• Mother of teenager killed in IRA bombing demands apology from murderer
• Paul Maxwell was a crew member on Mountbatten's Shadow V when killed
• Request from Mary Hornsey comes ahead of Prince Charles's visit to site**Please use the SITE SEARCH in the links to your right and type in 'Paul Maxwell' to see many more articles on this tragedy.
By Nicola ByrneDaily Mail
16 May 2015The mother of a teenage boy who died in the IRA bombing that killed Lord Mountbatten has asked his murderer to apologise for ‘the slaughter of children’ just days before Prince Charles’s visit to the site of the attack.
Paul Maxwell, a member of the crew on Mountbatten’s boat Shadow V, was 15 when he died in the 1979 attack. The other victims were Mountbatten’s 14-year-old grandson Nicholas Knatchbull and the Dowager Lady Brabourne, who was 83.
Mountbatten’s daughter Lady Brabourne and her husband Lord Brabourne were both injured but survived the blast, as did their son Timothy, Nicholas’s twin brother.
Bomb-maker Thomas McMahon is the only person to have been convicted for the attack, which happened after the boat party had set off from the fishing village of Mullaghmore in Donegal Bay.
McMahon served 18 years before being released in 1998 under the Good Friday peace agreement.Paul Maxwell (left) was 15 when he died in the IRA bomb explosion
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday
from her home outside Belfast, Paul’s mother, Mary Hornsey, said: ‘I would like him to apologise. I feel that if he has a conscience, he must have a great deal on his conscience because he killed two innocent boys.
‘What cause is great enough to warrant the slaughter of innocent children? It’s hard to know what is in Mr McMahon’s heart. If he were to lose one of his own children in such a sudden barbaric way, then maybe he would realise what an awful, heinous act he committed in taking my son from me.
‘I would like to ask him why he murdered my son – what purpose did it serve?’
At the time, Mrs Hornsey’s family lived in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland but had a summer house in Mullaghmore, where her son worked as a deckhand for Mountbatten.
She says Paul was a kind and gentle boy with friends from both sides of the religious divide in Northern Ireland.
Although Charles’s visit comes 36 years after the bombing, it is believed he has wanted to visit Mullaghmore for some time. He and the Duchess of Cornwall will arrive on Tuesday when they fly to Galway for a reception at the city’s university to celebrate the area’s links with Britain. Later they will be at a private dinner hosted by the Irish president, Michael D. Higgins, in Lough Cutra Castle in South Galway.
On Wednesday they will attend a service of peace and reconciliation at Drumcliffe church in Sligo.Mary Hornsey (right) and Donna Maxwell (left), the mother and sister of Paul Maxwell pictured at his funeral
Welcoming the Prince’s visit, Mrs Hornsey said: ‘He is extending the hand of friendship and showing a great deal of trust. I commend him.’ McMahon, who lives with his wife in Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, works as a carpenter. He has ignored two requests from Paul Maxwell’s father, John, to meet.
Yesterday Mr Maxwell extended the invitation again, saying: ‘I’ve been asked do I forgive him? A lot depends on what he would say to me if I met him, which I would still consider doing.’
He added: ‘The Royal visit brings hope for the future.’
The Mail on Sunday tried to interview Mr McMahon last week. As he was leaving a hardware shop in Carrickmacross, our reporter asked him whether he had any regrets about the 1979 bombing.
He replied, ‘Good for you’ and walked back towards his car. He refused to comment on the Prince’s visit, before driving off at speed.Bomb-maker Thomas McMahon (right) is the only person to have been convicted for the attack
A massive security operation is under way in preparation for the Prince’s arrival, as reported in The Mail on Sunday last week.
On Thursday, Irish police revealed they had foiled a suspected Real IRA bomb plot that could have led to explosives being planted near an Army base north of the border.
Charles enjoyed a close relationship with Lord Mountbatten, his great-uncle, whom he looked upon as a father figure and mentor.
It emerged yesterday that MI5 believed the IRA planned to shoot down the Navy helicopter carrying Mountbatten’s body back from Ireland after the bombing.
One of the helicopter’s crewmen revealed that they were warned of such a plot. Colin Douglas, who was a lieutenant in the Fleet Air Arm, said: ‘The Security Service threat assessment for our task that day [was] “likely to come under attack.” ’
In March 1979, an Army helicopter was nearly downed by the IRA when it came under heavy machine-gun fire in South Armagh.Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma his two son-in-laws , grandchildren and Paul Maxwell returning from fishing at Mullaghmore, County Sligo
11 May 2015Pat Finucane was murdered by the UDA in 1989The Prime Minister’s refusal to hold a public inquiry in to the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane was morally and legally indefensible, a court has been told.
A barrister representing Mr Finucane’s wife Geraldine alleged David Cameron rejected an inquiry into claims of state collusion with the loyalist paramilitary killers over fears of criticism from elements of the Conservative Party and the right-wing press in the UK.
Belfast High Court is hearing a judicial review by Mrs Finucane of the decision by Mr Cameron to rule out an inquiry into the 1989 UDA shooting in the city.
Opening the case before judge Mr Justice Stephens, Barry MacDonald QC said the murder was one of the “most notorious” of the Troubles.
“It is notorious for good reason,” he added. “The available evidence suggests that agents of the state responsible for law enforcement devised and operated a policy of extra-judicial execution, the essential feature of which was that loyalist terrorist organisations were infiltrated, resourced and manipulated in order to murder individuals identified by the state and their agents as suitable for assassination.
“In other words ‘murder by proxy’ whereby the state itself engaged in terrorism through the agency of loyalist paramilitaries.”
The barrister added: “The decision not to hold one (an inquiry) is indefensible both morally and legally.”
The solicitor’s family has long campaigned for a full independent public inquiry into the murder, but Mr Cameron has insisted such an exercise would not shed any more light on the events.
A Government-commissioned review of the controversial murder published by Sir Desmond de Silva detailed shocking levels of state involvement.
That included spreading malicious propaganda that Mr Finucane was sympathetic to the IRA; one or possibly more police officers proposing him as a target to loyalists; and the mishandling of state agents inside the UDA who were involved in the murder.
While Sir Desmond found no evidence of an overarching conspiracy by the authorities to target the 38-year-old lawyer, he said the actions of a number of state employees had “furthered and facilitated’’ the UDA shooting while there had also been efforts to thwart the subsequent criminal investigation.
As he accepted the report’s findings in the House of Commons in December 2012, Mr Cameron reiterated an apology to the Finucane family and also pledged that the Government would examine the review in detail to identify potential lessons.
Mr Finucane was gunned down in front of his wife Geraldine and their three children inside their north Belfast home in February 1989.
Mr MacDonald outlined details of the various collusion investigations that examined the Finucane murder in the years following the shooting.
He referred to Government papers that acknowledged the police and army engaged in an “active and significant obstruction” of an investigation carried out by former Metropolitan Police deputy commissioner Sir John Stevens.
The barrister also revealed that as well as three investigations carried out by Sir John, the Government conducted its own confidential assessment of the collusion claims in 1999 – a never-published document entitled the Langdon report.
The existence of the report emerged only during the legal discovery process ahead of the judicial review.
Mr MacDonald said all the various investigations detailed evidence that warranted examination in a public inquiry.
The barrister then focused on a commitment made by the UK Government at Weston Park in 2001 during peace process negotiations with the Irish government.
The Weston Park talks resulted in Canadian judge Peter Cory being asked to examine the grounds for public inquiry in a number of controversial Troubles deaths.
The Government said such inquiries would be implemented if the judge recommended that course of action.
Judge Cory subsequently did recommend public inquiries for a number of killings, including Mr Finucane’s.
But while the Government ordered inquiries into the other deaths, it has not given the green light for one in the Finucane case.
Mr Finucane’s son John and daughter Katherine were in court for Monday’s hearing, as was the murdered solicitor’s brother Seamus.
'...knowing that Oisin's heart still beats on in someone else'
By Victoria O'Hara Belfast Telegraph
08 May 2015Oisin McGrath died after sustaining head injuries during incident while at schoolThe parents of a teenager who died after he was injured at school have spoken of how their grief has been eased by a decision to donate his organs - and that "his heart still beats on".
Oisin McGrath (13) died after sustaining serious head injuries in February during an incident after playing a game of football at St Michael's College in Enniskillen.
He was rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast but died three days later. His parents Sharon and Nigel from Belcoo, Co Fermanagh, made the brave decision to donate the organs of their son - who was a talented and keen sportsman - to save the lives of five other people.
They have now set up Oisin's Foundation "to keep his spirit alive" through raising awareness of organ donation. They also aim to raise funds for brain injury research and to help develop sporting initiatives for young people. Sharon (42) described the death of her son as "devastating" but said her family hoped Oisin's story would inspire others to support organ donation. "We get some comfort knowing that his heart still beats on and that something positive has come out of this," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It was the right thing to do, we feel, knowing Oisin's generosity of spirit that he would have wanted us to do it."
Sharon, a technical services manager for South West College, said: "We hope it will encourage everyone to talk about it as a family so that each is clear how other family members feel about it. There are so many people who will die without transplants, we want to work to try to prevent other families having to suffer the loss of loved ones."
Sharon said it was "a difficult decision" to donate Oisin's organs.
"It was something that we probably knew we would do even from when it was first discussed. It was a devastating time for us and we were initially reluctant to even speak to the specialist nurse for organ donation, but looking back that was more about not wanting to believe what had happened and also because we were still fighting for our son, praying and willing him to pull through. If Oisin's life could have been saved by someone else's organs we would have grabbed that opportunity, so how could we not allow Oisin to give this gift to others? Oisin gave the gift of life to five people."
A 17-year-old boy had been interviewed in relation to the incident and was later released pending a report to the Public Prosecution Service. Meanwhile, this Sunday a special GAA match will take place in memory of Oisin with donations going towards the new foundation.
The match between Fermanagh and Sligo's senior football teams will take place at 6.30pm at Brewster Park in Enniskillen. The family have also received a message from the Fermanagh GAA manager Pete McGrath, who spoke of being moved by the look of determination in a photograph of Oisin playing football and how others can be inspired by it.
"The intent and single-mindedness clearly emanating from his facial expression can be a lesson and inspiration to us all not only in terms of what is needed to succeed in football, but also as regards what is needed to fulfil our potential in life - energy, enthusiasm, determination and a genuine love for whatever we channel our God-given talents towards," Mr McGrath wrote.
"I hope that all of Fermanagh's young footballers can draw inspiration from Oisin's short but marvellously full life - and from this iconic photograph."
"Jock Davison entered our lives uninvited and took Robert's life". Robert McCartney's siblings condemn Jock Davison's killing but are sickened by tributes
By Suzanne Breen Belfast Telegraph
07 May 2015Robert McCartney’s sisters Catherine (left) and Paula were interviewed by our reporter yesterdayThe sisters of Robert McCartney have said their campaign for justice has now ended after the murder of Gerard 'Jock' Davison, whom they believe gave the order to kill their brother.
"We wanted Jock to face justice in a courtroom, not down the barrel of a gun," said Catherine McCartney.
"But the type of justice we hoped for has eluded us. We will never see Jock standing in the dock now.
"Our campaign for Robert is effectively over because Jock's death means he can never be held accountable for what he did that night."
Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph, the McCartney sisters condemned Davison's murder.
The former IRA commander was shot dead on Tuesday morning near his home in the Markets area of Belfast.
Catherine said: "Murder is wrong and can never be justified. As a family, we condemn Jock's murder. But we are sickened that politicians are pretending that he was a saint.
"This man brought death and destruction into our family and into many families across Belfast. It is nauseating that politicians from a range of parties are trying to whitewash his murderous past."
Another sister, Paula McCartney, said: "We have no sympathy for Jock Davison but we do have sympathy for his family. They are now grieving just like we grieved 10 years ago. They now know the pain of losing a loved one."
Robert McCartney, a 33-year-old father-of-two from the Short Strand, was stabbed to death by IRA members outside Magennis's bar in Belfast in January 2005.
His five sisters stepped forward to challenge the Provisionals and the code of omerta which ruled in working-class nationalist areas.
Their impassioned campaign for justice took them across the world, including Strasbourg and Washington where they met President Bush.
The McCartneys have always insisted that Jock Davison gave the order for their brother's murder - a claim he denied.
They say that after the fight broke out in the bar, Davison drew a finger across his throat to indicate to his henchmen what he wanted done to Robert and his friend, Brendan Devine.
Both men were followed into Market Street where they were beaten, kicked, stabbed and left to die. Devine survived but McCartney died in hospital nine hours later.
Catherine said: "Jock Davison didn't wield the knife that killed my brother but we hold him more responsible than the Provo who frenetically stabbed Robert.
"Jock Davison chose to let the mad dog off the leash."
Paula said: "Had Jock Davison not been in Magennis's bar that night, Robert would be alive today.
"The fight in the bar would still have happened but that is all it would have been, a fight.
"At worst, Robert would have been left with bruises and a bloody nose. There would not have been a dead body. It was Jock Davison who chose to turn it into something far more deadly that night.
"As a family we are still living with the repercussions of Jock's actions. We can't even visit Robert's grave. I went a few times but found no comfort there - it was too traumatic."
The McCartney sisters said they were incensed at politicians paying tribute to Davison as a respected and valued community worker.
Catherine said: "Jock is obviously a loss to his family but he is not a loss to the community.
"Jock Davison wasn't a positive person in the community. His legacy to the community is one of death and mutilation. He was involved in numerous murders and punishment beatings.
"There are dozens of families who lost loved ones because of him or who had loved ones beaten to a pulp in alleyways in the dark of night.
"This is a so-called community worker who put people in early graves. Yet nobody is mentioning his victims.
"Had this been Mark Haddock, politicians wouldn't be getting away with spouting this rubbish. I view Jock Davison no differently to Mark Haddock. To whitewash this man's legacy is an insult to his victims. How dare they."
Haddock is a notorious former loyalist terrorist and police informer who was jailed for 12 years last June in London for a knife attack on friend and fellow informer Terry Fairfield. The former Mount Vernon UVF leader has been linked to 21 murders but never convicted of any.
The McCartneys said they were particularly disgusted at Alliance's South Belfast Westminster candidate, Paula Bradhsaw, who expressed "extra sadness" at Davison's murder, stating: "I knew Gerard through the community sector and of his hard work for the Markets community."
Catherine said: "Is that all it takes to wipe out somebody's murderous past, for a politician to cut a yellow ribbon with them at a community event?
"Paula Bradshaw's crass comment illustrates how badly victims are treated in Northern Ireland.
"Politicians bemoaning the loss of Jock Davison is highly offensive to bereaved families sitting at home with empty chairs because of him." The McCartneys also lambasted the police for their comments about Davison.
Detective chief inspector Justyn Galloway said that although Davison, like many people in Northern Ireland, had a past "that is in the past".
Catherine said: "I am appalled at Justyn Galloway's statement. It contradicts everything the PSNI has told us. The police never informed us that Robert's murder investigation was over.
"The police had evidence against Jock Davison. For us, he remained a central suspect in a murder investigation. By these comments it feels like the police had already relegated Robert to the dustbin of history.
"But maybe if a murderer puts on a community worker hat, sits down and has tea and buns with the police, the slate is wiped clean."
In 2008, three men went on trial in connection with Robert's death. Terry Davison, Jock's uncle, was charged with murder; Jim McCormick and Joe Fitzpatrick with causing an affray. All three were found not guilty.
The McCartneys alleged that the police never had any interest in bringing Robert's killers to justice and the prosecution was "just window-dressing".
Catherine said: "Jock was the person we most wanted in the dock because the murder was carried out at his behest.
"But we felt the police were never interested in seriously going after him.
"We felt he was protected. We repeatedly asked detectives if he was an informer. We were just told the issue of informers was irrelevant to the investigation."
The sisters believe that Davison's senior rank in the IRA meant that the organisation initiated a cover-up after Robert's murder, destroying vital evidence.
"Had it been just run-of-the-mill Provos involved, our family would have had a far greater chance of achieving justice," Catherine said.
"But Jock's senior position in the movement meant they were never going to just spit him out."
While Davison was publicly expelled by the IRA for events in Magennis's bar, Catherine said the presence of senior republicans on the ground after his shooting on Tuesday, and the warm tributes paid to him, showed that he remained intricately involved with the organisation.
She said: "Jock Davison entered our lives uninvited 10 years ago. He took away Robert's precious life.
"Had Jock been held accountable by the state for his many murderous actions, justice would never have been meted out to him on the streets.
"I see his murder as an unfortunate, awful result of what happens when the system fails victims.
"You can't leave people without justice."
Paula added: "Had the police acted on evidence, Jock Davison would now be doing time in Maghaberry jail.
"By not upholding the rule of law, the authorities have paved the way for mafia law on the streets."
