Jean McConville's family campaign against Gerry Adams

Sinn Fein leader, who denies involvement in 1972 murder, is standing in constituency where remains were found

The ghost of one of the victims of the Troubles in Northern Ireland has come back to haunt Gerry Adams with just six days to go in the Irish Republic's general election campaign.

Relatives of Jean McConville – the mother of ten whom the IRA kidnapped, murdered and buried in secret in 1972 – visited his Louth constituency on Saturday to urge voters to reject the Sinn Fein president.

Adams stands accused by the late Belfast IRA commander Brendan "Darkie" Hughes of setting up the secret unit that abducted McConville from her home and "disappeared" her. Her remains were eventually found in 2003 on Templetown beach, which is in the Louth constituency where Adams is set to be elected on 25 February.

The IRA had accused her of being an informer for the British Army in the Divis Flats complex of the Lower Falls area – a charge her family has always disputed.

The Sinn Fein leader has always denied he had anything to do with McConville's disappearance or that he was ever in the Provisional IRA. The party's office in Dundalk remained closed on Saturday after the McConville family and their supporters picketed it.

Speaking at the spot where her remains were discovered, the McConville's son-in-law Seamus McKendry said:

"The Provisional Movement used the beautiful countryside of County Louth as a dumping ground for the bodies of those they kidnapped, tortured and eventually murdered in the pretence of freeing Ireland. The bodies of some of their victims still remain hidden away – most likely in County Louth.

"To impose as a candidate the political leader of the Provisional Movement, Gerry Adams, on the good people of Louth in the forthcoming election is the ultimate in insults. The murders, kidnapping, dumping of bodies, the seclusion of mortal remains, extortion and bank robberies by the Provisional Movement will be described as 'justified' by the perpetrators if their movement is given any level of support in the ballot box."

McKendry said he did not believe the McConville family and their supporters would run into Adams during their visit.

On their tour of Dundalk the McConville family handed out leaflets about Jean's murder in The Marches shopping centre.

Adams' former comrade Brendan Hughes, an IRA icon, left a taped message prior to his death claiming the Sinn Fein chief established the secret unit that "disappeared" McConville.

Commenting on the murder in his posthumous testimony broadcast on RTE television's "Voices from The Grave" last year, Hughes said: "I never carried out a major operation without the okay or the order from Gerry. And for him to sit in his plush office in Westminster or Stormont or wherever and deny it, I mean it's like Hitler denying that there was ever a Holocaust ... There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed. That man is now the head of Sinn Fein."

On 14 February, the Evening Herald newspaper in Dublin ran a story with quotes from Helen McKendry about Adams' standing in Louth. The paper then received a legal warning from Adams' solicitor.

Herald editor Stephen Rae said that the paper was standing by its story.

He said the newspaper would stand up for its right to tell the McConvilles' story.

"This is an attempt by Gerry Adams to silence journalists during the General Election campaign. We won't be silenced by these threats of legal action.

"Our reporters remain at the cutting edge of campaigning journalism, standing up for the rights of victims to be heard," Rae added.

Despite the persistent controversy dogging Adams about his alleged IRA past, Sinn Fein is still on course to increase its representation in the Dail in the election. The party is expected to at least treble its seats from the four it currently has.

One of their gains is expected to be in Cork North Central where, for the first time, Sinn Fein will control one of the seats in the constituency. Much of their rising support is due to the collapse of the Fianna Fail vote as the two parties vie for fourth spot in the election.


Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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