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Arrest Adams now for McConville murder says ex-republican prisoner

(Suzanne Breen, Sunday Life)

A former republican prisoner says the PSNI should immediately arrest Gerry Adams over Jean McConville's murder.

The ex-internee from West Belfast is furious that in recent weeks police have arrested "a string of low level republicans" whom she believes played no part in the mother of ten's brutal death.

Evelyn Gilroy from the Lower Falls was a member of the republican movement along with Gerry Adams in the early 1970s. She was active in Divis where Jean McConville was abducted.

Last month, veteran republican Ivor Bell was charged with aiding and abetting the murder. Detectives have this month questioned five women and a man about the killing.

In an exclusive interview with Sunday Life, Evelyn Gilroy said: "I'm speaking out for the first time because I'm very angry that grassroots republicans are being arrested.

"Police have lifted people who were 15 and 16 at the time of the killing, yet Gerry Adams remains untouched. I'm disgusted that ordinary republicans are being put through the mill for his actions.

"It defies belief that he hasn't been arrested. The police should stop chasing those who were never in a position in the republican movement to order Jean McConville's execution and instead arrest the only person who was in that position – Gerry Adams.

"He has got away with so much over the years. He now seems to be getting away with this as well. It will be a disgrace if ordinary people end up carrying the can for what he did."

The Sinn Féin president has told his solicitor to contact police to see if he is wanted for questioning over the murder. He said if the PSNI wish to talk to him, he will meet them.

Last month, Jean McConville's daughter Helen told Sunday Life she wants to see the Louth TD in the dock for her mother's murder

Mr Adams was OC (officer commanding) of the IRA's Belfast Brigade when Jean McConville was murdered in December 1972. He denies all involvement in her death and secret burial.

At one meeting, he told her family he was in jail when she disappeared – which wasn't true – and he offered to help them in their search for the truth.

Ms Gilroy said: "I don't know how Gerry Adams had the nerve to look the McConvilles in the eye. If he wants to know the truth about Jean's execution, all he has to do is stand in front of the mirror and talk to himself."

In an interview with Boston College, former Belfast Brigade commander, Brendan Hughes, said Mr Adams had ordered the widowed mother's execution.

Mr Adams said: "Brendan is telling lies. I'd no act or part to play in the abduction, killing, or burial of Jean McConville." He denied similar accusations from Dolours Price.

Ms Gilroy said: "His denials are on a par with his claims that he was never in the IRA. He has become a walking joke. I'm sure he will now call me a liar just like Brendan and Dolours were called liars.

"But anyone active in the republican movement in the 1970s in Belfast knows who the real liar is. Brendan Hughes was an honest man. Even those who hated his politics acknowledge that. When Brendan spoke about Jean McConville, he was telling the truth."

Jean McConville was driven from West Belfast to Co Louth where she was shot in the back of the head in Shelling Beach. Her remains lay undiscovered until 2003.

Ms Gilroy, 61, comes from a strong republican family from the Lower Falls. The authorities viewed her as a significant republican activist in the 1970s and she was arrested dozens of times.

She and her sister, Mary Kennedy, were the only two mothers among the 2,000 people interned by the British government. She was held for 18 months in Armagh jail.

She is a close friend of ex-IRA chief of staff Billy McKee. A few years ago, she was presented with a commemorative plaque by the IRA's old 'D Company'.

At the time of the McConville killing, Ms Gilroy lived in Whitehall Row in Divis Flats, across the way from Jean McConville.

She claims that "many myths" surround her murder. The veteran republican said it was "totally untrue" that the widowed mother was killed for comforting a dying British soldier. She insisted the incident as described never took place.

A soldier had been hurt, but not fatally, in Divis. It was Ms Gilroy's sister, Mary Kennedy, who helped him and not Jean McConville, she said.

"My sister lived five doors from Jean McConville in Farset Walk in the flats. Weeks before Jean was killed, a soldier was hit on the head by a brick thrown by a local lad. My sister heard him crying. She was a very soft, warm woman and she brought him into the hallway and gave him a glass of water.

"Her act of compassion didn't go down well with some. 'Touts Out' and 'Soldier Lover' was painted on her door. The incident was reported to the media. My sister gave an interview to Downtown Radio about her act of mercy and the intimidation that followed."

Ms Gilroy, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant with her second child when Jean McConville was murdered, said she believed the mother-of-ten was killed because she was an informer, a claim the McConvilles and others deny.

When she was Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan dismissed the informer allegations saying her office had extensively examined intelligence available at the time and found no evidence Mrs McConville had ever passed information to the security forces.

But Ms Gilroy said: "It might not be popular to say she was an informer but I firmly believe she was. The IRA found a radio in her flat. That doesn't in any way justify what happened to her. It was a terrible thing for that family.

"I can't get my head around how the IRA would kill a mother with all those wee children. They could easily have ordered her out of the country and put her on a boat to England or Scotland with her kids. She should never have been executed."

Last week two women – aged 57 and 60 – were arrested and taken to Antrim police station for questioning about Jean McConville's murder. The PSNI said they were later released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service.

April 21, 2014

This article appeared in the April 20, 2014 edition of the Sunday Life.

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