Share This Page

Detention in IRA killing tests peace

| Friday, May 2, 2014, 6:15 p.m.
Reuters
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams arrives at the funeral of veteran British Labour politician Tony Benn at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey in London, in this file picture taken March 27, 2014. Northern Ireland police arrested Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams on April 30, 2014 as part of an investigation into one of the province's most controversial murders, a move likely to cause a political earthquake in Belfast and Dublin. REUTERS/Neil Hall/Files (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)

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.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.