Sinn Fein Leader's Questioning Dredges Memories Of 'Troubles'

Gerry Adams, a leader of Sinn Fein, was questioned in Northern Ireland in connection with an infamous murder 42 years ago. The investigation threatens to impact the fragile peace agreement there.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

An investigation into a 40-year-old murder is shaking Northern Ireland and threatening the fragile peace agreement there. Police spent four days questioning Gerry Adams, the leader of one of Northern Ireland's major political parties, about his role in the case. He was let go yesterday. Adams insists he has no connection with the murder but the Northern Ireland police said they have new evidence obtained under subpoena from Boston College. The college had funded an oral history project, collecting testimonies from former members of the Irish Republican Army, or IRA. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Michael McConville still remembers the December night in 1972 when members of the IRA forced their way into his family's Belfast home and falsely accused his mother of being an informant.

MICHAEL MCCONVILLE: They dragged our mother out and pulled her out of our arms. We were holding onto her crying. My mother was crying. Because the IRA had taken her the night before and they'd badly beaten her up.

SHAPIRO: He told the BBC that was the last time he ever saw his mother. Jean McConville was a widow with 10 children. Her body was not discovered until 2003. The case is generally seen as one of the lowest points in the so-called troubles that shook Northern Ireland for decades. Last week, the case made headlines again. Gerry Adams turned himself in to police for questioning. He's a leader in Sinn Fein, a political party that had close ties to the IRA. Secretary of State Teresa Villiers told the BBC that the police were handling this without political interference.

TERESA VILLIERS: Both the prime minister and I appreciate the sensitivity and seriousness of this situation.

SHAPIRO: On Sunday afternoon, Gerry Adams left the police station out a back entrance, to avoid protesters blocking the road in front of the building. Adams held a press conference yesterday evening.

GERRY ADAMS: Let me be very clear: I am innocent of any involvement in any conspiracy to abduct, kill, or bury Mrs. McConville. I've worked hard with others to have this injustice redressed and for the return of the bodies of others killed during the conflict.

SHAPIRO: The victim's son, Michael McConville, held a press conference of his own.

MCCONVILLE: These have been quite difficult days for the McConville family, and they've been very stressful.

SHAPIRO: He said his family has spent more than 40 years fighting for justice and won't stop now. Now, prosecutors will take the file from the four-day questioning of Gerry Adams. It's up to them to decide whether to bring charges. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, London.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: