthony McIntyre, a historian and former IRA prisoner; and on the other side Boston College over how to resist the legal challenge from the police.

They accused the college of weakness.

The upshot was that the PSNI won the legal battle and tapes of Hughes, Price and about half a dozen others were handed over to the police.

All these tapes, it was stated in the legal proceedings, had content relating to the McConville murder.

In recent weeks a number of people have been arrested in connection with the murder.

Some of them were released pending reports being sent to the Public Prosecution Service, which leaves open the possibility that prosecutions could follow.

In March, Ivor Bell, now aged 77, was charged with aiding and abetting the murder of McConville.

It was this charging that prompted Adams to offer to voluntarily present himself to the PSNI if it wished to ask him questions. Police sources in the North, along with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, First Minister Peter Robinson and British prime minister David Cameron, have rejected a Sinn Féin allegation of “political policing” in the questioning of Adams.

“The case is driven by investigative necessity,” said one police source.

In the meantime, the McConville family wait and watch to find out if they are any closer to achieving justice for their mother.
1st-May-2014 02:33 am - Sinn Fein leader arrested over 1972 IRA killing
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK
Associated Press
Washington Post
30 April 2014



Gerry Adams

DUBLIN — 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.
24th-Mar-2014 06:12 pm - PSNI 'still interested' in Gerry Adams' alleged role in McConville killing

Suzanne Breen
Independent.ie
24 March 2014

Sources 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.

22nd-Mar-2014 11:45 pm - Case against McConville accused based on US interviews
Ivor Bell (77) refused bail on charges relating to 1972 murder of Jean McConville

Irish Times
22 March 2014

The 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”.
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