Detectives investigating shooting of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison in central Belfast detain 41-year-old man
Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
6 May 2015Police in Northern Ireland have arrested a 41-year-old man in connection with the murder of former IRA commander Gerard ”Jock” Davison.
The man was detained in Belfast on Wednesday morning. Police also searched a flat in the north of the city on Tuesday night in connection with the killing.
Within hours of the fatal shooting in the Markets area of central Belfast, detectives ruled out involvement of hardline anti-peace process republican organisation or loyalist paramilitaries.Murder scene of Gerard ”Jock” Davison
The murder took place at the corner of Welsh Street and Upper Stanfield Street, close to an office where Davison was employed as a community worker.
Local people reported children screaming, with one shouting: “Daddy, Daddy” when the gunman fired at the ex-IRA activist. The gunman, who witnesses said was wearing a hooded jacket that concealed his face, escaped by running up an alleyway.
Shortly after the shooting several senior republicans from across Belfast visited the inner-city area to support Davison’s family and friends.
Davison is the most senior pro-peace process republican to have been killed since the IRA ceasefire of 1997. Security sources said it was unlikely that any Ulster loyalist group was behind the murders, adding that the killer may have come from the nationalist community and possibly had a longstanding grudge against the victim.
The investigating officer, DCI Justyn Galloway, issued a fresh appeal on Wednesday for information about the killing. “This was a cold-blooded murder carried out in broad daylight in a residential area and it has no place in the new Northern Ireland. The suspect was detained in Belfast this morning and is being questioned at a police station in the city. A property in north Belfast was searched last night as part of the overall investigation,” he said.
“I would again appeal to people who were in the Welsh Street area at 9am yesterday, and who have information about the shooting, to talk to detectives at Musgrave police station.”
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK
5 May 2015
**Please see this search page to find results for past stories about Robert McCartney on this journal: GOOGLE SITE SEARCHGerard "Jock" Davison was shot several times on Tuesday morning (Pacemaker)A central Irish Republican Army figure in one of the outlawed group's most notorious killings has been shot to death in Belfast, residents and police said Tuesday.
No group claimed responsibility for shooting Gerard "Jock" Davison at short range outside his home in the Markets neighborhood of south-central Belfast.
Davison was a Belfast IRA commander when he allegedly ordered IRA comrades in 2005 to attack a man, Robert McCartney. McCartney's widow and four sisters took their demands for justice all the way to the White House, and their embarrassing campaign helped spur the IRA to renounce violence and disarm later that year.
Davison was arrested on suspicion of ordering the killing but not charged. Two others, including his uncle Terence Davison, were charged with McCartney's murder but acquitted in 2008.
McCartney's sisters accused Gerard Davison of making a throat-slashing gesture to his IRA colleagues in the crowded pub shortly before McCartney, 33, was fatally stabbed outside the pub. IRA members confiscated the pub's surveillance video footage, cleaned up the forensic evidence and ordered pub-goers to tell police nothing or risk IRA retaliation, according to police and court testimony.
IRA representatives met McCartney's widow and sisters and offered to have the IRA members responsible killed as punishment, an offer they rejected. The IRA and its allied Sinn Fein party later announced they had expelled three IRA members and eight Sinn Fein members over their alleged role in the assault on McCartney and the evidence cover-up.
Davison's body lay in the street Tuesday outside his home until police covered it with a sheet, then constructed a tent around the scene of the killing to preserve forensic evidence.
Most IRA members are observing a 1997 cease-fire in support of Northern Ireland's peace process. But splinter groups continue to mount bombings and shootings and feuds within their fractured ranks can turn deadly.
In Northern Ireland's last fatal shooting, a former Belfast commander of a faction called the Continuity IRA was killed in April 2014 in Catholic west Belfast.
27 April 2015Brigadier Frank Kitson of the British Army 1971 (Photo: PACEMAKER PRESS INTL BELFAST)One of Northern Ireland’s most senior Army officers is to be sued over the death of a Catholic man in Northern Ireland more than 40 years ago.
Eugene “Paddy” Heenan, 47, was killed in February 1973 when loyalist paramilitaries threw a grenade at the minibus carrying him and 14 others to a building site in east Belfast.
Mr Heenan’s widow, Mary, is now taking legal action against the Ministry of Defence and General Frank Kitson, claiming her husband died because of negligence and misfeasance in office.
It marks the first time a retired senior soldier has been personally sued over alleged actions during the Troubles.
Solicitor Kevin Winters said: “This week we have issued proceedings against the MoD and Frank Kitson on behalf of our clients, the relatives of Patrick Heenan.
“These are civil proceedings for damages but their core value is to obtain truth and accountability for our clients as to the role of the British Army and Frank Kitson in the counter-insurgency operation in the north of Ireland during the early part of the conflict and the use of loyalist paramilitary gangs to contain the republican-nationalist threat through terror, manipulation of the rule of law, infiltration and subversion all core to the Kitson military of doctrine endorsed by the British Army and the British government at the time.”
Gen Kitson, who is now in his late 80s, rose to become Commander-in-Chief UK Land Forces from 1982 to 1985. He was in charge of military operations in Northern Ireland during the early 1970s.
He has been named as a co-defendant in the legal action on grounds that he and others used agents knowing, or should have known, that they would take part in criminal actions.
Court papers claim Gen Kitson is “liable personally for negligence and misfeasance in public office”, because, in creating his policy, he was “reckless as to whether state agents would be involved in murder”.
His doctrine included the use of “counter-gangs”, subversion, psychological operations and the creation of covert military units such as the controversial Military Reaction Force (MRF).
Ex-soldier Albert “Ginger” Baker received a life sentence for killing Mr Heenan and three others but later claimed to have links to British intelligence.
Baker was a member of the outlawed UDA at the time of Mr Heenan’s murder and known to be a leading member of the so-called “Romper Room” gang.
Mrs Heenan’s legal team say Gen Kitson’s command and influence were such as to make him liable for the actions of Baker and others in the murder of Mr Heenan.
Mr Heenan, from Andersonstown, west Belfast, had been working as a foreman at a Catholic school.
Although no inquest was held into Mr Heenan’s death, it has been claimed he could have survived if first aid had been administered quickly.
Case of Marty McGartland, who says he survived two attempts on his life by republicans, is one of 20 being examined as part of ‘Stakeknife’ inquiry
Henry McDonald and Owen BowcottThe Guardian
22 April 2015Martin ‘Marty’ McGartland claims two of the guards who interrogated him were recruited to work for the security forces as double agents. (Photograph: Rex Shutterstock)The only informer ever to have survived an IRA execution squad has accused the police services in Northern Ireland of abandoning him to be killed. The allegations by Marty McGartland, who escaped an IRA interrogation in 1991 by jumping out of a window in west Belfast, will form part of a new inquiry by the police ombudsman into one of the most controversial episodes of the Troubles.
The inquiry will focus on the role of a double agent known as Stakeknife, who ran the republican movement’s so-called “nutting squad”, or counter-intelligence section. Around 20 cases will be examined where the security forces in Northern Ireland stand accused of failing to rescue “prisoners”.
McGartland’s claims that he believes two of the guards who interrogated him were a “protected species” – recruited to work for the security forces as double agents – will reinforce suggestions that the republican movement’s key departments were thoroughly penetrated by the intelligence services.
Speaking from a secret location outside Northern Ireland, McGartland said: “It’s my understanding that for 15 years, first the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and later the Police Service in Northern Ireland (PSNI), sat on evidence that could have led to the arrest of both men. I have consistently said I would go as an eyewitness naming these two people as the ‘guards’ that held me in the flat in Twinbrook before I was to be tortured and then shot dead,” he said.
“I also know for a fact that for 15 years the RUC and then the PSNI failed to make it public that there was fingerprint and DNA evidence from that flat in Twinbrook which belonged to these two men. They even could have been arrested shortly after my escape, and yet nothing was done about them. This pair later took part in the interrogation of another IRA member accused of informing, also in west Belfast.”
McGartland was a former petty criminal whom Special Branch persuaded to infiltrate the IRA in the city. After he escaped the interrogation at which he belives he was to be killed, he went into hiding. He wrote an autobiography about the events, called 50 Dead Men Walking, which was later made into a film starring Jim Sturgess and Sir Ben Kingsley.
McGartland had a second narrow escape in 1999 when an IRA hit team tracked him down to his home in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside. During a confrontation with an IRA gunman, McGartland put his hands over the gun barrel and sustained injuries to prevent his attacker from firing into his upper body or head. He is currently taking legal action against MI5 over the security service’s alleged neglect in protecting him from the 1999 attack and for failing to provide him with medical help in relation to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Speaking to the Guardian, McGartland said: “A very senior member of Special Branch, Ian Phoenix, in his posthumous memoirs – Phoenix: Policing the Shadows – revealed that undercover officers were watching and filming me on the day the IRA ‘arrested’ me. From the moment I entered the Sinn Fein office in Andersonstown to me being driven away by these two men for the interrogation in Twinbrook, I could have been rescued at any time, and yet they did nothing. I think it was a case of ‘Well, we’ve got four years out of Marty and now we need to recruit some new informers’ … or else protect other agents.”
McGartland’s claims form part of the inquiry into the role of Stakeknife, who has been identified as Freddie Scappaticci, a republican activist who fled Belfast more than a decade ago. Scappaticci has always denied working for British military intelligence and continues to deny being Stakeknife.
Relatives of those tortured and then killed for being state agents have told the police ombudsman that in some instances their loved ones were “set up” in order to protect the identity of higher-grade informers at the top of the IRA.
McGartland said he would be providing material related to his allegations to the police ombudsman, but had “little faith in anyone taking on the security machine”.
The two men McGartland has named as his guards before his planned execution are veteran republicans who at one time were part of a security team protecting the Sinn Féin president and former west Belfast MP Gerry Adams.
In 2003, when the Stakeknife story broke, Michael Flanigan, a solicitor for Scappaticci, threatened legal action over allegations that his client had operated as a spy at the heart of the IRA. Scappaticci confirmed at the time that he had been involved in the republican movement but had since left.
20 April 2015
**See also Maghaberry ASSIA sanctuary has been created for one of the world's most endangered birds within the confines of a prison in County Antrim.
Life sentence prisoners helped create the habitat for around 20 pairs of breeding lapwings which have made their home at HMP Maghaberry on a marshy no-man’s-land dominated by razor wire and lookouts behind reinforced glass.
The six acres of waste ground lies between the perimeter fence and wall of a jail, near Lisburn in County Antrim, more familiar as a holding centre for dissident republicans, sex offenders and murderers.
A combination of swampy short grass because of the clay ground left over from the prison’s foundations and the lack of predators like foxes has created the ideal conditions for breeding chicks, retired prison guard and gardener Denis Smyth said.
He added: “Once they are big enough to fly, over the fence they go.”
Lapwings, as big as pigeons but much more rare, are globally threatened, the RSPB said, and population numbers have declined by 50% during the last 25 years because of the growth of farmland and other habitation.
They represent the highest conservation priority, needing urgent action.
The Northern Ireland breeding population was estimated as about 1700 pairs in 1999 but has declined since, according to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Mr Smyth worked as a warder at Maghaberry, which holds Northern Ireland’s most notorious inmates including dissident republicans opposed to the peace process. He tended the gardens inside the prison, an oasis of green inside multiple locked gates.
About 10 years ago he began cutting the grass where lapwings nest from spring time, close to the perimeter fence.
He enlisted life prisoners who have been judged nearly ready for release in creating the right conditions.
Grass was cut and shallow ponds dug, the area protected from development.
The clear domed roofs of the wings overlooked the grassland, an oasis beside an industrial sprawl of concrete walls and steel bars.
The inmate workers had been there for 10-15 years but were being readied for release back into the community and spending more time outside their cells.
Mr Smyth added: “We have to work together as a team, the prisoners and myself, we have a very good relationship with them and there is never a problem.”
Three years ago Northern Ireland’s environment department designated it an Area of Special Scientific Interest. A total of 60 different breeds of bird use the habitat.
He explained his motivation for his work.
“I am a farmer by trade, I have always loved birds.”
Mr Smyth added: “Whenever you see the chicks running about you could not help but be hooked.”
He said the fence was what made the place exist.
“That height ... has protected them from predators.”
The chicks have fragile beaks and need access to the insects which populate the boggy breeding ground to survive.
Not enough was known about conservation work at the jail, Mr Smyth added, saying: “People don’t know what is going on here because of it being such a high security prison, it is nice for people to know that there are good things going on here and that this is a very good nature reserve.”
Northern Ireland’s police ombudsman is focusing on role of double agent Stakeknife, British intelligence’s top spy in the IRA
Owen Bowcott and Henry McDonaldThe Guardian
14 April 2015Northern Ireland’s police ombudsman has launched an investigation into whether the British security forces could have prevented at least 20 murders of alleged informers by the IRA.
The inquiry by the Historical Investigations Directorate is focusing on one of the darkest episodes of the Troubles and the role of the double agent known as Stakeknife, who ran the republican movement’s so-called “nutting squad” or counter-intelligence section.
Stakeknife has been identified as Freddie Scappaticci, a republican activist who fled Belfast after being unmasked more than a decade ago. He has always denied working for British military intelligence and continues to deny being Stakeknife.
Relatives of those interrogated by the IRA have recently launched compensation cases against the government.
In some instances, the families of murdered informers have alleged that their loved ones were “set up” in order to provide cover for one of the British government’s most important spies inside the IRA.
The ombudsman’s office has written to Kevin Winters, one of the lawyers representing the victims, to confirm that a “thematic approach” inquiry is under way.
The letter says: “The police ombudsman [Dr Michael Maguire] is investigating a number of referrals from the chief constable and complaints from members of the public, relating to the preventability of murders, alleged to have been perpetrated by republican paramilitaries, of individuals accused of having acted as informants for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and the conduct of related police investigations.”
The letter, sent earlier this month, adds: “Material gathered during the investigation of the referral from the director of public prosecutions in relation to the James Martin et al matter is held within this parallel, ongoing ‘complex’ investigation.”
Martin, who is represented by Winters, was originally convicted in 1991 of imprisoning and interrogating a Special Branch informant abducted by the IRA in west Belfast. During that case, Scappaticci’s name first emerged in open court when he was described as a senior IRA commander. Martin’s conviction was eventually quashed in 2009 because the participation of informants was deemed to have tainted evidence against him.
A spokesman for the ombudsman’s office told the Guardian: “ [We] can confirm that [we are] carrying out a major investigation into matters connected to a significant number of murders and other terrorist incidents in Northern Ireland during the 1980s and 1990s.
“The murders were carried out by the IRA, which alleged at the time that its victims were informants for the security forces.”
The investigation started, the spokesman said, following a number of separate complaints made to the ombudsman’s office by members of the public and from matters referred to it by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
The allegations include claims that some murders could have been prevented and that people were subsequently protected from investigation and prosecution.
The spokesman said: “While most of the complaints we receive concern allegations relating to individual incidents, in this case we identified wider issues connected to a series of murders which needed further investigation. We then broadened our investigation to look at those themes and issues.
“That larger investigation has been under way for more than a year now. It is making good progress but there is still work to be done. We are at a stage where we can now confirm that we are carrying out such an investigation. The issues involved are extremely sensitive and we will not be providing any further information at this stage, either publicly or to any individuals.”
There has been growing pressure on the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland to launch a full-scale inquiry into the security forces’ handling of Stakeknife amid allegations that lives were sacrificed in order to protect the army’s highest-placed intelligence asset. Scappaticci was a close friend of many in the republican leadership, including the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams.
Winters met the ombudsman this week to discuss the investigation. In a statement released afterwards, his Belfast solicitors firm, KRW Law, welcomed the development. It said other official agencies had, until now, been reluctant to look at common themes such as the use of informers and “mechanisms of collusion”.
KRW Law said: “The initiative of [the ombudsman] ... makes sense on resource grounds and more importantly on the grounds that in identifying the thematic links in ‘complex’ investigations, initially regarding the operation of the RUC, the extent of collusion will be revealed and the nearer victims will be to fulfilling their quest for truth, justice and accountability.
“One of those who has instructed KRW Law is Frank Mulhern, the father of Joe Mulhern, who was killed in 1993. Frank Mulhern believes his son was killed by the IRA in west Belfast because he was suspected as being an informer giving information about the IRA to the RUC, and that one of the suspects in his murder was Fred Scappaticci, known as Stakeknife, a high ranking officer in the IRA, now considered to have been a British agent.
“Mr Mulhern hopes that the ombudsman’s thematic initiative will contribute to the truth regarding the murder of his son and the role of state agents and collusion and whether the murder of Joe Mulhern could have been prevented.”
Winters added: “As a law practice representing a substantial number of clients affected by the legacy of the conflict and having worked on their behalf with the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland since its inception, we welcome this initiative to undertake thematic investigations which we have long been advocating for.”
