Assembly supports motion on Disappeared

Sinn Fein refuses to endorse motion because of reference to allegation that Gerry Adams was implicated in murder of Jean McConville

The Northern Assembly has endorsed an Ulster Unionist Party motion supporting the families of the Disappeared and noting "with extreme concern" allegations that Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams was involved in the murder of Jean McConville.

Sinn Féin refused to support the motion tabled by UUP leader Mike Nesbitt and former leader Tom Elliott because of the reference to Mr Adams.

Instead Sinn Féin Assembly members Mitchel McLaughlin, Alex Maskey and Caitríona Ruane tabled an amendment supporting the families and acknowledging their "pain and anguish" but removing reference to the Sinn Féin leader.

Of the 17 people on the official list of the Disappeared, 10 bodies have been recovered while seven remain missing.


Mr Nesbitt said this latest Assembly motion on the Disappeared was prompted by the recent BBC/RTÉ documentary on those who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried during the Troubles.

The programme gave a voice to the Disappeared and their families and if people ever lost their ability to listen to such voices then "we will lose contact with our own humanity", he added.

He said the allegation that Mr Adams was involved in Ms McConville's murder came from "beyond the grave" in the documentary in the comments of his former republican colleague Brendan Hughes, who implicated the Sinn Féin president in the killing. He also referred to the comments of veteran former IRA leader Billy McKee.

"You cannot disappear the reference to Gerry Adams from the programme. You cannot disappear the words of Brendan Hughes and Billy McKee, and you cannot disappear the stain of promoting a policy that is simply barbaric," said Mr Nesbitt.

Mr McLaughlin said the UUP motion was ill-judged because the reference to Mr Adams was serving to fragment the previous unanimity in the chamber on supporting the families of the Disappeared. It was also “political point-scoring”. He said republicans had “worked to rectify this injustice” by co-operating in efforts to find the victims’ remains, and this was recognised by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains.

DUP Minister for Health Edwin Poots said there was no desire in republicanism to tell the truth about the Disappeared. "If they cannot tell the truth about . . . their murky past on these issues, then how can we expect them to tell the truth on any other issues?"

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell, referring to the Sinn Féin amendment, said he rejected “all efforts to obfuscate or confuse or divert the focus of blame for the whole horror of the Disappeared”.