Adams pressed in documentary over alleged role in McConville death
Sinn Féin president and Louth TD denies involvement in McConville or other killings
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams: denies he was a senior IRA figure at the time of the murder of Jean McConville in 1972 and that he ordered her disappearance. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams is again the subject of claims he was involved in the killing and secret burial of Jean McConville in 1972.
However, the Louth TD has rejected this and other claims he was a senior IRA figure in Belfast in the early 1970s who must have known about the disappearance of two IRA men who also vanished that year.
These are contained in a dramatic film-documentary, co-produced by RTÉ and BBC Northern Ireland which details the harrowing stories of some of the 15 or more people “disappeared” by the IRA between 1972 and 1981. It also details the deliberate policy, conducted by the Provisionals to cover their tracks, of smearing the victims by spreading rumour and disinformation.
The film, which airs tonight contains new testimony from the relatives of those abducted and murdered, some of whom have never spoken in public before about what happened.
It also highlights divisions among senior republicans over the practice and fresh claims that Mr Adams was allegedly involved in the death of Mrs McConville.
Mr Adams again denies he was a senior IRA figure at the time of the murder and that he ordered her disappearance.
But he states: “All of us bear a responsibility. I’ve never shirked that.”
The widow and mother of 10 was abducted from her home in Divis flats after she had aided a wounded British soldier.
One of her sons, Michael, describes how at the age of 11 he was taken shortly after the abduction of his mother, tied up and beaten as a warning not to tell police what had happened.
His sister, Agnes, speaking publicly for the first time as an adult about her mother reveals how the orphaned children were shunned by many in the community before being separated and sent to a care homes across Northern Ireland.
The police investigation into her murder remains the only case among the Disappeared to be a live investigation. Information given to an Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains is covered by legal immunity. But Mrs McConville’s body was discovered accidentally by a walker on a remote Louth beach and is not covered by legislation establishing the commission.
Veteran republican and one of the founders of the Provisional IRA in 1969 Billy McKee defends the killing of suspected informants. “I would have executed her all right, no problem. But I wouldn’t have buried her.” He also angrily denounces as “a damned lie” claims that the practice of disappearing people was inherited from an older generation of republicans.
Mr Adams is also closely questioned about but denies knowledge of the disappearance of two young IRA men from west Belfast who vanished after a British army spying operation was broken up by the Provisionals.
The film also contains testimony, recorded by the late Brendan Hughes, himself a senior IRA figure, for an oral history project at Boston College in the US which has not been broadcast before. He refers to the Sinn Féin president’s alleged IRA role, but Mr Adams denies any role and claims Mr Hughes opposed his leadership and was critical of the present Sinn Féin leadership for “selling out”.
However the core of the film emphasises the human stories of the Disappeared and the struggles their families have endured as the search for their bodies and for reasons for the killings continues.
It also includes the stories of those, such as senior gardaí and Fr Alec Reid, a close confidante of Mr Adams, and their efforts to locate the bodies which have still to be recovered more than 30 years after the killings.
The Disappeared is broadcast tonight at 9.35pm on RTÉ One and at 10.35pm on BBC1 Northern Ireland.