A former military intelligence officer who helped exposed Stakeknife has offered to give evidence about the role of the state agent within the IRA to the ombudsman. Ian Hurst, formerly a member of the British army’s Force Research Unit, told the Guardian: “The Northern Ireland police ombudsman will know very well my identity and my location and I will certainly be willing to help.”
The former NCO, who served in the covert anti-terrorist unit, has claimed that in many cases, IRA members accused of being informers were effectively allowed to be killed by the military and the RUC in order to protect their agent’s reputation within the movement.
Hurst provided critical information about two scandals involving the security forces and the running of agents inside terror groups during the Troubles: the murder of the Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane by the Ulster Defence Association in 1989, and later the exposure of Scappatticci as a high-grade informer within the IRA.
On the Finucane murder, Hurst gave evidence that showed almost all the UDA members involved in the targeting and killing of the lawyer were agents from one or more branches of the security forces. In relation to Stakeknife, Hurst was the principal source in revealing that the IRA’s chief spycatcher, who held the power of life and death over those accused of informing, was himself an agent for the British state.
In 2003, when the Stakeknife story first broke, Michael Flanigan, a solicitor for Scappaticci, threatened legal action over allegations that his client had operated as a spy at the heart of the IRA. Scappaticci confirmed at the time that he had been involved in the republican movement but had since left. He said he did not know why he was being accused of being Stakeknife.
24 March 2015A veteran former IRA man has said it is “shameful” for republicans to still defend the murder of Jean McConville.
Brendan Curran, who was Sinn Fein’s first councillor in Newry in 1985, said that the party needs to “honourably” accept that it “got things wrong”.
Mr Curran quit Sinn Fein a year and a half ago and last week he resigned from the council with a heated speech in which he claimed that there was a “Stakeknife-like” figure within Newry Sinn Fein, a reference to the notorious IRA informer from Belfast.
In his speech, Mr Curran alleged that he had warned the party of a paedophile priest (who is now dead) who was abusing children on a large scale, but he was told to stop talking about the issue.
Yesterday Mr Curran told local radio station Q Radio: “I know things have happened in the past which were bad, and things which maybe we all took part in and that was the way it was. But you know what? Now is not the time to call people like Jean McConville an executed tout. And nobody – particularly republicans – can stand by a remark like that.
“I’m simply highlighting something which is common currency in Patrick Street in Newry. Executed touts? Shameful. What happened to that woman was shameful.
“And I realise that it happened, I realise, in the whole darkness of the war. But you see now that we’re standing back and the smoke has cleared, we should be able to honourably turn round and say ‘You know what? Sometimes we got things wrong’.”
24 March 2015
**Awww...from the QUEEN!A high-profile Sinn Fein politician has revealed he received a Royal pardon from the Queen during the Troubles.
Gerry Kelly, who was handed two life sentences after being convicted for his role in the IRA’s Old Bailey bombing in 1973, said he was given a Royal Prerogative of Mercy in the mid-1980s as part of a legal deal to secure his extradition back to the UK from the Netherlands.
Now Assembly Member for North Belfast, Mr Kelly was arrested in Holland three years after his 1983 escape from the Maze paramilitary prison in Northern Ireland.
He was extradited back to Northern Ireland in 1986 and spent three more years in the Maze before his release in 1989.
The disclosure about the Royal pardon came during a radio exchange with Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister over the contents of a Westminster report on on-the-run Irish republicans.
While the inquiry by the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee dealt primarily with those on-the-runs outside the jurisdiction who had not yet been charged with an offence, it also touched on those convicted of offences who were able to return after securing a Royal pardon.
The committee had expressed concern that the names of those who had received such pardons had not been made public.
When Mr Allister challenged Mr Kelly on BBC Radio Ulster’s Talkback show about whether he had a Royal Prerogative of Mercy, he replied: “Actually, I have.”
Mr Kelly stressed he was not dealt with under the scheme for on-the-runs, that saw around 190 letters of assurance sent to republicans.
“It was after an escape but it wasn’t a letter to do with on-the-runs or to do with this scheme at all,” he said.
“The Dutch said they would not extradite me unless the British quashed the sentences - it was up to the British to quash the sentences whatever way they wanted to quash them.
“If they chose to produce a prerogative then that’s the way it did - I didn’t care what way it was done.
“The point was I came back to Ireland as a remand prisoner as opposed to someone who was doing this length of sentence because the Dutch - their courts - came to the conclusion that it was unjust.”
The Government has previously acknowledged that a number of pardons were issued in terrorism-related cases during and after the Troubles.
Mr Allister said he had written to Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers to demand details about how and why a pardon was issued to Mr Kelly.
“This is the first time that this information has come into the public domain and I have today written to the Secretary of State demanding answers on what exactly Kelly was pardoned for,” he said.
The TUV leader added: “This latest revelation is yet another reminder of the peace process’s “heart of darkness”.
Gerry Adams has long denied being a member of the I.R.A. But his former compatriots claim that he authorized murder.
By Patrick Radden KeefeThe New Yorker
16 March 2015 Issue
**This is the first half of the article. Please see the next post for the last half.
Jean McConville had just taken a bath when the intruders knocked on the door. A small woman with a guarded smile, she was, at thirty-seven, a mother of ten. She was also a widow: her husband, Arthur, had died eleven months earlier, of cancer. The family continued to live in Divis Flats—a housing complex just off the Falls Road, in the heart of Catholic West Belfast—but had recently moved to a slightly larger apartment. The stove was not connected yet, so Jean’s daughter Helen, who was fifteen, had gone to a nearby chip shop to bring back dinner. “Don’t be stopping for a sneaky smoke,” Jean told her. It was December, 1972, and already dark at 6:30 P.M. When the children heard the knock, they assumed that it was Helen with the food.Clockwise from top right: Dolours Price; Gerry Adams; Jean McConville and three of her children; I.R.A. men at the funeral of Bobby Sands; Divis Flats, the Belfast housing project from which McConville was abducted. (Credit Clockwise from Top Right: Press Association via AP - Price; Peter Marlow / Magnum - Adams; Press Association via AP - McConville; David Caulkin / AP - IRA; Judah Passow - Divis Flats)
Four men and four women burst in; some wore balaclavas, others had covered their faces with nylon stockings that ghoulishly distorted their features. One brandished a gun. “Put your coat on,” they told Jean. She trembled violently as they tried to pull her out of the apartment. “Help me!” she shrieked.
“I can remember trying to grab my mother,” her son Michael told me recently. He was eleven at the time. “We were all crying. My mother was crying.” Billy and Jim, six-year-old twins, threw their arms around Jean’s legs and wailed. The intruders tried to calm the children by saying that they would bring their mother back: they just needed to talk to her, and she would be gone for only “a few hours.” Archie, who, at sixteen, was the oldest child at home, asked if he could accompany his mother, and the members of the gang agreed. Jean McConville put on a tweed overcoat and a head scarf as the younger children were herded into one of the bedrooms. The intruders called the children by name. A couple of the men were not wearing masks, and Michael realized, to his horror, that the people taking his mother away were not strangers—they were his neighbors.
Divis Flats had been constructed in the late nineteen-sixties, in one of those fits of architectural utopianism that yield dystopian results. A “slum clearance” program had razed a neighborhood of narrow, overcrowded nineteenth-century dwellings, replacing them with a hulking complex of eight hundred and fifty units. To Michael McConville, Divis’s warren of balconies and ramps seemed like “a maze for rats.” By 1972, it had become a stronghold for the Irish Republican Army, which was waging an escalating guerrilla battle against the British Army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, and loyalist paramilitary groups. A nineteen-story tower stood on one edge of Divis. It was one of the tallest buildings in Belfast, and the British Army had established an operational post on the top two floors. Because this aerie was in the middle of enemy territory, there were times when the British could get to it only by helicopter. From the rooftop, British snipers traded fire with I.R.A. gunmen below. Michael and his siblings had grown accustomed to the reverberation of bombs and the percussion of gun battles. On bad nights, the children dragged their mattresses off the beds and away from the windows and slept on the floor.
The I.R.A. had disabled the elevators at Divis to hamper British patrols, so the masked gang hustled Jean and Archie McConville down a stairwell. When they reached the bottom, one of the men pointed a gun at Archie’s face, so close that he could feel the cold barrel on his skin, and said, “Fuck off.” Archie was just a boy, outnumbered and unarmed. He reluctantly ascended the stairs. On the second level, one of the walls was perforated with a series of vertical slats. Peering through the holes, Archie watched as his mother was bundled into a Volkswagen van and driven away.
The disappearance of Jean McConville was eventually recognized as one of the worst atrocities that occurred during the long conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. But at the time no one, except the McConville children, seemed especially concerned. When Helen returned home, she and Archie went out to look for Jean, but nobody could—or would—tell them anything about where she had been taken or when she might be back. Some weeks later, a social worker visited the apartment and noted, in a report, that the McConville children had been “looking after themselves.” Their neighbors in Divis Flats were aware of the kidnapping, as was a local parish priest, but, according to the report, they were “unsympathetic.”
Rumors circulated that McConville hadn’t been abducted at all—that she had abandoned her children and eloped with a British soldier. In Belfast, this was an incendiary allegation: Catholic women who consorted with the enemy were sometimes punished by being tied to a lamppost after having their heads shaved and their bodies tarred and feathered. The McConvilles were a “mixed” family; Jean was born Protestant and converted to Catholicism only after meeting her husband. The family had lived with Jean’s mother, in a predominantly Protestant neighborhood in East Belfast, until 1969, when they were driven out, as internecine tensions sharpened. They sought refuge in West Belfast, only to discover that they were outsiders there as well. Several weeks after the abduction, on January 17, 1973, a crew from the BBC visited the apartment and taped a segment. As the younger siblings huddled on the sofa—pale children with downcast eyes, looking shy and frightened—the reporters asked Helen if she had any idea why her mother had left. “No,” she said, shaking her head. Agnes McConville, who was thirteen, noted, hopefully, that her mother was wearing red slippers when she was taken away. She added, “We’ll keep our fingers crossed and pray hard for her to come back.”
But there was reason to believe that something terrible had happened to Jean McConville. About a week after she was kidnapped, a young man had come to the door and handed the children their mother’s purse and three rings that she had been wearing when she left: her engagement ring, her wedding ring, and an eternity ring that Arthur had given her. The children asked where Jean was. “I don’t know anything about your mother,” the man said. “I was just told to give you these.” When I spoke to Michael recently, he said, “I knew then, though I was only eleven years of age, that my mother was dead.”
His siblings were not so quickly convinced. The act of “disappearing” someone, which the International Criminal Court has classified as a crime against humanity, is so pernicious, in part, because it can leave the loved ones of the victim in a purgatory of uncertainty. “You cannot mourn someone who has not died,” the Argentine-Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman once observed. Helen and Archie reported Jean’s abduction to the police, but in the files of the Royal Ulster Constabulary there is no record of any investigation at the time. McConville’s body did not turn up. And so some of the children held out hope for years that they had not been orphaned, and that their mother might suddenly reappear. Perhaps she had developed amnesia and was living in another country, unaware that she had left a whole life behind in Belfast. But, as decades passed without word, these fantasies became increasingly difficult to sustain. For all the gnawing irresolution, there was one clear explanation. Michael’s sister Susan, who was eight when Jean was taken, told me that she knew, eventually, that her mother was dead, because otherwise “she would have found her way back to us.”
After several months of fending for themselves, the McConville children were separated by the state, and the younger ones were dispersed to different orphanages. The older ones found jobs and places to live. The siblings saw each other infrequently and never spoke of what happened to their mother. One by-product of the Troubles was a culture of silence; with armed factions at war in the streets, making inquiries could be dangerous. At one point, a posse of boys from the youth wing of the I.R.A. beat Michael McConville and stabbed him in the leg with a penknife. They released him with a warning: Don’t talk about what happened to your mother. As the children grew older, they occasionally saw their former neighbors around Belfast, and recognized individuals who had come to the apartment that night. But, as Archie McConville told me, “you can’t do nothing. They walk past you like nothing happened.”
Then, in 1994, the I.R.A. declared a ceasefire. Gerry Adams, the bearded revolutionary who was the president of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Republican movement, had entered into peace negotiations with the British government, attempting to persuade the I.R.A. to abandon armed resistance and tolerate a continued British presence in Northern Ireland. As Tim Pat Coogan observes in the 2002 edition of his book “The I.R.A.,” a peace deal would be visionary, but also highly risky for Adams, because “his life would not be worth a cent should it be thought that he was selling out the ‘armed struggle.’ ” Through perseverance and political savvy, Adams succeeded, and in 1998 he helped create the Good Friday Agreement, which brought an end to the Troubles. As the peace process got under way, the I.R.A. agreed to help locate bodies that its members had buried in hidden graves during the seventies.
Though Adams is the most famous face of the Irish Republican movement, he has long denied having been a member of the I.R.A. He maintains that he never played any operational role in the violence of the Troubles, and that he confined himself to the leadership of Sinn Fein. As the chief Republican delegate involved in peace negotiations, however, he was obliged to confront the matter of forced disappearances, and he met on several occasions with the McConville children. Adams himself grew up in a family of ten children, and he conveyed his sympathies to the McConvilles. “There is no doubt the I.R.A. killed your mother,” he said. He told them that he did not know who had authorized the killing or carried it out, or where Jean McConville was buried. But he pledged to investigate.
Michael McConville told Adams that he wanted an apology. Adams parsed his words with precision. “For what it’s worth, I’ll apologize to you,” he said. “It was wrong for the Republican movement to do what they did to your mother.”
The first person to speak publicly about involvement in the disappearance of Jean McConville was a former I.R.A. terrorist named Dolours Price. In 2010, Price revealed in a series of interviews that she had been a member of a secret I.R.A. unit called the Unknowns, which conducted clandestine paramilitary work, including disappearances. Price did not participate in the raid on the McConville house, but she drove Jean McConville across the border into the Republic of Ireland, where she was executed. McConville, Price claimed, had been acting as an informer for the British Army, providing intelligence about I.R.A. activity in Divis Flats. The order to disappear her came from the Officer Commanding of the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional I.R.A.—the man who held ultimate authority over the Unknowns. According to Price, the Officer Commanding was Gerry Adams.
Dolours Price liked to tell people that Irish Republicanism was in her DNA. As a little girl in Belfast, she sat on the knee of her father, Albert, and listened to stories about how, as a teen-ager in the forties, he had taken part in an I.R.A. bombing campaign in England. Her aunt Bridie Dolan, who lived with the family, had been horribly disfigured at twenty-seven, after accidentally dropping a cache of gelignite in an I.R.A. explosives dump. The blast blew off both of her hands, and permanently blinded her. “It was never a case of ‘Poor Bridie,’ ” Dolours’s younger sister Marian told the journalist Suzanne Breen, in 2004. “We were just proud of her sacrifice. She came home from hospital to a wee house with an outside toilet, no social worker, no disability allowance, and no counselling. She just got on with it.” Bridie was a chain smoker, and Dolours and Marian would light cigarettes and insert them between her lips.
By the late sixties, Dolours was a striking and impetuous teen-ager, with a moon face, blue-green eyes, and dark-red hair. She and Marian attended teacher-training school, but she gravitated to radical politics, taking part in civil-rights demonstrations and travelling to Milan to give a talk on “British repression” at the headquarters of a Maoist political group. Tensions had persisted in Northern Ireland since 1920, when the Irish War of Independence led to the partition of the island, ultimately resulting in an independent republic of twenty-six counties in the south and continued British dominion over six counties in the north. The I.R.A. had its origins in that conflict, and after partition the organization devoted itself to trying to force the British to withdraw altogether. Catholics in the north were subjected to rampant discrimination in housing and jobs, and, with the advent of the Troubles, in 1969, these tensions exploded in violence. New paramilitary groups loyal to the British Crown were emerging, including the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defense Association, and that January loyalist mobs attacked civil-rights protesters as they marched from Belfast to Derry. In August, a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary fired a machine gun into Divis Flats, killing a nine-year-old Catholic boy, Patrick Rooney—the first child to die in the Troubles. The R.U.C. raided the Price house repeatedly during this period, suspicious of Albert Price’s I.R.A. connections. In 1971, the British reintroduced the controversial tactic of “internment”—imprisoning indefinitely, and without trial, anyone suspected of Republican activity. But the policy backfired, radicalizing a new generation of recruits to the Republican cause. The Provisional I.R.A., a more aggressive offshoot of the official I.R.A., began preparing for a sustained guerrilla campaign. Dolours Price set out to join the Provisionals.
