Northern Ireland police extended the detention of Sinn
Fein leader Gerry Adams by two days to give detectives more
time to question him about a 1972 murder, raising the stakes in
a case that has rocked the British province.
Adams' arrest over the killing of Jean McConville was among
the most significant in Northern Ireland since a 1998 peace
deal ended decades of tit-for-tat killings between Irish
Catholic nationalists and mostly Protestant pro-British
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a
Sinn Fein member and close Adams ally, said the decision by
the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to seek an
extension confirmed his view that the arrest was politically
"There is a cabal in the PSNI that have an agenda, a negative
and destructive agenda to both the peace process and to Sinn
Fein," McGuinness told a news conference in Belfast. Northern
Ireland's justice minister denied the accusation.
"I believe Gerry Adams will be totally and absolutely
exonerated and I believe that Gerry Adams will continue to
lead this party," said McGuinness, a former Irish Republican
Army (IRA) commander who only last month met Queen Elizabeth
at a Windsor Castle reception in a sign of normalised ties
between Britain and Ireland since the peace pact.
The decision extends Adams' detention at a police station
about 25km northwest of Belfast until 7pm on Sunday (local
time). Adams, who led the IRA's political wing in the 1980s
and 1990s, must then be freed or charged unless police can
convince a judge to agree to an additional extension.
After the extension was announced, a single elderly man
appeared outside the police station holding an Irish
tricolour. He was heckled by passers-by.
Reviled by many in Britain as the face of militant Irish
nationalism during the IRA guerrilla campaign against British
rule of Northern Ireland, Adams, 65, reinvented himself as a
Northern Ireland peacemaker and then a leading opposition
parliamentarian in the Irish Republic.
But he has been dogged throughout his career by accusations
from former IRA fighters that he was involved in its campaign
of killings, a charge he has repeatedly denied.
He offered to speak to police about McConville's killing in
late March after tapes that apparently accuse him of
participation were released by researchers in the United
Adams has always denied membership of the IRA and said on
Wednesday, when he was arrested, that he was "innocent of any
part" in the killing, which he said was "wrong and a grievous
injustice to her and her family".
McGuinness said it might be difficult to contain anger among
Irish nationalists about Adams' detention.
"We believe that the anger and resentment out there among the
community is something we as Irish republicans have to
manage. We are trying to handle this situation in a very calm
way," he said.
The investigation of former militants on both sides of the
conflict have stirred protests in the province in recent
years, but there were no signs of trouble in Belfast city
centre early on Friday evening.
Some motorists passing the police station where Adams was
being held sounded their horns and shouted "Free Gerry!"
A mural was being painted on the mainly Catholic Falls Road
with a picture of Adams beside the words "Peacemaker, Leader,
The creation of a neutral police force was one of the
foundations of Northern Ireland's peace deal and any
perceptions of bias could be hugely damaging.
But Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford, who is also
the leader of the non-sectarian Alliance Party, rejected
McGuinness' accusation that police were unfairly targeting
Sinn Fein over pro-British loyalists and British servicemen.
"In the four years I've been minister for justice I've seen
no evidence of the police playing politics but I've certainly
seen much evidence from many politicians seeking to interfere
in the policing, prosecution and judicial process," Ford said
outside the police station where Adams was being held.
McConville, who was dragged away screaming from some of her
10 children, was one of 15 people living in strongly
Republican, Catholic areas who were spirited away by the IRA
and dumped in unmarked graves.
Her remains were found only in 2003 by a man walking on a
beach over the border in County Louth, a jurisdiction Adams
now represents in Ireland's parliament. The IRA accused
McConville - a Protestant married to a Catholic - of being an
informer for the British, an allegation her family has always
The investigation into her killing was revived by the release
of a series of taped interviews given by former guerrillas
from the Northern Ireland conflict for a research project at
Boston College in the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said during a visit to
South Sudan on Friday that he was unfamiliar with details of
the Adams case but that the legal process in Northern Ireland
needed to be allowed to "work its way".
The United States brokered the 1998 Northern Ireland peace
accord and has a large number of citizens of Irish heritage.