Northern Ireland

Gerry Adams arrest: Third night in custody as police get extension

Gerry Adams Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Gerry Adams voluntarily presented himself at Antrim police station on Wednesday

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has spent a third night in police custody in connection with the 1972 murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville.

Police in Northern Ireland have until 20:00 BST on Sunday to either charge or release him, after a judge granted them a 48-hour extension on Friday.

Mr Adams, 65, denies he was involved in the widow's abduction and murder.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said there was "a growing anger with every single hour" that Mr Adams was detained.

Image caption Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly said there was palpable anger at the arrest of Mr Adams

Speaking outside Antrim police station, where Mr Adams voluntarily presented himself on Wednesday evening, Mr Kelly said: "The arrest was uncalled for and certainly the extension is uncalled for.

'Deliberately timed'

"I was out canvassing last night and the anger was palpable - I'm getting this on the doors from people, not all of whom are Sinn Fein voters."

Sinn Fein has claimed the arrest was deliberately timed ahead of elections in three weeks' time. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it showed no-one was above the law.

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, hinted on Friday that the party may look again at whether it would continue to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Baroness Nuala O'Loan, a former police ombudsman who investigated Jean McConville's murder, denied the service had become politicised.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10, was abducted and murdered by the IRA in December 1972

"Certainly in a post-conflict situation there are problems with every aspect of society," she said.

"But I don't think they're a cabal. I think that's inappropriate language to use. I think that what we need above all in Northern Ireland is that the rule of law should apply equally throughout the country.

"For people to suggest that some people perhaps shouldn't be arrested is perhaps a little questionable."

Secretly buried

Mr Adams is the former MP for West Belfast and is currently an elected representative for County Louth in the Republic of Ireland.

Mrs McConville, a 37-year-old widow and mother of 10, was abducted and shot by the IRA. Her body was recovered from a beach in County Louth in 2003.

She is one of Northern Ireland's Disappeared, those who were abducted, murdered and buried in secret by republicans during the Troubles.

She was kidnapped in front of her children after being wrongly accused of being an informer - a claim that was dismissed after an official investigation by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman.

Image caption Graffiti referencing Boston College was daubed on a wall in west Belfast

Last month, Ivor Bell, 77, a leader in the Provisional IRA in the 1970s, was charged with aiding and abetting the murder, and there have also been a number of other arrests recently.

The case against Mr Bell is based on an interview he allegedly gave to researchers at Boston College in the US.

The Boston College tapes are a series of candid, confessional interviews with former loyalist and republican paramilitaries, designed to be an oral history of the Troubles.

The paramilitaries were told the tapes would only be made public after their deaths. However, after a series of court cases in the United States, some of the content has been handed over to the authorities.

At least one interviewee implicated Mr Adams in the murder of Mrs McConville. He has always strenuously denied any involvement.