THE PSNI's decision to ask for more time to question Gerry Adams "confirms" the Sinn Fein leader's arrest was "politically motivated", Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said yesterday. Mr McGuinness said that party had been told yesterday afternoon that police were seeking more time to question the Louth TD.
And he insisted that the timing of Mr Adams's arrest was "inextricably linked" to next month's european and council elections.
Mr Adams was arrested at 8pm on Wednesday about the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville after he voluntarily presented himself to police at Antrim station.
Mr McGuinness accused "elements" within the PSNI, that he said some within the force had described as the "dark side", who have a "negative and anti-peace process agenda and are involved in political policing".
"Yesterday, I said that the timing of the arrest of Gerry Adams was politically motivated," he said.
"Today's decision by the PSNI to seek an extension confirms me in my view."
When asked if Sinn Fein could withdraw support for policing, Mr McGuinness told a press conference in Belfast that the party may have to "review that situation" as Mr Adams continues to be detained.
"Depending on what happens this scenario will either be resolved in a satisfactory way, in which case we will continue to press on, continue to support the reformers within policing who have made, I think, such a massive contribution to the change of the policing arrangements that we have enjoyed in the course of recent times or the situation will not work out in the way we believe that it should," he said.
"If it doesn't, we will have to review that situation and we will have to review that situation in the context of continuing with our very positive and constructive role within what is a vitally important peace process."
In a statement released after the press conference, Mr McGuinness emphasised his "absolute support" for "progressive and open-minded elements in the new policing arrangements"
"But there is a small cabal in the PSNI who have a different agenda - a negative and destructive agenda to both the peace process and to Sinn Fein," he said.
"Sinn Fein under the leadership of Gerry Adams will not allow these elements to succeed." However, SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly said Mr McGuinness's comments were "incredibly illjudged".
"For Sinn Fein to threaten to withdraw support from the PSNI because an investigation is not going the way they want it is completely unacceptable," she said.
DUP leader Peter Robinson said it would have been political policing if the PSNI had decided not to investigate Mr Adams.
"The police will do what they have to do when they exercise the responsibility they have to investigate any case," he said.
"That's what they are doing. It should be left to them to do it. Anybody who tries to interfere with what the police is doing is starting to get involved in politicising the policing process."
Justice minister David Ford rejected Mr McGuinness's claim that the arrest was politically motivated.
"I see no evidence that policing is being cynically and politically motivated," he said.
"Unfortunately I do see evidence that politicians at times seek to interfere in policing."
Ulster Unionist MeP Jim Nicholson questioned why Mr Adams's arrest had led to phone calls between Mr McGuinness and British prime minister David Cameron.
"Politicians need to get off the backs of PSNI officers and let them do their job properly," he said.
"Decisions must be based on evidence and facts, not the political connections of the person being questioned."
Speaking after the PSNI was granted a further 48 hours to hold Mr Adams, Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said his party leader's arrest was "deliberately timed" to coincide with the elections in three weeks' time.
"This is political policing at its most blatant," he said.
* UNITED FRONT: Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson put their differences aside to reopen the revamped Ravenhill rugby stadium in east Belfast last night. The deputy first minister and first minister have disagreed over the arrest of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in connection with the murder of Jean McConville in 1972. Also pictured is John Robinson, president of the IRFU Ulster Branch. Main, Mr McGuinness and party colleague Alex Maskey at yesterday's press conference
PICTURES: Inset, Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye; main, Hugh Russell