Gerry Adams. Photo Reuters
Northern Ireland police released Gerry Adams from custody
and the Sinn Fein leader sought to calm fears that his four-day
detention could destabilise the British province by pledging
his support to the peace process.
Police arrested Adams on Wednesday (local time) over the 1972
murder of Jean McConville, a killing he repeated that he was
"innocent of any part" in. His detention had raised tensions
among Northern Ireland's power-sharing government and its
After Sinn Fein pointed the finger at "dark forces" in the
police service and their Protestant partners in government
accused it of a "thuggish attempt" at blackmail, a calm Adams
toned down the rhetoric and said he supported the police.
"My resolve remains as strong as ever, that is to build the
peace, not to let this put us off. It's our future. The past
is the past," Adams told a news conference attended by about
150 cheering supporters in a hotel in west Belfast.
"The old guard which is against change, whether it is in the
PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) leadership, within
elements of Unionism or the far fringes of self-proclaimed,
pseudo-republicans, they can't win."
"I'm an Irish republican. I want to live in a peaceful
Ireland. I've never dissociated myself from the IRA and I
never will, but I am glad that I and others have created a
peaceful and democratic way forward for everyone. The IRA is
Adams' arrest over the killing of McConville was among the
most significant in Northern Ireland since a 1998 peace deal
ended decades of tit-for-tat killings by Irish Catholic
nationalists and mostly Protestant pro-British loyalists.
In the predominantly Protestant Sandy Row area of Belfast,
police said they had to deal with some disorder when a number
of petrol bombs and stones were thrown. Nobody was believed
to have been injured, a police spokeswoman said.
The Sinn Fein leader, who is a member of parliament in the
Irish republic, 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.
McConville, who was accused by the IRA of being an informer
for the British, an allegation her family has always denied,
was dragged away in front of her children, one of 15 people
living in strongly republican areas who were spirited away by
the IRA and dumped in unmarked graves.
The killing has haunted Adams and has been raised repeatedly
in interviews during his transformation from the face of
Irish militant nationalism to mild-mannered politician.
Police said it would now send a file to the public
Under the 1998 Good Friday agreement, which drew a line under
30 years of sectarian strife in the British province, those
convicted of paramilitary murders during the conflict would
have life sentences reduced to two years.
Adams said he did 33 taped interviews during his time in the
Antrim prison and that police offered no evidence against
him, only allegations based on a mishmash of decades-old
newspaper articles, photographs and the series of taped
interviews given by former guerrillas for a research project
in the United States that revived the investigation into
Asked what it was like spending four nights in prison, a
stony-faced Adams replied: "It was OK". He added that the
food was inedible and the facility not up to modern
He also reiterated Sinn Fein's belief that his arrest was
timed to hurt its chance in European and local elections on
both sides of the border later this month, as the party gains
popularity in the Irish republic amid the financial crisis.
Adams told the news conference broadcast live across Irish
and British television that the decision by police to detain
him was sending the entirely wrong signal to those who do not
want the peace process to work.
The arrest was particularly controversial as it raises
questions about two cornerstones of the peace deal that has
transformed Northern Ireland: the pardoning of militants, and
the confidence of all sides in the neutrality of the police.
At the heart of the stand-off is the fact the 1998 deal had
neither a blanket amnesty nor the kind of exhaustive Peace
and Reconciliation Commission that lifted the threat of
prosecution from South Africans who confessed to
NO SIGN OF TROUBLE
First Minister Peter Robinson, whose Protestant Democratic
Unionist Party (DUP) share power with nationalist Sinn Fein,
earlier raised the stakes when he said his partner in
government had crossed a line through its criticism of the
"The publicly conveyed threat to the PSNI delivered by the
highest levels of Sinn Fein that they will reassess their
attitude to policing if Gerry Adams is charged is a
despicable, thuggish attempt to blackmail the PSNI," he said
in a statement.
"The threat now means that ordinary decent citizens will
conclude that the PSNI and the PPS have succumbed to a crude
and overt political threat if Adams is not charged. I warn
Sinn Fein that they have crossed the line."
Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford urged both sides
to take a step back and let the police do their job.
Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore called on all
parties to respect this process and to refrain from further
The investigation of former militants on both sides of the
conflict has stirred protests in the province in recent
Some 100 pro-British activists protested outside the Antrim
police station where Adams was held, forcing police to send
armoured vehicles and officers in riot gear out the front
gate to divert attention as Adams slipped out the back.