Historically, women had enlisted in the I.R.A.’s female wing, known as the Cumann na mBan (Irishwomen’s Council). Dolours Price’s mother and grandmother had both been members of this group. But Dolours did not want to bandage men’s wounds, she said—she wanted to be “a fighting soldier.” The leadership of the Provisional I.R.A. convened a special meeting to consider her case, and, in August, 1971, Price became the first woman admitted to full membership in the I.R.A. She was twenty.
Marian soon joined her in the I.R.A. Dolours later said, “I should be ashamed to admit there was fun in it in those days.” People are often drawn to radicalism by a sense of community and shared purpose. In this case, there was also glory. I.R.A. members referred to themselves not as soldiers or terrorists but as “volunteers”—a signal that they were prepared to sacrifice their lives for the cause.
Educated, attractive young women had not been seen carrying guns on the rubble-strewn streets of Belfast before, and the Price sisters acquired an iconic glamour. “They were sassy girls,” Eamonn McCann, a longtime friend of the sisters, told me. “They weren’t cold-eyed dialecticians or fanatics on the surface. There was a smile about them.” One press account described them as “pretty girls who would finish their school work and then take to the streets armed, one or both hiding an Armalite rifle under their raincoat, to take part in gun battles with the British army.” The sisters became the subject of sexualized lore, with stories circulating about Marian, in a miniskirt, charming her way past a British Army checkpoint while driving a car full of explosives. At the time, there was a shopping center in Belfast called Crazy Prices, and, inevitably, the sisters became known as the Crazy Prices. Another friend of the sisters told me that Dolours was drawn to the I.R.A., in some measure, by “rebel chic.”
During this period, Dolours crossed paths with Gerry Adams. He was a former bartender from Ballymurphy, a lean young man with sharp cheekbones and black-framed eyeglasses. Like Dolours, he had grown up in a Belfast family deeply rooted in the I.R.A. It is believed that Adams joined the organization as a teen-ager, in the mid-sixties. Several former I.R.A. volunteers confirmed to me that Adams was a member of the group, and a photograph taken at a Belfast funeral in 1970 captures him wearing the black beret that was an unofficial uniform of the organization. In March, 1972, the British government interned Adams on the Maidstone, a British prison ship, but in June he was released so that he could represent an I.R.A. delegation in secret peace talks with the British. Dolours and Marian Price picked him up and drove him into Belfast to rejoin the Republican leadership. (The talks were unsuccessful.) A U.S. diplomatic cable in January, 1973, reported that Adams was “an active Belfast military commander.”
Nevertheless, Adams did not carry out operations. In a 2010 documentary, “Voices from the Grave,” Dolours Price recalls, “Gerry didn’t allow himself to be in the presence of guns, or in any situation that would put him at risk of arrest.” Instead, he deputized operational work to his close friend Brendan Hughes, a compact man with bushy black eyebrows and a shock of black hair. Hughes, who was known as the Dark, brought military cunning to the job, along with a measure of glee. He lived “from operation to operation,” he said later. “Robbing banks, robbing post offices, robbing trains, planting bombs, shooting Brits, trying to stay alive.” To Dolours Price, Hughes seemed like “a giant of a man.” He inspired fierce loyalty from his subordinates, because he fought alongside them and “asked no volunteer to do what he would not do himself.”
Hughes had been a merchant seaman before joining the I.R.A., and one day a sailor he knew showed him a brochure for a new assault rifle from America—the Armalite. “We all fell in love with this weapon,” Hughes recalled. The Armalite was ideal for urban warfare: lightweight and powerful, with a retractable stock that made it easy to conceal. According to Hughes, Adams dispatched him to New York to procure Armalites, using a network of sympathetic arms dealers. Hughes devised an ingenious plan to ship the guns back to Ireland. In 1969, the Queen Elizabeth 2 began making stately transatlantic crossings between Southampton and New York. The ship had a crew of a thousand; many of them were Irish, and some secretly worked for Brendan Hughes. And so a ship named after the Queen of England was used to smuggle weapons to the I.R.A. On Belfast’s streets, graffiti heralded the guns’ arrival: “God made the Catholics, but the Armalite made them equal.”
For much of the sixties, the I.R.A. had just a few dozen members, and was therefore easy to track. Now there were hundreds of recruits; more sophisticated tactics, with the advent of the Provisional I.R.A.; and new leaders, like Adams. The British authorities were caught off guard. When Brendan Hughes became active in the I.R.A., his father destroyed the family’s photographs of him, so that British forces could not identify him by sight. Similarly, pictures of Adams were so rare that, for a time, the British authorities could not say for sure what he looked like. In Adams’s autobiography, “Before the Dawn,” he describes British troops capturing his dog, Shane, and taking him for a walk on a leash, in the hope that he might lead them to his owner. Adams and Hughes became targets of assassination, and they perpetually moved among safe houses, counting on support from the community in West Belfast. Armored personnel carriers roamed the Falls Road and helicopters hovered overhead; local residents removed street signs to disorient British patrols, and rattled the lids of trash bins to sound the alarm. While Hughes and his men were fleeing soldiers in a foot chase, a front door might suddenly open, allowing them to duck inside. When Adams moved around the city during this period, he later wrote, he “avoided streets where there were stretches without doors.”
In 1972, the British Army launched a clever operation. It set up a washing service called Four Square Laundry, issued coupons offering steep discounts, then sent a van into Catholic neighborhoods to pick up and drop off clothes. The coupons were color-coded, so the clothing could be subjected to forensic testing for traces of gunpowder or explosives, and then correlated with delivery addresses to identify houses that were being used by the I.R.A. The Four Square operation was exposed after the I.R.A. interrogated one of its members, Seamus Wright, and discovered that he had been working as a double agent for the British. Gunmen strafed the Four Square van, killing the driver; according to the I.R.A., they also killed two men who were hiding in a secret compartment under the roof. Dolours Price then drove Wright and one of his colleagues—a seventeen-year-old named Kevin McKee, who was also discovered to have been a traitor—into the Republic, where they were executed, and secretly buried, in the fall of 1972.
After I.R.A. leaders learned that the British were cultivating double agents, they established a unit to identify “touts”—informers—and other disloyal elements. Jean McConville moved to Divis Flats as this climate of paranoia was taking hold.
One day when Michael McConville was a young boy, his father brought home two pigeons. Michael was allowed to keep them in “a wee box” in his room, he told me, and his father fostered an interest in pigeon racing. After the family moved to West Belfast, Michael and his friends began stalking derelict houses where pigeons roosted. Whenever he found a bird, he peeled off his jacket and cast it like a net over the animal, then smuggled it home under his sweater, adding it to his burgeoning fleet. West Belfast was a hazardous place for an adventurous kid, but Michael had no fear, he told me: “Most boys didn’t, being brought up in a war zone.” On one occasion, he scaled the façade of an old mill only to discover a unit of British soldiers encamped inside. Startled, they trained their rifles on him and bellowed at him to climb back down.
“You had no respect for the law, because all’s you seen is brutality,” Michael recalled. “The soldiers getting men against the wall, kicking their legs spread-eagle. That’s what put the seed in a lot of kids’ heads to join the I.R.A.” He sighed. “I don’t think the British had much of a clue about what they were starting.”
Michael is fifty-three, slight and taciturn, with clipped gray hair, flushed cheeks, and his mother’s pursed mouth. When I visited him last summer, at the bright, modern house that he built in a rural area a short drive from Belfast, he showed me a framed photograph of his mother. It’s a famous image, the only surviving photo of Jean McConville: a grainy shot from the sixties taken outside the family’s old house, in East Belfast. Jean smiles tentatively at the camera, her dark hair pulled away from her face, her arms crossed. Three of her children are perched on a window ledge beside her, while Arthur crouches, grinning, in the foreground. Arthur was older than Jean; he had fought the Japanese in Burma during the Second World War. When their first child, Anne, was born, in 1954, Jean was only seventeen.
After Arthur died, it was a struggle to feed ten children, even with his Army pension. “She just wasn’t coping,” Michael said, adding that she had a nervous breakdown. When I brought up the claim that his mother was an informer, Michael asked, with indignation, “When would she have had the time?” She was constantly on her feet, he said, cooking stews or washing clothes on a scrubbing board in the kitchen sink. After Arthur’s death, Jean’s attention to cleaning took on a compulsive intensity. Because one child or the other was forever losing a button or needing some other repair, she always had a large blue safety pin—a “nappy pin,” Michael calls it—fastened to her clothes. It was her defining accessory.
Not long before Jean McConville was taken away, she raised the suspicions of her neighbors. She and the children were home one night when they heard a man moaning in pain outside their front door. Jean cautiously opened the door and discovered a wounded British soldier sprawled on the landing. He had been shot. Jean tended to him, and brought him a pillow. “That’s just who my mother was,” Michael said. “She would have helped anyone.” The next day, someone painted the words “Brit Lover” on the front door. Jean had a brother, Tom, who sometimes visited from East Belfast. According to Susan and Archie, he occasionally came to Divis outfitted in an orange sash, the traditional Unionist symbol; to make such a provocation in a West Belfast Catholic neighborhood was an act of suicidal folly. Nevertheless, Jean had converted to Catholicism, and her children were Catholic. At the time of her abduction, her oldest son, Robert, was interned in prison for suspected activity in the official I.R.A.
Jean McConville’s one indulgence was a weekly outing to play bingo. One night, she was interrupted during the game by someone who told her that one of her children had been injured and that a car was waiting outside to take her to the local hospital. Several hours later, British soldiers discovered her wandering through the streets, barefoot and disoriented. Apparently, she had been detained by an armed group and then released. Her face was swollen and badly bruised—she had been beaten. When the soldiers brought her home, “she was talking in riddles,” Michael recalled. The children couldn’t figure out what had happened to her. They made her tea, and she smoked one cigarette after another.
When his mother was taken away the second time, and did not return, Michael said, “There was no one to look after us. I kept getting put in different homes, but each time I would run away.” He recalled an orphanage where monks walked through the dormitory at night with a roving flashlight, taking boys from their beds. Michael was not abused himself, but his younger brother Billy, who was sent to a Catholic orphanage in Kircubbin, recently told a panel investigating past abuses that he had been sexually molested. Michael eventually ended up at a facility that was surrounded by a ten-foot electrified fence. “It was the best home I ever had,” he told me. A kind nun took an interest in him, and he started to pull his life together. He met his wife, Angela, when he was sixteen. He has had a steady career installing tiles, and, unlike several of his siblings, has avoided the ravages of drugs and alcohol. He and Angela have four children, and he boasted about them a bit. “I’ve tried my best, given the life I had, to do well with the kids,” he said.
In South Africa, after the fall of apartheid, the government initiated a process of “truth and reconciliation.” So that a thorough record of past abuses might be compiled, perpetrators were offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for honest testimony. In Northern Ireland, where roughly thirty-six hundred people were murdered during the Troubles and some forty thousand wounded, there has been no comprehensive accounting. A recent report by Amnesty International criticizes the “piecemeal” investigations of historical abuses, and suggests that, “across the political spectrum, it is those in power who may fear that they have little politically to gain—and possibly much to lose—from any careful examination of Northern Ireland’s past.” In 1999, with the encouragement of Bill Clinton, the British and Irish governments established the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains, and the I.R.A. agreed to identify the graves of nine people who had been murdered and secretly buried during the Troubles, but only after securing a promise that no criminal prosecutions would result. The I.R.A. declared that some of the disappeared had been informers, including Jean McConville. Michael and his siblings angrily rejected this characterization, yet they had little choice but to work with the I.R.A. to search for her remains.
Much of the Irish landscape is dominated by peat bogs; the anaerobic and acidic conditions in the densely packed earth mean that the past in Ireland can be subject to macabre resurrection. Peat cutters occasionally churn up ancient mandibles, clavicles, or entire cadavers that have been preserved for millennia. The bodies date as far back as the Bronze Age, and often show signs of ritual sacrifice and violent death. These victims, cast out of their communities and buried, have surfaced vividly intact, from their hair to their leathery skin. The poet Seamus Heaney, who harvested peat as a boy on his family’s farm, once described the bogs of Ireland as “a landscape that remembered everything that had happened in and to it.”
In the summer of 1999, Jean McConville’s daughter Helen learned, through two priests who were serving as intermediaries, that the I.R.A. had identified the place where her mother’s body could be found: a stretch of windswept coastline outside Carlingford, in County Louth, on the east coast of the Republic. As backhoes prepared to tear up the soil, Helen convened her siblings around a table. It was an awkward reunion. Many of them had not seen one another in years. Edgy and fractious, their grief still palpable, they were now in their thirties and forties but looked older; their faces were haggard, and the hands and forearms of the men were etched with blotchy, blue-black tattoos. When Jean’s children spoke of her, even to one another, they had a tendency to refer to her as “my mother.”
“Where are we going to bury her?” Michael asked.
“West Belfast,” Helen responded. (A 1999 documentary, “Disappeared,” captured the exchange.) “It’s going to hit them. They were the ones that killed her. They were the ones that robbed us of a mother.”
Some of her brothers had reservations. “We all live in Republican areas,” Jim said. “We don’t want no hassle from them.” He continued, “Them boys who done it, they’ll suffer for the rest of their lives. It is time to say forgive.”
Billy snapped, “I can’t forgive them bastards for what they done.”
For fifty days, the backhoes excavated, creating a crater the size of an Olympic swimming pool. The family’s sense of anticipation eventually gave way to despair: the I.R.A. had apparently been mistaken. “They made a laughingstock of us” when Jean was kidnapped, Agnes said, her mascara dissolving in tears. “They’re making another laughingstock of us now.” The search was called off, and the children returned to their homes. One of the men who had abducted Jean now drove a black taxi up and down the Falls Road. Occasionally, Michael hailed a cab and climbed inside only to discover this man behind the wheel. Michael never said anything—he couldn’t. He rode in silence, then handed the man his fare.
One afternoon in March, 1973, a woman answered the telephone at the headquarters of the London Times and heard a man reciting, in a soft brogue, the descriptions and locations of several cars that were parked in the city. “The bombs will go off in one hour,” he said.
It was two o’clock. Officials at the Times reported the call to the police while several reporters headed toward the closest bomb, which, according to the caller, was inside a green Ford Cortina parked outside London’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey. By two-thirty, police had arrived on the scene. A hundred-and-twenty-pound bomb lay underneath the car’s back seat. They called in the bomb squad and burst into an adjacent pub, The George, ordering the startled patrons to evacuate. A school bus had just deposited forty-nine children not far from the Cortina, and an inspector shouted at the teachers to get them out of the area.
Plans for a coördinated bombing of central London had originated several months earlier, at a secret meeting in Belfast. The I.R.A. had planted hundreds of bombs in Northern Ireland, but Dolours Price, remembering her father’s bombing campaign in Britain during the forties, had argued for a bolder operation. In a 2012 interview with the Telegraph, she recalled, “I was convinced that a short, sharp shock, an incursion into the heart of the empire, would be more effective than twenty car bombs in any part of the north of Ireland.” Dolours attended the strategy meeting, along with her sister Marian and Brendan Hughes. According to both Dolours Price and Hughes, the meeting was run by Gerry Adams. Generally, the I.R.A. issued warnings before its bomb blasts, in order to minimize civilian casualties. But sometimes these warnings did not allow sufficient time for escape: in July, 1972, twenty bombs were detonated in a single day in Belfast, killing nine people, an episode that became known as Bloody Friday.
“This could be a hanging job,” Adams told the group, explaining that if the perpetrators were caught they could be executed for treason. “If anyone doesn’t want to go, they should up and leave now.” Several people did so, but the Price sisters remained, and a team of ten was eventually selected to carry out the I.R.A.’s first bombing mission in England in thirty years. Although Dolours was only twenty-two, she was chosen to run the mission. She was, in her own words, the Officer Commanding “of the whole shebang.” The team was sent into the Republic for several weeks of weapons training. Cars were stolen at gunpoint, in Belfast, then repainted and sent to Dublin, where they were fitted with English license plates and shipped by ferry across the Irish Sea. Shortly before the day chosen for the attack, Price and her team filtered into London and checked into hotels.In 1972, Michael McConville witnessed his mother’s abduction by I.R.A. members. He still sees some of the kidnappers around Belfast. (Photograph by Pieter Ten Hoopen / Agence VU)2nd part of article is posted next.
Gerry Adams has long denied being a member of the I.R.A. But his former compatriots claim that he authorized murder.
By Patrick Radden KeefeThe New Yorker
16 March 2015 Issue
**The following is the last half of this article. Please look at the entry above this posting to read the first half.
The plan was to plant the bombs in four locations in the morning, with timers set to detonate simultaneously that afternoon. By 7:30 A.M., all four cars were in position. The bombs were set to blast at 2:50 P.M. By then, if everything went according to plan, the bombers would have caught a flight back to Ireland.
