herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

George McManus: Why US says Adams was IRA boss when Jean was murdered

GERRY ADAMS claims no involvement in the murder of Jean McConville -- but the US government stated he led the Belfast IRA brigade at the time of her killing.

The US declaration is included as evidence in a 1990 case refusing Adams access to the United States because of his connections with the IRA.

Denial

On six occasions Adams had applied for visas and was turned down every time. His supporters took legal action against the then Secretary of State James Baker at District Court and Federal Court level in the US -- and lost on both occasions.

The judgment of the Federal Court makes interesting reading, particularly in light of Mr Adams's continued denials that he was a member of the IRA, or had any involvement in the murder of Jean McConville.

Mr Adams has threatened to sue this newspaper for reporting a recent statement by Mrs McConville's daughter that the Sinn Fein boss was "dancing on Jean's grave".

But evidence submitted to the US Court of Appeals hearing in 1990 supports claims that Adams was a leading figure in the IRA -- and commander of the Belfast brigade in 1972, the year Jean McConville was murdered.

The transcript reads: "The State Department had evidence of Adams' involvement with, and leadership in, the IRA. In the affidavit the Deputy Secretary of State declared that 'there is reason to believe that, as commander of the Belfast Brigade, Adams had overall policy control over, and granted approval for, major PIRA terrorist operations carried out within the greater Belfast area'.

"Not only did the State Department have information identifying Adams as the commanding officer of one of the three battalions of the IRA Belfast Brigade, but it also had evidence that he was the commander of the entire IRA Belfast Brigade during 1971-1972.

"Moreover, the Secretary of State had evidence of Adams' participation in a series of 'Bloody Friday' bombings in Belfast, (July 21st 1972) where nine persons were killed and 130 were injured, as well as many other bombings.

"Finally, the State Department had information that Adams was a member of the IRA's Army Council, the body primarily responsible for setting the policy and strategy of the IRA, and which grants approval for major IRA terrorist campaigns.

Trigger

"It believed that Adams was Chief-of-Staff of the Council for some period of time, and that, during his tenure, terrorist activities were intensified."

It goes on: "As the district court found, Adams was denied entry because of his personal involvement with terrorism, rather than because of his ideas or his association with a particular group."

Mr Adams's appeal was that he was unfairly excluded under the "Section 901" statute banning entry to people regarded as being engaged in terrorism.

It went on: "The benefits of Section 901 are denied to those aliens who 'support and assist' in terrorist violence, as well as those 'actually pulling a trigger or planting a bomb'."

The Federal Court upheld Mr Adams's ban from the US, adding: "It is important to note that there need only have been a reasonable belief that Adams was involved in terrorist activity: it is not necessary to have proven his involvement in the activity beyond a reasonable doubt. We need not continue."

The ban was eventually overturned by Bill Clinton, months before the IRA called its ceasefire in 1994. There was a later hiccup for Mr Adams when he was banned from fundraising in the US in 2005, despite being offered a visa to travel on that occasion.

hnews@ herald.ie

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