Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal issued a statement to Business Insider after his longtime “friend” Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams was arrested for a 1972 murder in Northern Ireland on Wednesday.
Neal, who has worked with Adams for at least two decades as part of his efforts to aid the peace process in Northern Ireland, noted that accusations suggesting that Adams was involved in the killing of Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10, are “unproven.”
“A few weeks ago, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams volunteered to meet with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to discuss the unproven allegation that he was involved in the abduction, killing and burial of Jean McConville on the island of Ireland more than 40 years ago. He is having that conversation with the PSNI in Northern Ireland tonight,” Neal said Wednesday evening.
“Mr. Adams has always maintained he had nothing to do with the sad ordeal of Jean McConville,” Neal said. “On many occasions, he has acknowledged the grave injustice inflicted upon Jean McConville and her family by the IRA, and he has repeatedly appealed to anyone with information about the case to bring it to the attention of the proper authorities.”
McConville was one of the 16 people known as “The Disappeared” in Northern Ireland who were allegedly abducted, murdered, and buried in secret locations by the Irish Republican Army during its decades-long conflict with the U.K., known as “The Troubles.”
Sinn Fein was the political arm of the IRA, which has admitted responsibility for what happened to at least nine of the 16 disappeared.
According to the BBC, there has been speculation McConville was taken by the IRA either because of suspicions she was an informant or because her neighbours saw her helping an injured British soldier.
McConville’s body was recovered on a beach in 2003, nearly 30 years after her abduction.
Before his arrest, Adams told reporters he was not involved in McConville’s killing.
“While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing, or burial of Mrs McConville,” Adams said.
In his statement, Neal noted that Adams has aided a group dedicated to finding remains of the disappeared.
“He has also worked with the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims Remains to help bring closure to the families who lost loved ones during the conflict and continue to suffer,” Neal said of Adams.
Neal has spent years working on the peace process in Northern Ireland. According to MassLive, Neal “is described as a friend of Adams” and there are media reports of “Neal meeting Adams several times on both sides of the Atlantic” over the years since at least 1994.
Last month, Neal met with Adams in Washington, where they had what MassLive called “a private lunch with President Barack Obama in the U.S. Capitol as part of the traditional St. Patrick’s Day observances.”
In his statement about Adams’ arrest, Neal described some of his work on Northern Ireland and condemned McConville’s killing.
“For many years, I have been a consistent advocate of families from both traditions who lost loved ones during the Troubles. From the Bloody Sunday Campaign to the family of Raymond McCord, I have supported their efforts on both sides of the Atlantic to find truth and justice,” Neal said.
“The British government, in particular, is keenly aware of my interest in these matters. I have also condemned the killing of Jean McConville in the strongest possible terms. What happened to her was tragic, and her family also deserves to know the truth,” Neal said.
Neal concluded his statement by calling for further progress in Northern Ireland’s peace process.
“Much has been accomplished in Northern Ireland since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998,” he said. “But I happen to strongly agree with former President Bill Clinton who recently urged the political leaders in the region to ‘finish the job.’ And that includes dealing with outstanding issues like flags, parades and the past.”
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