But, unbeknownst to Price and her team, British authorities had an I.R.A. informer who had given them advance warning of the attack. Police had been instructed to be extra vigilant, and shortly after one of the bombs was planted, in a Ford Corsair outside Scotland Yard, a passing officer noticed that the number plate on the car did not match the year of the vehicle. Upon further inspection, police discovered the bomb in the back seat—and defused it. British officials, knowing that the bombers were likely trying to escape the country, issued an emergency directive: “Close England.”Clockwise from top right: Dolours Price; Gerry Adams; Jean McConville and three of her children; I.R.A. men at the funeral of Bobby Sands; Divis Flats, the Belfast housing project from which McConville was abducted. (Credit Clockwise from Top Right: Press Association via AP - Price; Peter Marlow / Magnum - Adams; Press Association via AP - McConville; David Caulkin / AP - IRA; Judah Passow - Divis Flats)
In the departures lounge at Heathrow Airport, police spotted a group of young people waiting to board a flight to Dublin. A dark-haired woman in a long coat appeared to be giving orders. It was Dolours Price. When police questioned her, she told them that her name was Una Devlin. An officer showed her an early edition of the Evening News, with a banner headline about the bomb discovered at Scotland Yard. She stared at it silently. In her handbag, police found, along with “a large quantity of makeup,” a spiral notebook with several pages ripped out. When experts examined the indentations on the pages underneath, they discovered traces of a diagram that depicted the circuitry of a timing device. Dolours was arrested, as was Marian Price; at the subsequent trial, the detective who interrogated Marian recalled that, at precisely 2:50 P.M., “she raised her wrist and looked very pointedly at her watch, and smiled at me.”
Police explosives experts did not arrive at the Old Bailey until two-fifty, and could not defuse the bomb before it detonated. The blast shattered windows, blew a crater in the ground, and sent glass and twisted metal flying. A bomb in Westminster also went off. These two explosions injured more than two hundred people, and one man died of a heart attack. “There was no intention to kill people with the London bombs,” Hughes remembered. Dolours Price was less apologetic. “There were warnings phoned in, but people had stood about,” she said years later. “Some had even stood at office windows and been sprayed by broken glass when the car went up.” She added, “In Belfast, we gave fifteen-minute warnings. In London, we’d given them an hour.”
The trial of the Old Bailey bombers took place in Winchester Castle, outside London, and lasted ten weeks. It was a sensational event, with the press drawn especially to the Price sisters; the Irish Times described them showing up in court each day “sprucely dressed” and adopting defiant poses. On the stand, Dolours was almost smug, insisting that she knew nothing of the operation. When a prosecutor asked about the timing device depicted in her notebook, she feigned confusion, mugging for the spectators—“He lost me.” Asked about her politics, she was less evasive, saying, “I would like to see the removal of the border and the establishment of a democratic Eire.”
Eight bombers were convicted and received double life sentences. As the verdict was read aloud, they jeered at the judge, proclaiming their loyalty to the I.R.A. They also announced their intention to launch a hunger strike. As Padraig O’Malley points out in his 1990 book, “Biting at the Grave: The Irish Hunger Strikes and the Politics of Despair,” fasting as a form of protest had a history in Ireland dating back to pre-Christian times. In 1903, W. B. Yeats wrote a play, “The King’s Threshold,” about a poet in seventh-century Ireland who launches a hunger strike at the gates of the royal palace. Yeats describes: “An old and foolish custom, that if a man / Be wronged, or think that he is wronged, and starve / Upon another’s threshold till he die, / The common people, for all time to come, / Will raise a heavy cry against that threshold.”
In 1920, Terence MacSwiney, an Irish politician who had been imprisoned in Brixton on charges of sedition, died after a seventy-three-day hunger strike. His case attracted international attention, and tens of thousands of people filed past his coffin after his death. “It is not those who inflict the most but those who suffer the most who will conquer,” MacSwiney had said.
When the Price sisters and several of their co-defendants began refusing food, they had clear demands. They wanted to be granted political-prisoner status and transferred to Northern Ireland so that they could serve their sentences closer to their families. “Each day passes and we fade a little more,” Dolours wrote, in a letter. “But no matter how the body may fade, our determination never will.” Most parents would panic at the thought of a daughter, barely out of her teens, announcing her intention to starve herself to death. But the Prices could situate this gesture within a proud tradition of dissent. Albert, after visiting his daughters, told the press, “They are happy. Happy about dying.”
The British authorities, recognizing that they would face a crisis if one of the Price sisters perished, force-fed them daily. “Four male prison officers tie you into the chair so tightly with sheets you can’t struggle,” Marian later explained. “You clench your teeth to try to keep your mouth closed, but they push a metal spring device around your jaw to prize it open.” Guards then inserted a wooden clamp with a hole in the middle, and slid a tube through the hole. “They throw whatever they like into the food mixer,” Marian continued. “Orange juice, soup, or cartons of cream if they want to beef up the calories.” By January, 1974, people who visited Dolours expressed horror at her physical deterioration: she had lost a great deal of weight, her skin had turned waxen, and her hair had gone white at the roots. Her teeth had come loose under pressure from the clamp.
It was an impossible situation for the British government, which began to be attacked for force-feeding the Prices, though the sisters were otherwise likely to die. The standoff took a bizarre turn when thieves stole the Vermeer painting “The Guitar Player” from a museum in Hampstead, and, in ransom notes, threatened to burn it—“with much cavorting in the true lunatic fashion”—if the Price sisters were not moved to Northern Ireland. The Prices’ mother, Chrissie, told the press that Dolours, “who is an art student,” had pleaded that the Vermeer remain undamaged. (It was eventually returned, unharmed.)
In May, 1974, the British government, under increasing public pressure, agreed to stop force-feeding the Prices. The sisters began losing a pound a day and, according to one medical assessment, were “living entirely off their own bodies.” Finally, Roy Jenkins, the British Home Secretary, assured the Prices that they could eventually be moved to Armagh prison, in Northern Ireland. That June, after two hundred and five days, they abandoned the strike. A transfer was secretly approved the following spring.
In a 2002 radio documentary, “The Chaplain’s Diary,” Dolours recalls that the governor of Brixton prison walked into her cell and said, “You’re going home. Or, not home—you’re going to Armagh.”
“That’s near enough for me,” Dolours replied. She sat next to Marian on the short flight across the Irish Sea, and, at the first glimpse of green below, burst into tears.
“That’s not Ireland yet,” Marian said. “That’s the Isle of Man.”
Within an hour, they had landed in Northern Ireland. The Price sisters were overjoyed to be home but distressed about the timing of their arrival. In the preceding months, both their mother, Chrissie, and their aunt Bridie Dolan had died. The sisters had unsuccessfully petitioned for compassionate release to attend their mother’s funeral. Chrissie Price’s casket was carried through the streets of Belfast. The piper leading the procession was a young girl dressed in the black beret and dark glasses of the I.R.A.
In “On the Blanket,” a history of hunger strikes during the Troubles, Tim Pat Coogan notes that the decision to stop force-feeding the Prices had profound consequences, because the British government was effectively signalling that “henceforth any prisoner on hunger strike would be allowed to die.” In 1981, the hunger striker Bobby Sands did die, followed by nine other prisoners. As he lay dying, Sands engaged in a fateful stunt: he ran for a seat in the British Parliament, representing Fermanagh and South Tyrone, and he won.
During the seventies, Gerry Adams was in and out of jail. In addition to his 1972 internment on the Maidstone, he was confined for three years in Long Kesh prison, where he shared a cell with Brendan Hughes. At some point, Adams began to think that there were limits to what the I.R.A. could achieve through violence. After Sands won his seat, Adams’s close aide Danny Morrison announced that Sinn Fein would henceforth run candidates in elections. In a famous formulation, he said, “Will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?” The strategy of “the Armalite and the ballot box” represented a departure for the Provisional I.R.A.: by running for positions in the British administration in Northern Ireland, Adams and his colleagues could be perceived as implicitly acknowledging the administration’s legitimacy. Adams replaced the woolly sweaters of a West Belfast revolutionary with the suits and ties of a politician. In 1983, he, too, was elected a Member of Parliament, representing West Belfast.
Dolours Price spent six years in Armagh. Although she and Marian were no longer refusing food, they continued to deteriorate physically. In the 2002 radio documentary, Dolours explained the psychology of a hunger striker: “If you eat, you’re going to lose. You convince yourself of that when you embark on a hunger strike. You have to convince yourself, because your body is telling you it wants food, and you’re telling your body, ‘No, you can’t have food. . . . We will not win this struggle if I give you food.’ ” After the Price sisters forced the British government to bend to their aims, they found it difficult to overcome the profound resistance they had developed to eating. “We both ended up with very, very, very distorted notions of the function of food,” Dolours said.
By the spring of 1980, Marian had lost so much weight that she was released from prison, after Humphrey Atkins, Britain’s Northern Secretary, judged her “in imminent danger of death.” Dolours was relieved that her sister had escaped a life sentence, but she felt abandoned. “I got really depressed,” she said later. “It was like I’d been separated from my Siamese twin.” In a letter, she described the crushing inertia of her days, her energy depleted, her body numb: “I move as a clockwork doll.”
A cache of papers recently declassified by the British government reveals that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was closely watching the case of Dolours Price. Initially, Thatcher was unmoved. In one memo, she speculated that Price would rejoin the I.R.A.—“I doubt whether her old friends will let her alone when she is out”—and reminded her subordinates that the London bombing had caused a man’s death. (According to an autopsy, the heart attack that killed the man had actually begun before the bomb detonated.) In April, 1981, Tomas O Fiaich, an Irish cardinal, visited Price in Armagh, and reported to Thatcher. “From being a vivacious girl . . . she has become, at thirty, a gaunt spectre, prematurely aged and deprived of any further desire to live,” he wrote. He begged Thatcher for clemency, stressing that “even next week may be too late.” When Price entered Armagh, in 1975, her weight was a hundred and fourteen pounds. By the time the cardinal saw her, she weighed seventy-six pounds. Thatcher authorized her release.
Dolours Price did not rejoin the I.R.A. Instead, she moved to Dublin, where she avoided publicity and tried to establish a career as a freelance journalist. She began dating the actor Stephen Rea, whom she had met during the civil-rights protests of the sixties. Rea was a brooding, shaggy-haired Belfast Protestant who was sympathetic to the Republican cause. In 1980, he had helped establish Field Day, an Irish theatre troupe. Rea and Price were married at Armagh Cathedral in 1983. When asked about being married to a convicted terrorist, he would say, “That’s my wife’s past. . . . She doesn’t apologize for that, and I’m not going to apologize for her.”
Rea never had a formal relationship with the Republican movement, but he did have a bizarre connection to Gerry Adams. After a series of I.R.A. bombings in the late eighties, the Thatcher government announced a bafflingly misguided policy, which held that, on British television, the voice of anyone believed to be advocating paramilitary action must be muted. Actors were hired to dub interviews and speeches, and for years a small stable of Irish actors found occasional employment as the voice of Gerry Adams. One of the actors was Rea.
The terms of Dolours Price’s release held that she must obtain permission from the British government if she wanted to leave Northern Ireland. But, her defiance unchecked, she proceeded to move with Rea to London. According to friends, Price relished the cheekiness of this relocation. England’s tabloids did as well, noting that the bomber of the Old Bailey was now “sipping champagne with stars at the National Theatre,” where Rea was directing a play. Price’s effrontery was brought to the attention of Thatcher, and she made no secret of her frustration. “If she and her husband wish to live together, they can live together in Northern Ireland,” she wrote. But no action was taken against the couple.
Eventually, Price and Rea had two boys, Danny and Oscar, and the family moved back to Dublin. (In interviews, Rea said that he did not want to bring up his sons in England.) One of Rea’s closest collaborators was the Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan, and in 1992 they released “The Crying Game,” in which Rea played the role for which he is perhaps most famous: Fergus, a decent and soulful man who happens to be a member of the I.R.A. In the story, Fergus is assigned to guard a kidnapped British soldier (played by Forest Whitaker) in the hours before his execution. They stay up all night, and Fergus develops a friendship with the soldier, hand-feeding him pieces of chocolate and comforting him when he cries, before taking him outside to be shot. While promoting the film, Rea said little about the fact that his wife had once occupied a similar role, guarding prisoners at gunpoint or driving them to their deaths. But in one later interview he discussed what it meant to be a member of the I.R.A., and described the “conundrum of people whose lives are a gesture.” Such people, Rea said, are often “not afraid of death, because your death is acceptable if you’re living for a cause.”
Belfast has ostensibly been at peace for two decades, but the city remains acutely divided. The borders between Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods are inscribed in the concertina wire and steel of the so-called “peace walls” that progress like fissures across the city. These towering structures maintain some degree of calm by physically separating the city’s populations, as if they were animals in a zoo. The walls are tagged with runelike slurs—K.A.T., for “Kill All Taigs,” a derogatory term for Catholics, on one side; K.A.H., for “Kill All Huns,” a reference to Protestants, on the other—and dwarf the squat brick houses and the unlovely council estates on either side, throwing them into shadow.
In one sense, the Troubles are over. The principal armed factions have long since decommissioned their weapons, and in most parts of Belfast it is safe to walk the streets. The city center is dominated by the same chain stores—Tesco, Caffè Nero, Kiehl’s—found in the other urban centers of Western Europe, and most residents will tell you that they want Belfast to become famous for something other than conflict. Several people informed me, with pride, that the local film-production facility, Titanic Studios, is where “Game of Thrones” is shot. One popular tourist attraction is the Troubles Tour, in which ex-combatant cabdrivers guide visitors to flashpoints from the bad years, decoding the ubiquitous murals that conjure famous battles, martyrs, and gunmen. The effect is to make the Troubles seem like distant history.
But there are at least as many peace walls in Belfast today as there were at the time of the Good Friday Agreement. Residents still live in neighborhoods circumscribed by religion, and ninety-three per cent of children in Northern Ireland attend segregated elementary schools. Bus stops in some parts of the city are informally designated Catholic or Protestant, and people walk an extra block or two to wait at a stop where they won’t fear being hassled. I arrived in August, just after “marching season,” when Unionists commemorate the Battle of the Boyne and other bygone victories by lighting bonfires and staging belligerent marches. Hundreds of Union Jacks still fluttered in Protestant neighborhoods. Catholic areas were decked out with the Irish tricolor, and with Palestinian flags—a sign of solidarity and a signal that, even now, many Republicans in the north consider themselves an occupied people.
Two years ago, Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, chaired a series of multiparty negotiations about unresolved issues in the Northern Ireland peace process; the talks foundered, in no small measure, over the issue of flags. Tribalism and its trappings remain so potent in Belfast, Haass told me, that the various sides could not agree on how to govern the display of regalia. When the Belfast city council voted, in 2012, to limit the number of days that the Union Jack could be raised outside city hall, protesters tried to storm the building, and riots erupted throughout Northern Ireland, with Unionist demonstrators throwing bricks and petrol bombs.
To an outsider, the sheer weirdness, and attendant inconvenience, of living in a divided metropolis can be difficult to fathom. When I was driving through Belfast with Michael McConville, we reached a street that threaded between a Catholic neighborhood on the left and a Protestant one on the right. I noticed a Subway franchise along a strip of businesses on the Catholic side, and asked if local Protestants might cross the street to buy a sandwich.
“Not a chance,” Michael replied.
One morning, I visited Billy McKee, one of the founders of the Provisional I.R.A., in a small brick house in West Belfast. Born in 1921, five years after the Easter Rising, he joined the I.R.A. in the thirties, acquiring a reputation as a formidable combatant. When Brendan Hughes was a boy, the reverence in his family for Billy McKee was so deep that he felt he should “genuflect” every time he passed McKee’s house. McKee was said to be armed at all times, and on one occasion, in a back room after a funeral, Hughes contrived to brush up against him and felt a .45 concealed beneath his belt.
McKee came to the door dressed in a dark suit, having just returned from Mass. His hair was white and spiky, in the style of Samuel Beckett. As a clock ticked loudly in another room, I asked about the disappearance of Jean McConville. McKee said that he played no role in the decision to kill her. He was in prison in 1972, and was ceding control of the I.R.A. to other leaders. But he insisted that killing McConville was the right thing to do, because she was a tout. “I would have had her executed and left her there,” he said, with a level gaze. “I couldn’t understand why they took her away to disappear her.”
When I told him that I was curious about the people who were responsible for that decision, McKee scowled, worrying his dentures with his tongue, so that they slid from one side to the other. “What would happen if I knew and I told you, and they all got arrested?” McKee said. “I would be the axe man. I wouldn’t like to put my enemies in jail, never mind some of my friends.”
I expressed surprise that, in a city like Belfast, where everybody knows everybody else, it was so difficult to solve a notorious murder. “I don’t think anybody’s stupid enough to mention names,” McKee said. Then he muttered, “Too dangerous.” He shuffled with me to the door, and said, “If you see any of my old friends, tell ’em I’m still breathing.”
