US congressmen question timing of Adams arrest

Peter King and Richard Neal query motives behind arrest of Sinn Féin president

Two Irish-American US congressmen have questioned the timing of the arrest of Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams in the investigation into the 1972 murder of Jean McConville before this month’s elections.

Peter King, a Republican from New York and major supporter of Mr Adams in the Northern Irish peace process, queried the motives of the PSNI and the British government. “It certainly raises questions: the fact that it is coming so soon before the elections, the fact that these allegations have been out there for years. I really don’t know what purpose it would serve,” he said.

Mr King said he was “not trying to minimise” the feelings of the McConville family, “but there have been so many horrific incidents in Northern Ireland and to be going back after all these years . . .”

Richard Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe that Mr Adams’s arrest was “one of those unsettling moments”, and he was suspicious of the timing ahead of an election. “It all seems pretty murky,” he added.


Mr King, who played a key role in the US in the early years of the peace process, said the Obama administration should have put in a greater diplomatic effort with the British government to stop the release of the Boston College interviews with former IRA members that led to Mr Adams’s arrest.

“They should have fought harder with the British,” he told The Irish Times. “More diplomatic negotiations should have been used, saying that this really goes against our national interests.” The US state department rejected the suggestion it could have done more to prevent the release of the tapes. “The department played its appropriate role,” a spokesman said.

US secretary of state John Kerry, on a visit to South Sudan, declined to comment on Mr Adams’s arrest other than noting that he was aware of it, that the Sinn Féin leader had presented himself to police and maintained his innocence. “We need to let the process in Northern Ireland work its way,” he said.

Mr Neal said in a statement that Mr Adams always maintained he had no role in the “sad ordeal of Jean McConville”. The congressman also condemned Ms McConville’s killing in the “strongest possible terms”. “What happened to her was tragic and her family also deserves to know the truth,” he said.

Responding to the arrest, congressman Joe Crowley, a Democrat from New York, defended Mr Adams for taking “incredible risks” to bring peace to Northern Ireland. “He is someone who has stood strongly against hardliners on both sides,” he said.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times