Detention in IRA killing tests peace
BELFAST, Northern Ireland — Northern Ireland police on Friday were granted an extra 48 hours to interrogate Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams about the 1972 IRA killing of a Belfast widow, infuriating his Irish nationalist party and raising questions about the stability of the province's Catholic-Protestant government.
Had the police request been refused, authorities would have been required to charge Adams or release him, two days after his arrest in the abduction, slaying and secret burial of Jean McConville, a widow with 10 children.
The unexpectedly long detention of Adams left senior party colleagues seething. Sinn Fein warned it could end its support for law and order in Northern Ireland — a key commitment that enabled the establishment of a unified government seven years ago — if Adams is charged.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, the Sinn Fein official who governs Northern Ireland alongside Protestant politicians, said his party would reconsider its 2007 vote to recognize the legitimacy of Northern Ireland's police if Adams isn't freed without charge. Protestants required that pledge before agreeing to cooperate with Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing.
Adams, the longtime head of Sinn Fein, denies he was a terrorist. But IRA veterans who spoke on tape to a Boston College-history project say he was the Belfast commander and ordered the “disappearance” of McConville.
Moderate politicians criticized Sinn Fein for making unreasonable threats.
The justice minister in Northern Ireland's five-party government, David Ford, told journalists outside the police station where Adams was being held that detectives were just doing their jobs in investigating one of the most heinous crimes of the conflict.
Were Sinn Fein to withdraw its support for law and order, it would offer a green light to still-active IRA factions to renew attacks on police.