Gerry Adams was warned by police of a “serious” death threat following his release from detention, the Sinn Fein leader said last night.
The party blamed those opposed to the peace process for the message, which was passed by police to Mr Adams’s wife while he was not at home.
Mr Adams, 65, was released from Antrim police station on Sunday, pending a report being sent to prosecutors, after four days of questioning about the notorious 1972 killing of mother-of-ten Jean McConville and other alleged links with the IRA.
Mr Adams said: “The PSNI visited my home late last night and said that there was a serious threat to my life from what they described as criminals.
“That’s the risk that I and others have to take, and are prepared to take, because the peace process is bigger than us.
“This is why we have to be very steadfast and resolute and patient as well.”
Mr Adams also denied he threatened Michael McConville, the son of murdered Jean McConville, with a “blacklash” if he released the names of those believed to be responsible.
Speaking yesterday at a European election rally, Mr Adams also claimed his arrest was a sham.
Mr McConville claimed yesterday that Mr Adams told him “If you release the names I hope you are ready for the backlash”, which Mr McConville said he took to be a threat.
Responding to the “backlash” allegations, the Sinn Fein president said the claim was untrue but that he understood why the McConville family were angry at Republicans over the mother-of-ten’s notorious 1972 killing.
He also suggested that the controversy over his suspected role in the killing played into the hands of “negative, sinister elements” who oppose the peace process
Asked about Mr McConville’s claims, he said: “First of all I never said that. I have tried my best…
“I can understand absolutely, given what republicans have done to their family and their mother, I can understand absolutely why the McConville family feel the way that they feel, so let me say that as a matter of record.
“But I am very, very clear –and they may reject this – I have been trying my best to support and help all of the victims, but I have a particular wish to help the victims of the IRA.”
Mr Adams also spoke of “double standards” after the UK government last week rejected an investigation into the deaths of Catholic civilians shot by British troops in Ballymurphy, west Belfast, in August 1971.
He added: “We also have to remind ourselves that we are living in an entirely different situation, that we need to keep our eye focused on the future.
“This is about building a new society – of course we need to be with the families, of course we need to deal with the issues of the victims, but we cannot allow anything to divert us from the peace path and from building the peace.
“It just plays into the interest of the bigots and the negative, sinister elements who are out there.”
Speaking yesterday, Mr McConville alleged the backlash “threat” was made around the time a report being drawn up by Northern Ireland’s then police ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, into claims that his mother was an informer was close to being finalised.
He said: “Gerry Adams says to me ‘Michael, you are getting a letter of support from the republican people’. He says ‘if you release the names I hope you are ready for the backlash’.
“I took it as a threat.”
Mr Adams will refocus on campaigning for the European elections today as the political fallout from his release from police custody continues to reverberate around Stormont and beyond.