Adams back on campaign trail after release from police custody

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams will refocus on election campaigning today as the political fall-out from his release from police custody continues to reverberate around Stormont and beyond.

His party is holding an European election rally in Belfast tonight, with a similar event planned in Dublin tomorrow, as Mr Adams resumes the canvassing activities he claims his detention over the 1972 murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville was designed to thwart.

The 65-year-old politician was released from Antrim police station, pending a report being sent to prosecutors, after four days of questioning about the notorious IRA killing and other alleged links with the paramilitary organisation.

The decision to refer the case means the ultimate decision whether to charge him with any offence will be made by the Public Prosecution Service at a later date after reviewing evidence presented by police.

Mr Adams has vehemently rejected allegations made by former republican colleagues that he ordered the notorious abduction and killing of Mrs McConville - denials he repeated again last night.

The rapturous welcome Mr Adams received in a west Belfast hotel on his first public appearance following his detention was in marked contrast to the angry scenes outside Antrim police station as loyalists protested at his release.

There was disorder in loyalist Sandy Row area of Belfast last night with petrol bombs and stones thrown, though no one was injured.

The former MP for west Belfast and now Louth TD criticised the police's handling of his arrest but moved to dispel any suggestion that Sinn Féin's commitment to policing had wavered in the wake of the affair.

His arrest on Wednesday triggered a bitter political row at Stormont, with Sinn Féin accusing an "anti-peace process rump" within the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) of orchestrating the detention with the aim of damaging the party ahead of the European and local government elections.

This was angrily rejected by political rivals, whose fury intensified when senior Sinn Féin figures indicated that their support for the police - a critical plank in the peace process - would be "reviewed" if Mr Adams was charged.

Democratic Unionist Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson denounced those remarks as "bully boy" tactics.

Downing Street confirmed that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke yesterday to discuss the situation surrounding Mr Adams' arrest.

Last night Mr Adams questioned the timing of his detention and said police had unnecessarily used "coercive" legislation to detain and quiz him.

But he added: "Despite this I want to make it clear that I support the PSNI, I will continue to work with others to build a genuinely civic policing service.

"The old guard which is against change - whether in the PSNI leadership, within elements of unionism, or the far fringes of self proclaimed but pseudo republicans - they can't win.

"The dark side of the British system cannot be allowed to deny anyone, any of our people - Catholic, Protestant or dissenter - to their entitlement to a rights-based citizen society as set out in the Good Friday Agreement."

Mrs McConville's son Michael last night called for an independent investigation into his mother's death by a team from outside the North to ensure that no "political pressure" is applied.

Michael McConville said Mr Adams warned of a "backlash" when he told the Sinn Féin leader he would release the names of those involved.

Mr McConville said the aleged comment was made around the time the report being drawn up by Northern Ireland's then police ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan, into claims that his mother was an informer was close to being finalised.

Mr Adams had brokered a series of meetings between Mr McConville and members of the IRA.

"I asked the IRA if Nuala O'Loan came out and made her statement clear that my mother wasn't an informant would they come out and apologise for the murder of our mother and they turned around and says 'no they won't' and they'd be making a statement saying that 'your mother was an informant'," Mr McConville told BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme.

"I says to them: 'Well, if that's the case I'll be releasing the names into the public for the people that came and took our mother that night'.

"When I was having these meetings Gerry Adams used to get the meetings called."

Mr McConville said he used to tell Mr Adams what had happened in the meetings and warned him that he would release the names of those involved if Ms O'Loan's report was disputed.

He added: "Gerry Adams says to me: 'Michael, you are getting a letter of support from the Republican people'. He says 'if you release the names I hope you are ready for the backlash'.

"I took it as a threat."

Mr McConville said that "could" have meant a backlash against the peace process but said he took it to mean the "backlash from Republican people".

"We are calling for this case to be taken out of Northern Ireland and an independent body to look at it so the McConville family gets justice for its mother because we don't think we can get justice for our mother the way things are happening in this country."

Mr McConville said he was "disappointed" that Gerry Adams had been released.

He told Radio 4's Today programme: "We thought we were going to get Gerry Adams brought to court."

KEYWORDS: Gerry Adams
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