Will Gerry Adams appear as a witness against Ivor Bell in his trial on charges of aiding and abetting the murder of Jean McConville?
That is the question that leaps out of a statement issued by Mr Adams yesterday that was critical of Boston College’s Belfast Oral History Project but in the process also apparently identified Ivor Bell as the mysterious interviewee known only as ‘Z’.
In the statement Adams says that Anthony McIntyre’s “interview with Ivor Bell”, along with other interviews with the late Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price, “formed the mainstay of my arrest last week.” Since Bell has not admitted to being ‘Z’ and the PSNI concede they must still positively identify this person, Adams’ statement could be of invaluable assistance to the prosecution.
Bell was arrested and charged in March in connection with the disappearance of Jean McConville, the widowed mother of ten abducted and shot dead by the IRA on foot of allegations that she was an informer. But in bail appearances the police admitted they could not yet positively identify Bell as interviewee ‘Z’, whose interview was handed over by Boston College to the US government acting on behalf of the PSNI.
It became clear that Bell had not admitted being ‘Z’ during questioning and that the PSNI would therefore have to prove that the two were one and the same before they could even mount a prosecution case against him.
The reason why the PSNI cannot yet positively identify Bell is that Boston College has lost the donor contracts for ‘Z’, which would have identified the interviewee in a document signed and dated for each interview.
Collection of the contracts was the job of Boston College librarian Bob O’Neill who was supposed to collect the contracts from Ireland and ferry them by hand to Boston for safekeeping. These were the only documents which identified the interviewees. But for reasons which have yet to be made clear, O’Neill misplaced ‘Z’s’ contracts as well as an unknown number of other contracts. These include the contract for Dolours Price.
Adams’ statement definitively refers to an interview with “Ivor Bell” which was presented to him for a response and since this appears to identify Bell as ‘Z’, two questions immediately arise.
The first is: did Adams identify Bell in his four days of interviews with the PSNI? The second: will Adams’ statement identifying Bell be admissable in court as evidence that ‘Z’ is in fact Ivor Bell?
This raises the intriguing and dramatic possibility that Gerry Adams, a former Belfast Commander of the IRA, will be called to testify against one of his closest friends and a senior colleague in the Belfast IRA. A number of reports have said that Bell was in fact Adams’ number two during the early 1970’s.
It would be a dramatic and unprecedented development which could place Adams, as far as many republicans are concerned, in the place which Sinn Fein is saying is now occupied by the Boston College interviewees, as “touts”, or informers.
Here is the full statement issued by Gerry Adams yesterday via 4ni.co.uk. The reference to Ivor Bell, which the PSNI and the prosecution service are likely to seize on, is in the penultimate paragraph:
“Everyone has the right to record their history but not at the expense of the lives of others.
“The Boston College Belfast Project was flawed from the beginning. It was conceived by Lord Paul Bew. He proposed Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre despite the fact that both individuals were extremely hostile to myself, Sinn Fein, the peace process and the political process.
“I was not and am not aware of any republican or member of Sinn Fein in support of the peace process who were approached by Anthony McIntyre to be interviewed. On the contrary, the individuals so far revealed as having participated are all hostile to Sinn Fein. On RTE last Sunday Anthony McIntyre was forced to concede that perhaps two out of the twenty-six people he interviewed were not anti-Sinn Fein.
“This flawed project was exposed when Ed Moloney chose to capitalise on the death of Brendan Hughes and write a book called, ‘Voices From The Grave’. No republicans, including myself, who were slandered in that book were offered the opportunity before publication to rebut the allegations made against them. Ed Moloney needs to explain that decision. He also needs to explain why, after the project officially closed, he returned to Ireland in 2011 and asked Dolours Price, whom he had currently described as mentally unwell and suffering from PTSD, to be interviewed on DVD, a DVD which he then lodged in the archive. It is that interview, Anthony McIntyre’s interview with the late Brendan Hughes and his interview with Ivor Bell, which formed the mainstay for my arrest last week.
“I welcome the end of the Boston Belfast Project, indicated by the College’s offer to now return the interviews to the interviewees before the securocrats who cannot live with the peace seek to seize the rest of the archive and do mischief.”