By Dominique van Heerden
“I reject absolutely any allegation made against me”, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview following four days in police custody in connection with the 1972 abduction and killing of mother of ten Jean McConville.
He was released without charge on Sunday.
“I am innocent of any involvement whatsoever in any conspiracy or of any of the events including the abduction, the killing, or the burial of Mrs Jean McConville” he told Amanpour, adding that he went to the Police Services of Northern Ireland voluntarily.
“When this became a matter of public speculation two months ago I contacted PSNI through my solicitor and said I was available to talk to them.”
Adams, 65, has long denied having any role in the death of McConville, a widow who was killed by the IRA four decades ago because the group believed she was a spy for the British army.
The Sinn Fein president says the allegations are part of a “sustained, vicious, untruthful and sinister malicious campaign” against him for “some considerable time”.
When asked why two IRA members implicated him in the abduction and killing when he says he had nothing to do with it, Adams told Amanpour these two individuals, who are since deceased, made the remarks “as part of a very dubious project”, referring to the Belfast Project.
The so-called Belfast Project at Boston College in the United States has recorded testimony from former IRA members involved in atrocities, and was used as the basis to question Adams.
Adams called those behind the project “disaffected, and very very hostile, anti-peace process former IRA activists”.
But in an interview with Christiane Amanpour one of the architects of the project, Ed Moloney, pointed out that it has been recognized as a “bona fide academic exercise of considerable intellectual merit”.
Gerry Adams also questioned the timing of his interrogation by the police.
“I contacted them two months ago, they waited until we were in the middle of an election before they made this very dramatic intervention, so I reject absolutely any allegation no matter who it’s coming from or any assertion no matter who it’s coming from, it’s ridiculous.”
Adams claims that he was never a member of the Irish Republican Army. In light of revelations from the Belfast Project, Christiane Amanpour raised the question of the exact nature of his relationship with the group.
Adams denied it once again, saying, "when the war was on I did politically support the use of armed action by the IRA as a legitimate response to British repression and British military occupation of a part of my country… of course I disagree with many of the issues and many of the things that the IRA did, including the killing of Mrs McConville and the way that her ten children were left".
He went on to explain to Amanpour that the premise and strategy of his recent police interrogation was to put to him that he was not only a member of the IRA, but that he had a managerial role, so should have known about the abduction and killing and secret burial of Mrs McConville. This is an accusation he continues to deny.
Jean McConville's children have vowed to keep fighting for justice for their mother. And in a recent interview with CNN her son Michael McConville said he was threatened by the IRA when he was a child and thereafter, which is why he won't release the names of those he recognised dragging his mother away the night she was abducted.
Adams responded by saying if Michael McConville wants to give names he should do so, "that's entirely his right".
But in recent interviews, Michael McConville says he was threatened by the IRA. Just today, he told BBC News that Adams himself warned him about speaking out, saying there would be a backlash if he released the names. Gerry Adams denies ever saying this.
He says he can understand why the McConville family “feel the way that they feel”, but says he has been trying his best to support and help all of the victims, particularly victims of the IRA.
Adams also told Amanpour it’s important to “keep our eye focused on the future”.
“Of course we need to deal with the past, of course we need to deal with the issues of the victims, but we cannot allow anything to divert us from peace path and from building the peace,” he says, “it just plays into the interests of the bigots and the negative sinister elements who are out there”.
When asked how this case might affect the Good Friday Agreement, Gerry Adams responded by reiterating his support for the Police Services of Northern Ireland and the peace process.
He added that the police visited his family home after he was released from prison and told him there was a serious threat to his life, “from what they described as criminals”. But Adams says it is a risk he is prepared to take because “the peace process is bigger than us”.
As for the controversy surrounding the case of Jean McConville, Adams says it will not change Sinn Fein’s commitment to keep building the peace and “to work in partnership with everyone regardless of their political background, and to defend the rights of everyone and to tackle the hard issues of the past, and particularly those which affect victims”.
Click above to watch the full, exclusive interview with Gerry Adams.