If McKee is an unreconstructed militant who speaks without equivocation about the role that he played in the armed struggle, Gerry Adams has in recent decades gone through a metamorphosis. As the peace process got under way, during the nineties, Adams continued the transformation of his public persona from international pariah to statesman and champion of peace. Today, he is a Member of the Irish Parliament, representing County Louth, and Sinn Fein is an ascendant political party both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. Adams is widely credited, even by his detractors, with having played an instrumental role in ending the Troubles. Yet he still maintains that he was never a member of the I.R.A. “Everybody knows he was in the I.R.A., except for Gerry,” Michael McConville said. At the height of the Troubles, there was an obvious motive to deny the affiliation: a charge of “membership” in the I.R.A. was enough to send you to prison. With the advent of peace negotiations, there was a further incentive for Adams to distance himself from his armed comrades—British officials could deal with him and not risk charges that they were negotiating with a terrorist. But if Adams initially crafted a fiction out of political expediency, he chose to stick with it, even after some of his closest collaborators unburdened themselves. In 2001, Martin McGuinness, the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, admitted publicly that, in the early seventies, he had been the second-highest-ranking member of the I.R.A. in Derry. This acknowledgment does not appear to have hurt his political career; McGuinness has won three elections since 2001.
Adams is now sixty-six and a grandfather, and his evolution into an approachable grandee has found its surreal culmination on Twitter. He intersperses studiously boring tweets about small-bore political issues with a barrage of cat pictures and encomiums to sudsy baths, rubber duckies, and Teddy bears. (“I do love Teddy bears,” he told the BBC. “I have a large collection of Teddy bears.”) One characteristic tweet, from last January: “Dreamt I was eating Cream Eggs. Woke up this morn. Pillow & beard covered in chocolate & cream thingymebob.” The Irish writer Damien Owens has likened all this to “Charles Manson showing you his collection of tea cosies.” But, cumulatively, Adams’s tweets suggest the giddiness of a man who has defied some very long odds. In 1984, Adams told a reporter that he had a ninety-per-cent chance of being assassinated. Later that year, he was shot and nearly killed by loyalist gunmen, and during periods of captivity he was tortured by British authorities. Improbably, Adams survived the conflict—and, more improbably, he flourished.
The new Gerry Adams never completely eclipsed the old one, however, and this may have been a conscious choice. The journalist Fintan O’Toole once observed that the ambiguity of the Adams persona was essential to the peace process: in order to participate in the negotiations, Adams had to be accepted as a democratic politician; but, in order to deliver the desired result, he needed to exercise enough control over I.R.A. gunmen so that if he ordered them to lay down their weapons they would comply. Perhaps in the interest of preserving this flexibility, Adams perfected a dog-whistle style of political rhetoric. Asked about his role in the armed conflict, he has said, “I’m very, very clear about my denial of I.R.A. membership. But I don’t disassociate myself from the I.R.A.” Adams is beholden to multiple constituencies, and for some faction of supporters his charisma has always derived, at least in part, from the whiff of cordite. At a public event in Belfast in 1995, Adams was delivering a speech when someone shouted, “Bring back the I.R.A.!” Adams responded, “They haven’t gone away, you know.”
Traditionally, Irish journalists have shown surprising deference to Adams’s sophistry about his role in the armed struggle. To be sure, Adams has never been convicted of a violent crime, or of any I.R.A.-related offenses. But as a young man he often published essays in a Republican newsletter, under a pseudonym, and in 1976 he wrote, “Rightly or wrongly, I am an I.R.A. volunteer.” Even so, most press accounts simply recycled his denials, and, because the I.R.A. was so disciplined, none of his comrades spoke out to contradict him.
During the peace process, however, many rank-and-file members of the I.R.A. felt surprised and betrayed when Adams accepted the legitimacy of a government in Northern Ireland that remained part of the United Kingdom. Many also questioned his willingness to surrender the weapons they had amassed. Some former volunteers became so disillusioned by Adams’s concessions that they broke the code of silence and told their stories to the press.
In 2001, Ed Moloney, a veteran reporter for the Irish Times and other newspapers, published a landmark revisionist account, “A Secret History of the IRA,” which stated explicitly that Gerry Adams had been a military commander responsible for the Belfast Brigade. Adams and Moloney had known each other for decades, and had enjoyed a cordial relationship during the Troubles, meeting occasionally in a back room on the Falls Road; Adams would make a pot of tea and Moloney would interview him. Once, after a long session in Moloney’s hotel room, Adams stayed and slept on the floor. But their relations had grown strained by the time “The Secret History of the IRA” was published, and Adams accused Moloney of “innuendo,” declaring, “I have not been and am not a member of the I.R.A.”
As Moloney was preparing the book for publication, he was approached by administrators at Boston College about creating an oral-history project that would gather accounts by paramilitaries from both sides of the Troubles. The idea excited him. Many of the combatants were still alive, and their testimony could provide an unparalleled resource for future historians—an exception to the rule of omertà. Given the sensitivities, Moloney pointed out, each interview would have to be conducted in secret, and remain secret until the participant died. “These people could be shot if it was discovered they were talking to us,” he told me. “They were taking a huge risk.”
The Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland were too insular and suspicious for graduate students with tape recorders to make headway, so Moloney suggested an unorthodox solution: finding interviewers who had participated in the Troubles. For the Unionists, Moloney suggested a loyalist named Wilson McArthur; for the Republicans, he proposed a former I.R.A. volunteer named Anthony McIntyre, who had spent seventeen years in prison for the murder of a U.V.F. man. McIntyre, who was Moloney’s friend and source, had obtained a college degree in prison, and had gone on to write a dissertation on the Troubles at Queen’s University in Belfast. He had a gruff, genial manner, and was at ease with retired revolutionaries, which suggested that they might open up to him, on tape, about secrets they had kept for decades. They did. “It was cathartic,” a former I.R.A. member named Richard O’Rawe said of his interview with McIntyre. “I cried like a baby.”
This clandestine undertaking became known, to the people who were aware of it, as the Belfast Project. One of McIntyre’s subjects was the man still widely known around Belfast as the Dark: Brendan Hughes. They were close, having served together in prison. When I visited McIntyre and his wife, Carrie, at their home, in Drogheda, a small city between Dublin and Belfast, they showed me photographs of Hughes giving Carrie away at their wedding. McIntyre and Hughes shared a deep antipathy toward Gerry Adams. McIntyre disapproved of Adams’s engineering of the Good Friday Agreement, and his interview questions reflected this animosity. But Hughes required no prodding to express anger at Adams. He and Adams had been close collaborators for years, but when Adams proved willing to compromise on the question of a united Ireland, in the interest of a peace deal, Hughes was incensed: Adams had been his Officer Commanding, the man who gave him orders to kill. Adams’s denial of his own I.R.A. past left Hughes and others “to carry the responsibility of all those deaths.” Everybody knows that Adams was in the I.R.A., Hughes told McIntyre. “The British know it. The people on the street know it. The dogs know it.”
Terry Hughes, Brendan’s brother, told me that Brendan felt that he had been unforgivably misled. He had been fighting a bloody war against British rule while Adams was quietly laying the foundation for a peaceful compromise. “There was a master plan,” Terry said. “Unfortunately, Brendan wasn’t told.”
Hughes confided to McIntyre that he felt like “a patsy,” and insisted that he had “never carried out a major operation without the O.K. or the order from Gerry.” Adams, in the 1976 essay referring to his membership in the I.R.A., wrote about the moral decision to use violence, maintaining that “only if I achieve the situation where my people genuinely prosper can my course of action be seen . . . to have been justified.” The Good Friday Agreement did not deliver the ends that Hughes and others had counted on to justify the I.R.A.’s brutal means. Adams’s political turn forced his subordinates to reappraise the righteousness of their own killing.
Divis Flats was demolished in the nineteen-nineties, except for the tower where the British had their observation post. In the years after the Good Friday Agreement, Brendan Hughes lived alone in an apartment at the top of the tower. Demoralized by the things he had done, he spent his days chain-smoking by a picture window, looking out over Belfast, past the peace walls and church steeples to the shipworks where, a century earlier, the Titanic was built. “I always got the sense that he lived a large part of his life on that windowsill,” Carrie McIntyre said. “And he couldn’t either jump out and end it all or jump back in and start really living.”
The Divis apartment is where McIntyre interviewed Hughes about the killing of Jean McConville. “She was an informer,” Hughes said. “She had a load of kids.” Hughes told McIntyre that McConville’s children had been acting as spies for the British Army, “gathering information for her, watching the movements of I.R.A. volunteers around Divis Flats.” She was exposed, Hughes continued, when a radio transmitter was discovered in her flat. According to Hughes, the I.R.A. learned of the transmitter when one of the McConville children mentioned to one of Hughes’s men that “his mammy had something in the house.”
Hughes sent his men to confront McConville, and they took her away for interrogation. According to Hughes, she confessed to being a tout. The I.R.A. confiscated the transmitter and released her onto the streets. This could align with the night when Jean McConville was taken from the bingo parlor, but when I asked Michael McConville about the transmitter he told me that Hughes must be mistaken—because no such transmitter existed. He and his siblings knew every nook of their apartment; if Jean had hidden such a device on the premises, he would have found it. Michael also dismissed the idea that he and his siblings had been spies. In the oral history, Hughes says that, a few weeks after McConville’s interrogation, “another transmitter was put into her house and she was still coöperating with the British.” At this point, a decision was made to kill her, and a “special squad was brought in” to carry out the operation.
“There was only one man who gave the order for that woman to be executed,” Hughes told McIntyre. “That fucking man is now the head of Sinn Fein.” At the time, he continued, a senior I.R.A. official named Ivor Bell argued that they should leave McConville’s body on the street, just as Billy McKee would have done. But, according to Hughes, McConville’s gender would have generated bad publicity for the Provisional I.R.A., and so Adams pushed to disappear her. Recalling Adams’s subsequent meetings with the McConville children, Hughes said, “He went to this family’s house and promised an investigation into the woman’s disappearance. . . . The man that gave the fucking order for that woman to be executed! Now, tell me the morality in that.”
Hughes fell into a coma in 2008. Gerry Adams visited the hospital and sat, in silent vigil, by his bed. The two men had not spoken in years. Hughes had told friends, “There was a time in my life when I would have taken a bullet for Gerry. Now I’d put one in him.” When Hughes died, his casket was paraded through West Belfast, and thousands of people turned out, in frigid temperatures, to pay their respects. At one point, a figure in a dark overcoat shouldered through the crowd: Adams. He solemnly insinuated himself among the men bearing the coffin. “Brendan was a Republican icon,” Terry Hughes told me. “Gerry had no choice. He had to associate himself with that.”
Dolours Price also attended the procession. She, too, had split with Adams, and she wrote a scathing open letter, deriding him as a “lonely figure” who was “clearly uneasy” at the funeral of his former friend. If Adams could come clean about his past in the I.R.A., Price suggested, he might “feel better.” She noted that Adams had a habit of wrapping himself in the mantle of people who were no longer alive to snatch it back. At one point, Adams suggested that, had Bobby Sands survived, Sands would have supported the peace process. In an article, Price replied, acidly, “I often wonder who would speak for me had my circumstances in Brixton prison reached their expected conclusion. What praises would I be singing of the Good Friday Agreement?”
Price also recorded an oral history for the Belfast Project. When her life was a gesture—a headlong push for a united Ireland—it possessed a certain moral logic. But the Good Friday Agreement robbed her of that certainty. “Dolours was a woman who was deeply traumatized by what she had done,” McIntyre told me. Like many people who were drawn to the I.R.A., she saw herself as a member of the left, yet she had participated in forced disappearances—an atrocity, McIntyre pointed out, that is the “calling card of the war criminal, whether it’s in Chile or Kampuchea.”
In February, 2001, Price attended an I.R.A. event to commemorate the death of a hunger striker, and announced, in an impromptu speech, “Gerry Adams was my commanding officer.” She added that she had not endured “the pangs of hunger strike just for a reformed English rule in Ireland.” Shortly thereafter, McIntyre visited Price’s home, in the seaside town of Malahide, outside Dublin, where, surrounded by memorabilia from her I.R.A. days, they conducted a series of interviews. Price spoke about her role in the disappearances and, in particular, about her grief over the death of Joe Lynskey, a close friend of hers. Lynskey, who was known as the Monk—because he had trained for the Cistercian order before joining the armed struggle—was a brigade intelligence officer and an ardent believer in the mission of the Provisional I.R.A. In 1972, it emerged that he had been having an affair with the wife of another I.R.A. man, and had tried to have the man killed. The I.R.A. secretly sentenced Lynskey to death, and Price was told to drive him across the border to his execution. She picked him up at his sister’s house, on the pretext that he was being called to a meeting in the Republic. Lynskey walked out with a little overnight bag, as though he were leaving for a weekend in the country. As they drove south in silence, Price realized that Lynskey knew where they were going. He was a large man: he could have overpowered her. Instead, he sat there, meekly, with his bag in his lap. “She wanted him to get up and escape,” McIntyre recalled. When she handed him over, in County Monaghan, “Lynskey hugged her and told her not to worry.” His body has never been recovered.
Price informed McIntyre, before one of their recording sessions, that she wanted to go on the record about the role that she had played in the disappearance of Jean McConville. By this point, Price and McIntyre were good friends; she later became godmother to his son. “As a historian, I would love to get this,” McIntyre told her. “As your friend, I have to warn you. You have children. If you commit to being involved in the McConville disappearance, your children will bear the mark of Cain.”
When I asked McIntyre whether Price said anything about Jean McConville on her recording, he chuckled ruefully, then shook his head. “I was disappointed,” he said. “She took my advice.”
One day in the summer of 2003, a man walking on Shelling Hill Beach, near Carlingford, noticed a piece of fabric in the sand. He reached down to examine it and felt something hard: a human bone. When the authorities exhumed the remains, they found the skeleton of a middle-aged woman, still in her clothes. A forensic examination concluded that the cause of death was a “gunshot wound to the head.”
At a nearby morgue, the children of Jean McConville were ushered into a room, one by one, so that they could examine the clothing, which was laid out on a table. Archie went in first, but he couldn’t bear to look. Instead, he asked a question: “Is there a nappy pin?”
A police officer surveyed the garments and said no. Then he folded over a corner of fabric—and there it was. Thirty-one years after Jean McConville vanished, her body was found. She was buried in November, 2003. The streets of West Belfast were typically crowded with kids on bikes and people lounging in front of their homes. Someone who attended the funeral told me that, when the procession passed through, everything was eerily quiet, as if the locals had been told to stay away—as if they were shunning the McConvilles once again.Archie and Susan McConville tending to Jean McConville’s grave, at Holy Trinity Cemetery, outside Belfast.Archie and Susan McConville tending to Jean McConville’s grave, at Holy Trinity Cemetery, outside Belfast. (Photograph by Pieter Ten Hoopen / Agence VU)
In an effort to challenge the allegation that Jean McConville was a tout, her children made a formal request to Baroness Nuala O’Loan, the police ombudsman for Northern Ireland, to launch an inquiry into the case. Normally, British authorities would neither confirm nor deny whether an individual had worked for them as an informer, but O’Loan found that “the circumstances of the McConville family are most exceptional.” After consulting the files of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British military, O’Loan produced an official report, in 2006, which held that McConville “is not recorded as having been an agent at any time.” In O’Loan’s judgment, McConville “was an innocent woman who was abducted and murdered.”
At the time that the O’Loan report was released, the oral-history project at Boston College was a secret. But Price had been showing signs of increasing anxiety. In 2001, police raided her home and discovered several stolen prescription pads, an indication that she had been abusing prescription drugs. Her marriage to Stephen Rea ended in divorce, and her behavior became erratic. She showed up drunk at Maghaberry Prison and demanded to visit a hunger-striking inmate. She was accused of stealing a bottle of vodka from a supermarket. (In court, she blamed a “momentary lapse of concentration,” adding, with a flash of her old pride, that it was not in her “temperament or breeding” to shoplift.) Price began receiving treatment at a mental-health facility in Dublin.
Cartoon“You were right—they’ve got one at the hotel.”March 26, 2007Buy the print »
“One of the most remarkable aspects of the Troubles was that, with a few exceptions, the people that I know who did these terrible things were all perfectly normal people,” Ed Moloney told me. “This wasn’t some band of robbers who were thieving and raping for personal profit. This was war. They were all nice killers. I felt pity for them. They were victims of circumstances beyond their control.” Sometimes Price felt agonizing remorse for the lives she had ruined; on other days, she was defiant, even about McConville, insisting that the death sentence was appropriate for an informer in wartime. But, whatever her feelings of contrition, Price seemed intent on at least acknowledging her past acts.
