Jean McConville police seek more time to question Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin president must be released on Friday evening unless court allows extension of detention over Troubles murder

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is seeking judicial approval to extend their questioning of the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, about one of the most notorious murders of the Troubles – the kidnapping, killing and secret burial of Jean McConville.

The former West Belfast MP has been detained under the 2000 Terrorism Act at the serious crime suite in Antrim police station since Wednesday evening.

He denies any involvement or part in the murder of the mother of 10 in 1972.

Reacting to news that the PSNI was seeking to extend the period it can question Adams, his close colleague and Northern Ireland deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, said: "Yesterday I said that the timing of the arrest of Gerry Adams was politically motivated. Today's decision by the PSNI to seek an extension confirms me in my view."

McGuinness said Sinn Féin would reflect and review its support for policing in the region if Adams was charged, but he urged republicans to remain calm if and until that happened.

Court number seven of Belfast Laganside court has been set aside for legal arguments between the PSNI's lawyers and Adams' defence team over the time extension. A live video link has been established between the courtroom and the serious crime suite should Adams want to speak. The hearing is in front of Justice Corrine Philpott QC.

The arrest is arguably becoming the most serious political crisis to rock the country's power-sharing agreement since Sinn Féin went into government with the Democratic Unionists and other parties in 2007.

This is the third day the 65-year-old member of the Irish parliament has been questioned about the McConville murder.

The PSNI went to the courts because under the Terrorism Act it would have to release Adams at 8pm on Friday.

McConville, a Protestant-born Catholic convert, 37, was dragged away in front of her children at their home in the Divis flats complex in west Belfast, driven across the border to the Republic, shot in the head at a remote coastal spot in County Louth, and then buried in secret. She became the most famous of the "disappeared" – 16 IRA victims shot and buried at secret locations across Ireland during the Troubles.

Former IRA members, including Adams' former friend, the hunger striker Brendan Hughes, have alleged that the future Sinn Féin leader gave the order for McConville to be "disappeared" after she was shot as an informer.

McConville's family have always rejected any suggestion that she was a British army agent, pointing to former police ombudsman Nuala O'Loan's investigation, which found no evidence she was working as an informer.

Adams has consistently denied claims of involvement in the murder and of having been in the IRA.

Adams is the seventh person to be arrested this year over the McConville case. Ivor Bell, an IRA negotiator with the British government in the same year McConville disappeared, has been charged with aiding and abetting the murder. He denies the charges.

In response to Adams' arrest, Sinn Féin supporters in his old West Belfast constituency have been painting a mural in his honour.

Work has continued on the image off the Falls Road with the title: "Peacemaker, leader, visionary".

Graffiti criticising former IRA members who took part in the Boston College-Belfast Project, and whose testimonies have been a key factor in prompting Adams' arrest, went up in the area earlier on Friday. It refers to "Boston College touts" and relates to those ex-IRA activists who gave taped interviews to researchers which allegedly included details about the McConville murder and the alleged role of Adams in the killing.


Henry McDonald in Belfast

The GuardianTramp

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