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Sinn Fein Leader's Questioning Dredges Memories Of 'Troubles'

May 5, 2014
Originally published on May 5, 2014 6:35 pm
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An investigation into a 40-year-old murder is shaking Northern Ireland and threatening the fragile peace agreement there. Police spent four days questioning Gerry Adams, the leader of one of Northern Ireland's major political parties, about his role in the case. He was let go yesterday. Adams insists he has no connection with the murder but the Northern Ireland police said they have new evidence obtained under subpoena from Boston College. The college had funded an oral history project, collecting testimonies from former members of the Irish Republican Army, or IRA. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Michael McConville still remembers the December night in 1972 when members of the IRA forced their way into his family's Belfast home and falsely accused his mother of being an informant.

MICHAEL MCCONVILLE: They dragged our mother out and pulled her out of our arms. We were holding onto her crying. My mother was crying. Because the IRA had taken her the night before and they'd badly beaten her up.

SHAPIRO: He told the BBC that was the last time he ever saw his mother. Jean McConville was a widow with 10 children. Her body was not discovered until 2003. The case is generally seen as one of the lowest points in the so-called troubles that shook Northern Ireland for decades. Last week, the case made headlines again. Gerry Adams turned himself in to police for questioning. He's a leader in Sinn Fein, a political party that had close ties to the IRA. Secretary of State Teresa Villiers told the BBC that the police were handling this without political interference.

TERESA VILLIERS: Both the prime minister and I appreciate the sensitivity and seriousness of this situation.

SHAPIRO: On Sunday afternoon, Gerry Adams left the police station out a back entrance, to avoid protesters blocking the road in front of the building. Adams held a press conference yesterday evening.

GERRY ADAMS: Let me be very clear: I am innocent of any involvement in any conspiracy to abduct, kill, or bury Mrs. McConville. I've worked hard with others to have this injustice redressed and for the return of the bodies of others killed during the conflict.

SHAPIRO: The victim's son, Michael McConville, held a press conference of his own.

MCCONVILLE: These have been quite difficult days for the McConville family, and they've been very stressful.

SHAPIRO: He said his family has spent more than 40 years fighting for justice and won't stop now. Now, prosecutors will take the file from the four-day questioning of Gerry Adams. It's up to them to decide whether to bring charges. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.