On February 21, 2010, the Belfast tabloid Sunday Life published a story linking Price to the disappearance of McConville. “In a taped confession, Old Bailey Bomber Dolours Price has admitted driving the mum-of-10 to her death,” the article reported, adding that Price claimed that the disappearance was “masterminded” by Gerry Adams. The paper quoted Michael McConville’s sister Helen calling for the arrest of Price and Adams. “It’s disgusting that the people involved in my mother’s murder are still walking the streets,” she said. “Adams and Price might not have pulled the trigger, but they are as guilty as the people who did.”
Adams issued an angry denial, observing that Price was “a long-standing opponent of Sinn Fein and the peace process,” and that she “clearly has her own issues to resolve.” But it was unclear whether Price had made this inflammatory disclosure directly to Sunday Life. The article’s author, Ciaran Barnes, wrote that he had listened to Price’s taped “confession” but did not say explicitly that she had made these disclosures to him. Instead, he asserted that Price had “made taped confessions of her role in the abductions to academics at Boston University.”
By this time, the Boston College archive was no longer a secret. After the death of Brendan Hughes and of David Ervine, another participant in the oral-history project, Ed Moloney had written a book, “Voices from the Grave,” which was soon to be published. But the Sunday Life article contained the first public suggestion that Price had given an interview to Boston College. Moloney and McIntyre are both adamant that the tabloid was not given access to Price’s recording, and point to the mistaken reference to “Boston University” as proof. They also note that, in Price’s interview with Anthony McIntyre, she never speaks of Jean McConville. Moloney thinks that Sunday Life likely obtained a recording of an interview that Price had given to the Irish News, and that the mention of the oral-history project was a clumsy effort to launder the interview’s provenance. (Allison Morris, the journalist who interviewed Price for the Irish News, strongly denied this claim, saying, “The interview never left my office.” Ciaran Barnes said only that it would be “remiss of me to talk about my sources.”)
In March, 2011, the British government contacted the U.S. Department of Justice and explained that a criminal investigation had been initiated into McConville’s murder. Investigators at the Police Service of Northern Ireland wanted to consult the oral histories of Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price. If the I.R.A. had found McConville’s body, her case would have been covered by the immunity clause. But, because her remains were discovered by a civilian, the authorities were free to investigate—and bring charges. A subpoena was issued to Boston College, and in a legal filing the U.S. Attorney in Massachusetts declared, erroneously, that a Sunday Life reporter had been “permitted to listen to portions of Ms. Price’s Boston College interviews.” Moloney and McIntyre panicked. Turning over the interviews would not only violate the college’s promise to withhold an oral history until the subject’s death; it would also set a dangerous precedent. In an e-mail to administrators in Boston, Moloney wrote, “I would bet the mortgage that at this moment, there are teams of lawyers working in the bowels of the British government trying to discover ways to force B.C. to surrender the names of other possible interviewees.” The police simply could have asked Sunday Life for the recording, Moloney pointed out to me. In his view, they went after the Boston College archive because “they wanted to get the entire trove, for intelligence purposes.”
Moloney argued that there was a political aspect to the investigation. The police in Northern Ireland had made no serious effort to solve the McConville case until the notion arose that doing so might implicate Gerry Adams. Many police officers in Northern Ireland were former members of Special Branch and the Royal Ulster Constabulary—and for these men and women Adams was an arch antagonist. “At least in the back of their minds, there was the knowledge that we could get that fucker,” Moloney said. “All roads in that story were going to end at his door.” Tellingly, the British authorities hadn’t launched a broad-based inquiry into past atrocities on all sides; indeed, many appalling crimes committed by Unionist paramilitaries—and by state authorities—have not been investigated to this day. “They’re not digging up all the bodies,” Moloney said. “They’re being very selective.”
In August, 2011, a second subpoena was issued, seeking any interview in the archive that contained “information about the abduction and death of Mrs. Jean McConville.” A federal judge in Massachusetts ordered Boston College to hand over the material to the British government. John Kerry, who was then the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, appealed to Attorney General Eric Holder and to Hillary Clinton, who was then Secretary of State, to push for the subpoenas to be withdrawn. He cited concerns about “the continued success of the Northern Ireland peace process.” Moloney and McIntyre fought the issue on appeal, eventually receiving a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court. But the Court declined to hear the case, and in September, 2013, Boston College turned eleven interviews over to authorities in Belfast.
Last April, Adams reported to a police station in Antrim and was arrested for questioning in connection with the death of McConville. After surrendering his belt, tie, comb, and watch, he was interrogated for four days. He proclaimed his innocence, blaming a “malicious, untruthful, and sinister campaign” against him. He also raised a concern about the timing of his arrest: Sinn Fein was involved in simultaneous campaigns for seats in the European Union and in local government elections. “Both Moloney and McIntyre are opponents of the Sinn Fein leadership and our strategy,” Adams said at a press conference after his release. He has characterized the Belfast Project as “an entirely bogus, shoddy, and self-serving effort.”
At the press conference, Adams said that “the I.R.A. is gone—it’s finished.” But, during a Sinn Fein rally to protest his arrest, Bobby Storey—a close friend of his and a longtime Party operative with a thuggish reputation—alleged that there were sinister motives behind the investigation. Midway through the speech, Storey declared, “We haven’t gone away, you know.” During my time in Belfast, half a dozen people quoted that line to me, noting the presumably deliberate echo of Adams’s famous 1995 quote about the I.R.A. Storey “didn’t mean Sinn Fein hadn’t gone away,” McIntyre said. “He meant the I.R.A.” To Michael McConville, the message was clear: even after peace and decommissioning, the I.R.A. would brook no challenge to its leader. “It still rules by threats,” he said.
By the time Adams was arrested, Dolours Price was dead. One day in January of 2013, one of her sons came home and discovered her in bed. “She wasn’t breathing,” he later told an inquest. Price had been drinking for several days, and had briefly been admitted to the hospital after falling down a flight of stairs. A medical examination found that she had died of a toxic combination of sedatives and antidepressants. Suicide was ruled out, but, when I asked Anthony and Carrie McIntyre if Price killed herself, Carrie said, “I believe it.”
“I’ve never formed a firm conclusion,” Anthony said.
“Brendan, too,” Carrie continued. “They committed suicide for years.”
In Hughes’s oral history, he spoke to McIntyre about having been a hunger striker in prison. “The body is a fantastic machine,” he said. “It’ll eat off all the fat tissue first, and then it’ll eat the muscle, to keep your brain alive.” Long after Hughes and Price called an end to their strikes and attempted to reintegrate into society, they nursed old grudges and endlessly replayed their worst wartime abominations. They never stopped devouring themselves. In the coroner’s report for Dolours Price, the official pronouncement was “death by misadventure.”
The police did not charge Adams in the murder of McConville, and the investigation did not set back Sinn Fein: the Party did surprisingly well in the 2014 elections, winning more seats than expected. Today, it is the most popular political party in Ireland. According to polls, half the voters in Sinn Fein do not believe Adams’s claims about never having been a member of the I.R.A., but they do not appear to care. The beach where Jean McConville’s body was found is in Louth, Adams’s constituency in the Republic, yet Adams seems likely to retain the seat for as long as he wants it. In most countries, merely being implicated in a murder would be enough to derail a political career. But Adams has a knack for weathering scandals. During a trial in 2013, it was revealed that his brother Liam was a pedophile who had molested his own daughter, and that Adams had known but done little to intervene; last October, a woman named Maria Cahill alleged that she had been raped, as a teen-ager, by an I.R.A. man, and that Adams had failed to discipline the rapist. “I don’t know what the Irish word for Teflon is,” Richard Haass told me. “But he has it.”
In November, Adams flew to New York to give a speech to American supporters. In a vast hotel ballroom, the crowd whooped as he walked to the lectern. Adams has gleaming, outsized teeth, and I could make them out clearly from the back of the room. Standing in front of a banner bearing the words “United Ireland,” Adams spoke about the importance of American allies in ending “a very long war.” His voice is stentorian, and he speaks with schoolmasterly authority; he has the calm aura befitting a global celebrity who flies around the world advising armed factions and heads of state about how to make ceasefires stick.
Then, just as Adams was reminiscing about his first visit to the White House, in 1994, the brute in him came out. Speaking of the Irish Independent, which had been publishing critical stories about him, he observed that the paper had also been tough on Michael Collins, the Republican hero of 1916. And how did Collins deal with this affront? “He sent volunteers into their offices, held the editor at gunpoint, and destroyed the entire printing press.” The room, full of Irish-Americans, erupted in applause. Adams leaned into the microphone and murmured, “I’m obviously not advocating that,” prompting raucous, knowing laughter.
Michael McConville does not believe that Adams or anyone else will be brought to account for the murder of his mother. “We’re all adults here—we all know the score,” he told me. Several other people have been arrested for questioning in the case, but only one, Ivor Bell, has been charged. (Bell denies any involvement in McConville’s disappearance.) Bell reportedly gave an interview to the Boston College project, and if the case goes to trial prosecutors may use his recorded recollections—which he had offered for posterity, thinking that they would be sealed until after his death—against him. Bell’s lawyer, Kevin Winters, assured me that Bell “will fight the charges,” and it seems unlikely that the truth about McConville’s death will come out in any such proceeding. The physical evidence in the case is diffuse and decades old, so it would be difficult to sustain a conviction against any of the perpetrators. Because Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes are dead, they cannot testify against Adams; in legal terms, their interviews and oral histories amount to hearsay. Adams and his supporters have also gone to great lengths to attack the credibility of Price and Hughes. “Brendan was a friend of mine,” Adams told the Guardian, in 2011. “But Brendan had his issues and his difficulties. He was opposed to the peace process. He was politically hostile to what we were trying to do. Brendan said what Brendan said, and Brendan’s dead. So let it go.”
Adams is not wrong about the bitter resentment of his former comrades. Price once described her willingness to identify Adams as a former I.R.A. member as an effort to “settle scores.” Nevertheless, it’s hard to explain away the very specific, and similar, recollections that Hughes and Price shared about Jean McConville’s murder. When the journalist Darragh MacIntyre pressed Adams about McConville in a 2013 BBC documentary, “The Disappeared,” Adams, looking like a cornered animal, flashed a hostile grin and noted that Hughes and Price had “demons.” He added, vaguely, “All of us bear a responsibility, those of us who are in the leadership. I’ve never shirked that.”
Adams declined repeated requests to speak with me for this article, citing, through a representative, the “flawed” nature of the Boston College interviews, which focussed on testimony by “former Republicans who have accused Sinn Fein of betrayal.” He seems to have said his piece on the matter, and if no criminal charges are filed he may never be obliged to say anything further. (Adams continues to be forthcoming on other subjects. Last month, he informed an interviewer on Irish radio that he enjoys jumping on a trampoline. “I do it naked,” he said, adding that he is sometimes accompanied in this regimen by his dog.)
The question of whether or not Jean McConville was an informer will also likely remain unresolved. Michael McConville and his siblings are adamant that Brendan Hughes was mistaken about a transmitter being in the flat, and they doubt his claim that McConville confessed to being an informer. Helen once said, “If they were torturing her, she would have admitted to anything. What mother wouldn’t?”
Family members point to the O’Loan report, but the report says only that no official records were found to indicate that Jean McConville was an informer. If she was a low-level informer, such records might not exist. Moloney and McIntyre, who share an unshakable confidence in the credibility of Brendan Hughes, believe that the British government may also have suppressed the paper trail on McConville in order to conceal the fact that the Army allowed one of its confidential sources to be executed. In any case, the I.R.A. clearly believed that McConville was a tout, though that is no justification for what befell her. When McIntyre asked Brendan Hughes whether he regretted executing McConville, Hughes said that he had supported the decision at the time. “But not now,” he continued. “Because, as everything turned out, not one death was worth it.”
Ed Moloney observes that Adams’s cold-blooded detachment, which so maddened Price and Hughes, may have allowed him to imagine what they could not—a future beyond the armed struggle—and to create peace. Adams has many unkind things to say about Moloney, but Moloney believes that Adams should have won the Nobel Peace Prize. “Gerry’s a very hollow man,” Brendan Hughes’s brother Terry said, before adding, “But then maybe that’s politics.”
In the long run, the war may be won by demography. Sinn Fein has predicted that a Catholic majority will eventually preside in Northern Ireland, and the percentage of Catholics has increased in recent decades. But this doesn’t mean that the British will soon be voted off the island. After the 2008 fiscal crisis and the subsequent recession in Dublin, some polls found that most Catholics in the north prefer to remain part of the United Kingdom. “Outbreeding Unionists may be an enjoyable pastime for those who have the energy,” Adams has said. “But it hardly amounts to a political strategy.”
For a small minority, the armed struggle never ended. I visited Belfast just before Christmas, and three different splinter factions of the I.R.A. were promising attacks in the city over the holiday. I had wanted to speak with Marian Price, but she was prevented by legal troubles: in 2013, she confessed to having provided a mobile phone that a Republican splinter group used to take responsibility for a shooting at an Army barracks; two British solders were killed in the attack. (Her sentence was recently suspended, but the terms of her release prohibit her from talking to journalists.) “It’s not over,” Anthony McIntyre told me. “It’s still a very dangerous society.”
According to Michael McConville, the police in Northern Ireland have asked him to name the men and women who took his mother away and supply testimony to help convict them. He has refused, he told me, partly out of fear that his wife and children might become victims of reprisal. (He also refused to tell me any of the kidnappers’ names.) Several years ago, he had briefly considered identifying the perpetrators, but he says that when he told Adams of his intentions Adams replied, “I hope you are ready for the backlash.” (Adams has denied saying this.) The authorities offered to give Michael a new identity, and to move him and his family out of the country. Given the terrible toll of the life he has led in Belfast, I asked him why he hadn’t seized this opportunity. Why not move to Australia?
“All my life is here,” he said. “My family. My friends. Why should I leave because of these people?”
“What would you like to see happen?” I asked. I was wondering what form of accountability might bring him a measure of peace. But he may have misunderstood the question.
“I would love to see all the peace walls come down,” he said first. Then he thought for a moment, and added, “Personally, I’d love to see a united Ireland. I would love to see the British not here.”
We were in his living room, and had been talking for hours, and Michael suggested that we take a walk outside. We passed through the back door onto a bright-green expanse of lawn, and approached a series of wooden enclosures that lined the yard. Michael opened one of the doors to reveal a wall lined with little cubbyholes, in which dozens of pigeons warbled and bobbed and shifted their feet. He keeps hundreds of pigeons now, and he races them competitively. “Through the whole Troubles, there was never any hassle between Protestants and Catholics raising pigeons,” he said, delicately cupping one of the birds in his hand. It eyed us nervously, rolling its neck, so that its slate-gray feathers flashed magenta and teal, suddenly iridescent, like a peacock’s.
On race days, Michael releases the birds, and they disappear over the horizon, bound for some far-off destination. Then, eventually, they turn around and come home. He loves that about pigeons. “They may wander,” he said. “But their natural instinct is to come back to the place that they’re born.”
Woman was killed by the IRA outside her married quarters in West Germany. Now her niece is to address Stormont in her fight to have the case reopened
Kate Connolly in MorsumThe Guardian
6 March 2015Heidi Hazell, the wife of a British army sergeant, was killed in a Dortmund suburb (Photograph: Facebook) Just days after burying her daughter Heidi in a coffin decked with roses and chrysanthemums before hundreds of mourners at a Bremen cemetery, Annaliese Schnaars received an unexpected knock at her door.
“I remember it vividly,” her daughter Barbara, 59, recalls. “It was a woman from the crime squad, bringing Heidi’s jewellery back. Her necklace and trinkets were returned to us in a bundle that was clumped together in her dried blood.”
That, she says, was “probably the worst moment of it all”.
Days before on 7 September 1989, Heidi Hazell, 26, the German wife of British army sergeant Clive Hazell, had been killed outside her married quarters in Unna-Massen, a Dortmund suburb.
Now, 25 years later, Hazell’s family are seeking to have her murder case reopened, claiming the German authorities have done next to nothing to solve the murder. They are travelling to Belfast this weekend to pursue their cause.
It was a balmy autumnal evening when a man in British army fatigues approached Hazell’s British-registered dark blue Saab as she was parking it. Within seconds, he had pumped 14 bullets from a kalashnikov through the car door and window, 12 of which went straight into her upper torso.
An army sergeant who was watching the television news in his flat at the time, recalled hearing “high velocity rifle shots … spread over a period of 10 seconds or so”. During the attack the car shot backwards, mounted the pavement and hit a tree. By the time the sergeant had rushed out to help, the gunman had escaped in a getaway car.
Spent cases littered the ground. “The front passenger window was shattered … I peered inside the vehicle and saw a woman whom I later realised was Mrs Hazell, slumped at the steering wheel,” he told police.
