Northern Ireland

Clips of Boston College tape played to court but ruled inadmissible as evidence

Gerry Adams has denied ordering the murder and disappearance of Jean McConville. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press.
Gerry Adams has denied ordering the murder and disappearance of Jean McConville. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press.

THE trial of a veteran republican accused of soliciting the murder of Jean McConville was played two clips from a Boston College oral history project which was ruled as inadmissible as evidence.

Ivor Bell (82) of Ramoan Gardens was acquitted of the charges yesterday following a trial of the facts at Belfast Crown Court.

In a ruling yesterday Mr Justice O'Hara said there was "overwhelming" evidence it was Mr Bell speaking on the recording.

However he ruled that the tapes, which were played to the court and jury on Wednesday October 9 and the following day, were unreliable and could not be used as evidence against him due to the "bias" of interviewer Anthony McIntyre against former Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and the peace process.

"The tapes will become public with the end of this trial.

"Everyone who reads about them can form their own view, informed or otherwise, on the many issues they raise," Mr Justice O'Hara ruled.

"But in the context of a criminal trial they are just not reliable or fairly obtained evidence."

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In the tapes Mr Bell talked about an alleged meeting he had with two men who he named as Gerry Adams and Pat McClure regarding a west Belfast woman accused of passing information to the British Army.

Mr Bell also claimed that while he wasn't opposed to shooting 'touts', he didn't know the woman had ten children.

He also said that after being told at the meeting in late 1972 'they were going to bury her', he was against this as it 'defeated the purpose'.

When questioned about why Gerry Adams was now so "sensitive" about this particular murder, Mr Bell said "they couldn't take the heat from throwing her in the street."

The interview was conducted with former IRA prisoner Anthony McIntyre, who started by asking Mr Bell about "the most controversial disappearing act of the Troubles."

He told Mr Bell he had been "wrongly accused about the involvement in the killing and disappearance of Jean McConville" and it was "on record that you opposed this." Mr McIntyre also said: "In later years you were blamed as a means to give political cover to another person, Gerry Adams."

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Mr Bell then claimed a man named on the tapes as Bobby Storey called to his house and asked him about Mrs McConville and was told Me Bell, "why don't you ask Gerry?"

"He said to me 'he knows nothing about it' and I simply said 'he's a liar ... and I will go and I will tell him he's a liar.' I nearly fell off my chair. I just said 'no, he's a liar full stop' and I told him exactly what transpired.'

He said: "First and foremost, I was called out of a meeting, not called out, I wound up a meeting I was holding on the Falls Road. It was about ten o'clock at night, I think it was a Saturday night. There were three people there - Gerry Adams, Pat McClure and a girl.

"They came into the house and the girl stayed out in the kitchen. He said first and foremost about this woman, she was a tout.

"So I said, 'well Pat' I said, 'she was a tout', I said, 'the fact she's a woman shouldn't save her'. Now I wasn't told she had ten kids and no husband. Had I been told that, I can't say for sure I would have said 'no don't shoot her' but I may have had second thoughts and say 'hold on, what are we doing.'

"I said, 'whatever was decided I will back that up'. I said 'I don't have a problem with shooting touts', but I said that - but then they said 'we are going to bury her' and I said 'no, I don't agree with that'."

When asked by Mr McIntyre who the "main pusher for burying her was", Mr Bell replied: "I couldn't say it was Adams, I couldn't say it was Pat. I think it was coming from the local unit."

Mr McIntyre then asked Mr Bell about 'Gerry's' attitude to burying her, and he said: "Just that she was a tout. She should be shot. His attitude to burying her, I wouldn't say he would have liked it that much but he didn't say very much except that the priest (he had allegedly asked to help) had refused to get her out of town."

And when Mr McIntyre asked if the Belfast brigade advocated 'disappearing' Mrs McConville, Mr Bell replied: "I would say that they would have advocated it to bury her because GHQ wouldn't have any reason. Again, it's speculation because I was operations officer at the time. All the IO work was handled by Pat and it went straight back to Gerry."

Mr McIntyre asks if he disagreed with Adams on disappearing people and Mr Bell said Gerry "knew my opinion ... it wasn't the thing to do."

He added: "I know all the business was handled between Pat and Gerry. He didn't have to come to me. I was operations officer on Brigade staff. Having said that, I had no problem with shooting any tout, right, no problem whatsoever, because we had no prisons. And one good tout is better than a regiment of soldiers, said Michael Collins."

Mr McIntyre then said "other people who have been interviewed" have said that "Gerry gave the order for her killing and her disappearance. Is there a possibility that they wrong?"

Mr Bell replied: "The only thing I can say about that is this: and Gerry would have passed the information back to GHQ that one she was a tout, two she was taking money and three, she had to be executed, right.

"Now whether he knew she had ten kids or not I don't know. For me to say he knew would be wrong, because I simply don't know. But I agreed with shooting touts. We don't have any other option."

When McIntyre asked Mr Bell why he thought Gerry was "so sensitive of this whole Jean McConville affair", he replied: "I think it was the fact she had ten kids. I think that's the reason for the sensitivity."

The second tape was then played and the two men talk about why Mr Bell decided to participate in the Belfast Project. He replied: "My main reason for setting things down, one, for historical accuracy, and two which is a major major thing with me is that Gerry has lied about him being in the IRA."

Mr Bell then said he was annoyed at Gerry for "sending some idiot to my house and asked about a lady from the flats, Jean McConville" .

Mr Bell said Bobby Storey told him Gerry knew nothing about it "and I said Gerry is a liar, he was OC of Belfast.'

He then said: "The first I knew about the woman was I was told she was being shot as a tout and the reason for it was she was an informer."

McIntyre asked Mr Bell if he thought Gerry Adams "wanted to create an illusion that you were responsible for the killing of Jean." Mr Bell replied: "It is widely known within the IRA that were three things I was totally opposed to.

"One was torture in any form and that goes back to the early 70s. Two sectarianism, shooting Protestants in revenge for killing Catholics. Totally against that and three burying people. I wasn't opposed to shooting touts but I didn't see the sense in shooting anyone then burying them.

Mr Bell continued: "At the end of the day it wasn't down to me. I gave my opinion. It was always the same. If you are going to shoot him leave him out because it defeats the entire purpose by hiding the bodies."