Gerry Adams will not face charges over Jean McConville murder

Family of McConville ‘disappointed but not surprised’ over PPS decision as they vow to pursue Adams through civil courts

The family of Jean McConville have vowed to pursue Gerry Adams through the civil courts after Northern Irish prosecutors confirmed the Sinn Féin leader will not face any criminal charges over the murder of their mother by the IRA more than 40 years ago.

McConville, 37, was abducted, killed and buried in secret by the IRA in 1972 in one of the most notorious murders of the Troubles. She was one of 16 people accused of working as informants for the security forces who became known as “the disappeared” because their bodies were never found.

The PPS in Belfast confirmed on Tuesday that it would not be prosecuting seven people in relation to the killing of McConville, who had 10 children.

Jean McConville
Jean McConville was dragged away by an IRA gang, driven across the border to the Irish Republic, shot in the head and then buried in secret. Photograph: PA

The seven – three men aged 57, 59 and 66, along with four women aged 58, 59, 59 and 61 – include Adams, who has always denied he gave the order to “disappear” the widow in 1972. Another of those believed to be among the seven is Bobby Storey, a senior Belfast republican and close aide to Adams.

Northern Ireland’s deputy director of public prosecutions, Pamela Atchison, said: “We have given careful consideration to the evidence currently available in respect of each of the three men and four women reported and have concluded that it is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against any of them for a criminal offence.”

However, Helen McKendry, Jean McConville’s daughter, and her husband Seamus, one of the original campaigners for the “disappeared”, told the Guardian they were “disappointed but not surprised” over the PPS decision.

“We accept the course of justice and the decision even though the IRA never gave thought for justice for Jean. We would rather have the criminal case not going ahead like that than for it to collapse in court. However today is the beginning of a new fight for justice through a civil action against Mr Adams. The PPS decision gives us the green light to start that campaign through the civil courts.

“When we first raised the possibility of a civil case we were contacted by lots of people who offered financial support as we don’t expect legal aid. We would now ask all those people to back us now in building a case with our legal team towards a civil action,” the couple said.

Adams said the PPS decision was long overdue . “There was never any real basis for questioning me in respect of this case,” he said after Wednesday’s announcement. “I played no act or part in Jean McConville’s death. I support the PSNI. But the timing of my arrest showed there remain elements within the PSNI who are against Sinn Féin. But they will not succeed.”

The evidence that led to Adams’s arrest last year, as well as the other six, was partly based on the Boston College tapes. These were a series of recorded testimonies from IRA and loyalist paramilitary veterans that were to form a historic archive about the armed campaigns of the Troubles. They were only to be released when each of the participants had died.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland pursued some of the taped interviews they claimed contained knowledge of the McConville murder and disappearance through the US courts system. But after examining files sent by the PSNI to the PPS in the case of the seven, including Adams, Atchison said there was insufficient evidence to continue the investigation.

She pointed out that there had already been a decision to prosecute an eighth individual, Ivor Bell, who was arrested and charged in March 2014, and is currently before the court. The decision was to prosecute Bell on charges of soliciting the murder of McConville, which the veteran Belfast republican strongly denies.

Atchison said: “We have had a series of meetings with members of the family, most recently this morning, about all of our prosecutorial decisions and we will continue to engage with them as we progress the prosecution of Ivor Bell. We thank them for the positive way that they have engaged with us at each stage of the process.”

The McKendrys want the civil action based on the case brought by families of the Omagh bomb massacre of 1998. Michael Gallagher and other families of the victims of the Omagh bomb massacre made legal history by suing four alleged Real IRA leaders in a civil action.

The killing of McConville, a Protestant who became a Catholic convert, has continued to haunt both Adams and the peace process.

In front of her children, at their home in the Divis flats complex, the west Belfast woman was dragged away by an IRA gang, driven across the border to the Irish Republic, shot in the head at a remote coastal spot in County Louth, and then buried in secret.

Former IRA members including Adams’s former friend, the hunger striker Brendan Hughes, alleged the Sinn Féin president gave the order for McConville to be disappeared after she was shot as an informer.

Adams has consistently denied claims of involvement in the McConville murder or of ever being in the IRA.


Henry McDonald Ireland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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