The following day the IRA claimed responsibility for what was its first and only murder in West Germany of a British soldier’s wife.
In a statement the organisation said she had been mistaken for a soldier. “An IRA active service unit carried out last night’s shooting,” it read. “The outcome of last night’s attack reinforces a warning we gave [in 1988] for civilians to stay well clear of British military personnel.”
Margaret Thatcher, the then prime minister, and opposition leader Neil Kinnock led condemnation of the killing.
“The warm weather that night meant many people were out walking dogs or sitting on their balconies,” said Melanie Anan, 41, Hazell’s niece. “Between 30 to 40 people are known to have witnessed the crime, or the runup to it, some of whom have never even been questioned.”
Speaking for the first time about her family’s struggle to come to terms with Hazell’s death, Anan said: “We want a new investigation. We feel that many aspects of the initial investigation were blocked and we’d hope that a new look at Heidi’s case might have something of a domino effect for many other families who are also looking for answers.”
They are soon to lodge a request with Germany’s attorney general to reopen the inquiry and have been advised that with so many holes in the original investigation, they can be confident of success. They possessthree binders from the federal prosecutor’s office containing almost 700 pages of evidence gathered by German investigators of a case that has never gone to court.
Anan is due to address Stormont on Monday, European Day for Victims of Terrorism, after which she and her husband Joe are due to meet investigators from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
The family have called on the PSNI to question the convicted bomber Donna Maguire, 57. She was involved in the IRA’s active terrorist unit operating in Germany at that time. They would also like the police to interview all the other suspected members of the cell, including Paul Hughes, Sean Hick, Roísín McAliskey and Gerard Harte. Dessie Grew, who assembled the group and was responsible for their logistics, was killed by the SAS in 1990.
The Anans have contacted Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Féin, once the political arm of the IRA, who in an email sent his condolences but said he had no information related to Hazell’s killing. He referred to the September 1989 statement in which “the IRA acknowledges that it carried out the attack in which Mrs Hazell, a non-combatant, was killed” and said that in 2002 “as an important contribution to the peace process, it offered its ‘sincere apologies and condolences’ to the families of all of those non-combatants who were killed or injured by it”.
While wishing the family well in their “endeavours”, Adams said that under the terms of the peace process they would have no success in their attempts at legal redress in Northern Ireland.
Anan has responded with scorn, saying: “If he would like to consider Heidi as a ‘non-combatant’, and the person who killed her as a ‘soldier’, then according to the Geneva Convention, the soldier has committed a war crime. And Northern Ireland is obliged to put those responsible before a court.”
Anan and her mother Barbara pored over newspaper cuttings of the murder, as well as family photographs of Heidi at their home in Morsum, near Bremen, last weekend. They showed a carefree schoolgirl, at her confirmation, in carnival dress, and then in an open casket flanked by candles, laid out in a white dress, clutching flowers..
“People will ask ‘why now, so many years later?’ said Anan, who was 16 when her aunt was killed. “They need to understand that for years we’ve been imprisoned by our feelings of grief, anger and fear – they have ruled our lives up until now.
“Now it’s time to put those feelings behind us, and to start fighting so that Heidi doesn’t just end up as a footnote in history or a statistic, and to see justice done for her. We need to know precisely who her killer was – it’s not enough to know it was the IRA.”
Looking on was Annaliese Schnaars, Anan’s 86-year-old grandmother and Heidi’s and Barbara’s mother, who has dementia. “I can no longer cry,” she said, reaching for her granddaughter’s hand.
“But sometimes I think my heart is going to explode. It never goes away. It’s like a pain that shoots through my body from top to bottom.” The family said they had been offered no support over the years, either from the British military or from the German authorities.
“Irrational and petty though it might seem, often the only outlet for our anger has been to hate everything Irish,” said Anan. “We would never buy Irish butter and I boycotted my favourite singer, Sinéad O’Connor.”
Barbara recalls storming into an Irish pub in Munich in 1994 to vent her anger, and the altercation with a group of IRA sympathisers drinking there. “I laid into them – until the police were called. But the officers knew of Heidi’s case and talked to me for two hours. It was very therapeutic – the only sort of therapy I’ve ever had.”
The family has many questions to ask investigators in Germany and Northern Ireland, such as: why was the hire car used in the murder not checked by forensic scientists until two and a half years after the crime? And why were the details of witnesses who reported suspicious sightings to the British military police, not passed on to the German authorities?
The family’s Facebook campaign page is garnering support. It has attracted responses from witnesses who, despite their willingness to be interviewed, were not questioned at the time. IRA sympathisers are also following their quest for justice.
One plausible reason as to why the Hazell case stalled in 1989 was the lack of trust between British military intelligence and their West German equivalent when Europe was still in the grip of the Cold War. The fear was prevalent amongst British authorities that any information they gave to the West Germans could end up in the hands of the East Germans who, via the Stasi, had close links with some elements of the IRA.
As they leafed through the case files they received last week, finding information that gives them a far more detailed insight into the case than they have ever had, Melanie and Joe Anan repeatedly stumbled across details that make them sit up. Such as ballistics experts proving that the AK-47 rifle that killed British army major Michael Dillon Lee in Dortmund in June 1990 and which before that was used in the attempted murder of an unarmed guard in Langenhagen in May that year, was the same weapon that killed Hazell.
“We did not know this before. Such pieces of information are vital in piecing together who did this,” Melanie said. They have also seen pictures of the autopsy for the first time, showing Hazell’s body “riddled with massive holes, like a Swiss cheese”, said Joe.
There are some seemingly mundane details, such as discovering that the getaway car was not as they had been told, a black Capri – information given to the police by a dog walker who disappeared and is suspected of having been an IRA plant – but a VW Golf. “Over the years, every time I’ve seen a black Capri it’s sent shudders down my spine,” Melanie said. “We are now seeing this whole case anew”.
They are satisfied that German investigators had been piecing together a convincing case. “They were doing a really good job of creating a timeline, but it looks like they were repeatedly blocked from accessing vital pieces of evidence or pursuing certain suspects that might have helped them take the case to court,” she added.
26 February 2015** So the new designation for murder is "non-accidental" death. Has the Public Prosecution Service not heard of DNA testing and other forensic investigations? If this is the best they can do, it is shameful and a disgrace. The Public Prosecution Service has said it is standing by its decision not to prosecute two people in connection with a toddler's "non-accidental" death.
Liam Gonzalez Bennett, from Ballymena, County Antrim, died in February 2009.
A pathologist told his inquest that the 20-month-old was beaten so hard that he was left blind minutes before he died.
In a review of its decision not to prosecute, the PPS said that while the child died due to non-accidental injury, there was not enough evidence.
It said it had concluded the the original decision not to proceed against either or both of the individuals reported to it should stand.
Liam's injuries were discovered when he was found unresponsive in his cot while his mother, Samantha Bennett, was out shopping.
Her fiancé at the time, Noel McKeown, was looking after the boy and his older sister at the couple's home in Sunningdale Park.A pathologist told Liam Gonzalez Bennett's inquest that the child had been beaten so hard that he was left blind minutes before he died
Mr McKeown said he found that Liam was not breathing and called the child's mother and then an ambulance.
Liam was taken Antrim Area Hospital before being transferred to the intensive care unit at Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital, where he died the following day.
He had sustained 31 bruises to his head that medical experts told his inquest were consistent with being punched.
Marianne O'Kane, Regional Prosecutor of PPS Eastern Region said: "There has been a thorough review of all the available evidence and information in this case, arising from both the police investigation into the death of baby Liam and following the conclusion of the inquest into the circumstances of his death.
"While it is clear that baby Liam's death was as a result of non-accidental injury, the evidence available is not sufficient to establish the identity of the person or persons responsible for causing that injury," she said.
In 2013, an inquest recorded a verdict of non-accidental death and the coroner said it was disturbing that no-one had been held accountable. She sent a file to the PPS.
Liam's mother, Samantha Bennett, told the inquest she could not give any explanation as to how he sustained his injuries.
She described how she had returned home from a shopping trip to find ambulance crews working on her unconscious child.
The inquest was told that Ms Bennett and her former fiancé were interviewed by police on at least three separate occasions but offered no explanation for the injuries.
"I assure the public that every care has been taken in this case. We have worked closely with police and the evidence has been exhaustively examined and reviewed by senior lawyers within the PPS," Ms O'Kane said.
"Those involved in this case have been informed of the outcome of the review and also of the fact that the case may be re-opened should any relevant new evidence or information become available in future."
Story by UTV Staff, Belfast:::u.tv:::
25 February 2015**Video onsiteMore links and information on Scappaticci here at CryptomeFrank Mulhern's son was killed by the IRA in 1993A man whose son was murdered by the IRA in 1993 has called on Freddie Scappaticci to be investigated for his alleged involvement in the killing.
Frank Mulhern's solicitor Kevin Winters, who is representing a number of victims' families in civil cases against the alleged Army agent, the Ministry of Defence and the Chief Constable, is urging more people to come forward.
Joe Mulhern was just 22 years old when he was abducted by the IRA.
He was accused of passing information to Special Branch, interrogated for 10 days, shot and his body dumped near Castlederg, Co Tyrone.Joseph Mulhern (Photo: CAIN)
No one has ever been charged or convicted of the murder.
Six weeks after he was buried his father Frank – who first spoke to UTV’s Insight programme in 2013 – said Freddie Scappaticci, who at the time was alleged to be a senior member of the IRA's internal security unit, told him about his son's murder.
Frank Mulhern said: “I asked him again how he died and Scap said that the first shot had hit my son in the back of the neck and he told the guy whoever shot him to shoot him again, so the second shot hit him on the back of the head and apparently that’s what killed him.”
Scappaticci was named in 2003 as the highest ranking Army agent working inside the IRA, a claim he consistently denies.Freddie Scappaticci (Photo: Cryptome)
Frank Mulhern is convinced the security forces could have saved his son but chose to protect their spy codenamed ‘Stakeknife’.
“It’s about time Scap was brought to court and that’s all I really want,” he said.
Frank Mulhern, together with a number of other families, are now taking a civil action against Freddie Scappaticci, the Ministry of Defence and the Chief Constable.
Their solicitor Kevin Winters believes all the abductions and killings allegedly linked to Scappaticci, along with the role of the state in protecting the agent from prosecution, need to be fully investigated.
Frank Mulhern continued: “The PSNI have files which could solve a lot of these murders but for one reason or another they’re not acting on them, probably because Freddie Scappaticci is involved.Scappaticci, also known as 'Stakeknife'
“I say my prayers at night and one of the prayers includes Scap, that he is brought to court and charged or whatever. I mean all I want is my day in court with Freddie Scappaticci – I want absolutely nothing else.”
The PSNI said it would not be making any comment.
17 February 2015Twenty-nine people, including a woman pregnant with twins, were killed in the 1998 attackThe man accused of murdering 29 people in the 1998 Omagh bomb will be prosecuted, a court has been told.
Seamus Daly, 44, is originally from Culloville, County Monaghan, but now has an address at Kilnasaggart Road in Jonesborough, County Armagh.
He appeared at Omagh Magistrates' Court via video-link.
Mr Daly was one of four men ordered to pay more than £1.5m in damages to the families of those killed in the Real IRA attack in August 1998.
He was one of five men named in a BBC Panorama programme, Who Bombed Omagh
, in October 2000, that investigated the attack.Seamus Daly was remanded into continuing custody until 10 March
No-one has ever been convicted of carrying out the bombing in a criminal court.
Mr Daly has been in custody since April 2014.
A prosecution barrister told the court a substantial amount of evidence relating to mobile phones has been requested from the authorities in the Republic of Ireland, and should be available in six weeks.
What was described as "other more complex material" were subject to legal issues that could take a further four months to resolve.
A defence lawyer said the prosecution had no new evidence since 1999 and his client had been living openly in Jonesborough at all times yet now faced "the biggest murder trial in British criminal history".
The judge remanded Mr Daly into continuing custody until 10 March for a further update on progress in the case.
Relatives of four of the victims of the Omagh bombing were in the court for the hearing.
24 Jan 2015An unemployed single mother from Co Armagh is to stand trial in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black.
Fiona McFadden (29), of Killough Gardens, Lurgan, appeared at Belfast Crown Court yesterday for a brief arraignment hearing.
She pleaded not guilty to a single charge that she supplied a false alibi to a murder suspect on the day after Mr Black was killed.
The charge alleges that on November 3, 2012, she "did an act which had a tendency to pervert the course of public justice, namely, informed police officers investigating the murder of David Black that Sean McVeigh had been in her company at her address between 4pm and 9.30pm on the 31st day of October 2012'.'
The court heard her trial is expected to last a number of weeks.
McFadden was released on continuing bail to await the fixing of a date for her trial later this year.
Mr Black was shot dead on the M1 in Co Armagh as he went to work at Maghaberry Prison in November 2012. The 52-year-old father-of-two was the first prison officer in Northern Ireland to be murdered in almost 20 years.
Sean McVeigh (33), of Victoria Road, Lurgan, was charged at Craigavon Magistrates Court in February 2014 with the murder of Mr Black.
He was further charged with possessing an assault rifle with intent to endanger life.
However, in July last year the charges against him were dramatically dropped.
A lawyer from the Public Prosecution Service told Craigavon Magistrates Court: "The charges in this matter are to be withdrawn.
"No prosecution has been directed."
A solicitor for McVeigh told the court that he planned to instigate legal proceedings against the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service over the time his client had spent on remand.
David Cameron tells Justice4the21 he is too busy to meet due to 'diary pressures'
Andy RichardsBirmingham Mail
12 January 2015**More links and photos onsitePrime Minister David Cameron has rejected a plea to meet with Birmingham pub bombings campaigners, telling them he is too busy.
His snub comes just over a month after he told the House of Commons that those responsible for the massacre of 21 people in the city in 1974 had to be found.
Encouraged by his words, Justice4the21 campaigners wrote to the Prime Minister to thank him and to ask to meet him.
Julie Hambleton, whose sister Maxine was one of those murdered, said in the letter “Please agree to meet us Prime Minister. You can have no idea what that would mean for us.”
Now the Prime Minister has replied offering his sympathies, but nothing else.
“Unfortunately due to the pressure of my diary I am unable to offer you a meeting on this occasion, but I do thank you for writing to me on this important issue,” he has told them.Read the full reply from Mr Cameron here
On Monday, Julie said: “We feel absolutely insulted, but not surprised.
“All we wanted was to meet for a few moments and for our Prime Minister to look us in the eyes and tell us he really was with us on this.
“But I suspect he can’t do that because it isn’t true.
“It’s interesting to see that, among those he has copied into this letter is the Chief Constable of West Midlands Police Chris Sims whose force last year rejected any new inquiry into the bombings.
“It just bears out what we know - that neither the Government, nor the police have any real intention to pursue those who attacked the Tavern in The Town and The Mulberry Bush.
“Mr Cameron has had numerous meetings with the McCanns over Madeleine - and we don’t begrudge them that in any way.
“But there are 21 families in Birmingham who lost loved ones, and despite what he told the House of Commons, he can’t spare us 30 minutes? He should be ashamed.”
In the letter Mr Cameron describes the bomb attacks as “appalling and devastating” and says he hopes that, although West Midlands Police will not launch a new inquiry into the bombings, the force’s efforts will offer them some solace and demonstrate that “all that can be done is being done.”
He goes on to say he hopes he has reassured them that “considerable effort has been, and continues to be, made to bring those responsible for this awful crime to justice.”
“How absolutely ridiculous, “ said Julie. “It’s almost laughable.
“It just shows how out of touch he is.
“The police review didn’t find any new evidence because they have admitted that they are not looking for any. They are waiting for someone, anyone, to hand deliver it to them.
“Amongst other things the Prime Minister also talks about financial support.
“Clearly he knows nothing about us at all really because, if he did, he would realise how particularly insulting that is.
“We are not interested in money and never have been. We just want the truth and justice for the victims of this terrible crime.”
Within days of Mr Cameron’s House of Commons statement, the IRA’s former intelligence chief Kieran Conway confirmed for the first time that the terror attacks were in revenge for the death a week earlier of IRA bomber James McDaid.
McDaid, a lieutenant in the Birmingham Brigade of the IRA, blew himself up while trying to attack Coventry Telephone Exchange.
But Conway and other “furious” IRA officers felt the Birmingham attacks were immoral and said they had left him ashamed.
Conway makes the admission in a book of memoirs.
His name and details were passed on to West Midlands Police by the Birmingham Mail on Thursday, December 9.
The force said it will review the book before deciding what action to take.
The Mail has heard nothing from West Midlands Police on this issue since.*After Mr Cameron’s House of Commons statement the Birmingham Mail started to run the Cameron Clock, to see how long it took him to take action.
The clock is still ticking...