Adams restates his innocence in McConville murder

Sinn Féin leader leaves Antrim police station amid loyalist protests after four days of questioning

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams arrives at a news conference in Belfast after he was released from police detention tonight. Photograph: Paul Hackett/Reuters)

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams arrives at a news conference in Belfast after he was released from police detention tonight. Photograph: Paul Hackett/Reuters)

Sun, May 4, 2014, 21:23

Gerry Adams has restated he is innocent of involvement in the killing of Jean McConville and insisted that Sinn Fein support for the Belfast Agreement is unshakeable.

Addressing a packed press conference in west Belfast following his release from Antrim PSNI base, the Sinn Féin president, strongly criticised his arrest and accused the “old guard” in policing of using “the old methods”. There was no basis for any criminal charge against him, he said.

Accompanied by the leadership of the party including Martin McGuinness, Mary Lou McDonald and a host of Assembly members, MPs and TDs, he insisted he stands by the Belfast Agreement but added he never dissociated himself from the IRA and never will.

However he insisted the IRA had left the stage. “It is gone, it is finished,” he said.

The arrest was badly handled and those who ordered it should have done differently, he said. But he added he “bears no animosity to anyone” after four days detention.

Asked for his response to trenchant criticisms by Peter Robinson of his stance on policing, Mr Adams declined to hit back, insisting instead that Sinn Fein would continue to work with the DUP at Stormont regardless of the problems.

Earlier, Mr Adams has left Antrim police station by a rear exit as loyalists protested outside the building following his release from custody after four days of questioning over the murder of Jean McConville.

Angry demonstrators waving Union flags staged a sit down protest in front of the heavily fortified station.

But Mr Adams exited the station through another gate while the heated scenes unfolded.

A file will be sent to prosecutors by detectives who have questioned him over the murder of the Belfast mother of 10 in 1972.

The move means the ultimate decision whether to charge the 65-year-old with any offence will be made by Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) at a later date after reviewing evidence presented by police.

Mr Adams has always vehemently denied allegations levelled by former republican colleagues that he ordered the murder of the 37-year-old widow.

The Sinn Féin president was scheduled to hold a press conference in a hotel at 8pm.

Earlier, a senior member of the party said Mr Adams was “worried about the damage” his arrest may be doing to the image of policing” and to the peace process.

MLA Gerry Kelly, who visited the party president in custody at Antrim police station this afternoon, said the arrest and questioning of Mr Adams over the IRA murder and secret burial of Jean McConville 42 years ago was “quite a serious situation”.

His remarks followed a barrage of protest from unionists and others following Martin McGuinness’s claims that the detention of Mr Adams would force republicans to reconsider their support for the police.

Speaking to reporters outside the PSNI serious crime suite in Antrim earlier, Mr Kelly said Mr Adams was “looking well and being treated well” and he thanked supporters for their solidarity.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinsonaccused Sinn Féin of attempting to blackmail the police over the arrest of Mr Adams.

The DUP leader accused republicans of using “bullyboy tactics” against the PSNI in the wake of Mr Adams’s arrest on Wednesday. In a statement this morning, he said Sinn Féin has “crossed the line” and should cease its behaviour.

Amid a growing row over the arrest, the North’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he believed it was part of an attempt by some police officers to settle old scores.