BELFAST (Reuters) - Irish nationalist leader Gerry Adams will not face prosecution over the murder of a woman abducted in 1972 in front of her 10 children, Northern Irish officials said on Tuesday, a year and a half after he was briefly arrested for questioning over the crime.
The shooting dead of Jean McConville, seized by the Irish Republican Army from a nationalist area, was one of the most controversial of over 3,000 killings in three decades of sectarian violence.
Adams’s arrest for four days in May 2014 rocked Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government and the decision not to prosecute comes as his Sinn Fein party is locked in talks with pro-British rivals to avert a government collapse.
Adams said on Tuesday he “played no act or part” in the murder, and that the timing of his arrest, weeks before 2014 local and European elections in Ireland showed there were “elements within the PSNI [police] who are against Sinn Fein”.
He said he was the target of a “sustained and malicious campaign seeking to involve me with the killing”.
Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service said in a statement there would be no further cases brought in relation to the killing, meaning only one person, Ivor Bell, is to be prosecuted on charges of soliciting the killing.
“We have given careful consideration to the evidence currently available ... and have concluded that it is insufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of obtaining a conviction against any of them for a criminal offense,” the Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions, Pamela Atchison, said in a statement regarding seven people arrested in the case.
One of McConville’s sons, Michael, said in a statement he would “continue to seek justice for our mother ... no matter how long it takes”.
A 1998 peace deal largely ended three decades of sectarian violence between Catholics who want a united Ireland and Protestants who want Northern Ireland to remain British.
But one of the key planks of that deal was undermined last month when police said the IRA was likely involved in the murder of a former operative, despite assurances from Sinn Fein that the group had “left the stage”.
Crisis talks are ongoing between Sinn Fein and the Democratic Unionist Party over a long list of issues including dealing with paramilitary groups and implementing budget cuts mandated by London.
Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ralph Boulton