Adams denies in US interview role in McConville death

SF leader tells ‘60 Minutes’ he never pulled a trigger, set a bomb or ordered a death

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has apologised to the victims of IRA violence but declined to apologise for the violence itself or the existence of the IRA.

Mr Adams made his remarks when he appeared last night on the flagship CBS television news programme 60 Minutes which reported the Sinn Féin leader's alleged role in the IRA killing of Jean McConville, the widowed Belfast mother of 10, in 1972.

He denied having any role in the murder, one of the most notorious of the Troubles, telling American interviewer Scott Pelley that he never pulled a trigger, set off a bomb or ordered a death.

“So you were at the top of republicanism nearly throughout the Troubles and your hands are clean?” Pelley asked. “Well, it depends. That’s an evocative term – your hands are clean,” said Mr Adams.


“No blood on your hands is what we mean.” “Well, we all have our responsibility, all of us,” Mr Adams replied.

The CBS news programme reported on the interviews with IRA members in Boston College's oral history project on the Troubles and how in one of those interviews, the late IRA member Brendan Hughes said that the Sinn Féin leader ordered McConville's killing.

The Co Louth TD said that his arrest and questioning last year by the Police Service of Northern Ireland investigating the killing of the Belfast widow was a dangerous moment for the peace process.

“To be honest, I was sick, sore and tired of a tsunami of stories based upon these tapes linking me to Mrs McConville’s death,” said Mr Adams. “So I contacted the police and said, ‘Look, you want to talk to me, I’m here to talk.’”

The Sinn Féin president was questioned for four days about the killing of Mrs McConville, whose remains were found on a Co Louth beach by a walker in 2003. Mr Adams was released without charge.

“They asked you if you were part of the decision to kill Jean McConville?” Pelley asked.

“They said that I was a senior member of the IRA at managerial level, so I’m bound to have known,” said Mr Adams

“And you told them what?”

“I told ’em I didn’t,” he said.

Mr Adams said that the disappearance of Mrs McConville was known to to the IRA. “Yes, absolutely,” he said, but that he did not know about the disappearance.

“How do you orphan 10 children? What kind of depravity is that?” Pelley asked.

“That’s what happens in wars, Scott,” Mr Adams said. “That’s not [to] minimise it – that’s what American soldiers do, British soldiers do, Irish republican soldiers do – that’s what happens in every single conflict.”

He described the IRA as "a legitimate response" to what was happening in Northern Ireland but repeated his denial that he was ever a member of the paramilitary organisation.

Asked whether he thought he would see a united Ireland, Mr Adams said: “If I live long enough, yes.”

The news programme concluded with Mr Adams being asked whether he apologised for the pain, suffering and injury caused during the Troubles.

“Of course for those civilians, for those people who were caught up in this, who were victims of the IRA, of course I apologise,” he said. “I don’t apologise for the IRA, for its existence, for its right to engage as it did, but surely you wouldn’t be a thinking person if you didn’t regret all that happened here.”

At a Sinn Féin event to commemorate the Easter Rising, deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said “awful things happen” during the Troubles. “What happened to Jean McConville was utterly wrong, and indeed the other families of the Disappeared.”

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times