DUBLIN (AP) — Sinn Fein party leader Gerry Adams and six other suspected IRA veterans will face no charges over the outlawed group's 1972 abduction, slaying and secret burial of a Belfast homemaker, Northern Ireland prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Adams, 66, was arrested last year on suspicion of involvement in the disappearance of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old widowed mother of 10 whom the Irish Republican Army believed was a British informer. Detectives freed Adams without charge after four days of questioning, but sent an evidence file to prosecutors.
Northern Ireland's deputy director of public prosecutions, Pamela Atchison, announced that Adams and six others arrested in the McConville probe would face no charges. Atchison said evidence was "insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against any of them."
Adams, whose Irish nationalist party leads Northern Ireland's Irish Catholic minority, called the decision "long overdue." He said he had been falsely accused as part of "a sustained and malicious campaign seeking to involve me with the killing of Mrs. McConville."
After his release from custody in May 2014, Adams said detectives had grilled him about audio tapes from two IRA veterans, Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes, both of whom had identified Adams as an IRA commander in Belfast in 1972 responsible for ordering McConville's killing and disappearance. Price and Hughes gave their accounts to researchers on condition that their comments not be published until their deaths; Hughes died in 2008, Price in 2013.
Adams' alleged immediate superior in the Belfast IRA in 1972, Ivor Bell, was charged last year with aiding and abetting McConville's murder on the basis of the tapes. The 78-year-old's trial has yet to begin.
Before Tuesday's announcement, prosecutors briefed McConville's relatives about the decision. Some of her children — who were separated into different foster homes after being told that their mother had abandoned them — have campaigned since the mid-1990s for Adams and other alleged IRA commanders to be held to account. They reject IRA characterizations of their mother as a spy.
Her remains were found near a Republic of Ireland beach in 2003, and forensic experts said she was killed by a bullet to the back of the head. McConville was among more than a dozen Catholic civilians whom the IRA killed and secretly buried without admitting responsibility in the 1970s and early 1980s. The IRA did admit responsibility in 1999.
One son, Michael McConville, said his family didn't intend to let the IRA off the hook.
"Those who ordered, planned and carried out this war crime thought that their guilt could disappear along with her body," he said. "But it has not. And we will continue to seek justice for our mother and see those responsible held to account no matter how long it takes."