MARTIN McGuinness claimed yesterday that the arrest of his Sinn Fein colleague Gerry Adams was an attempt by some police officers to settle old scores. Addressing crowds gathered in Belfast, McGuinness blamed an “embittered rump” of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for the arrest, claiming it wanted to destroy the peace process.
Anger mounted in the republican Fall Road area of the city yesterday as the Sinn Fein president underwent a third day of questioning by detectives about the 1972 murder of Belfast mother-of-ten Jean McConville.
McGuinness, the former IRA commander who is now Northern Ireland deputy first minister, addressed people gathered on the Falls Road for the unveiling of a mural paying tribute to Adams. McGuinness singled out what he has dubbed the “dark side” of policing for criticism.
“These people want to settle old scores, whatever the political cost,” he said.
On Friday night a judge allowed the PSNI a further 48 hours to hold Adams at Antrim police station. Sinn Fein has warned it will review its support for the police if the veteran leader is charged.
The 65-year-old detainee vehemently denies allegations levelled by former republican colleagues that he ordered cConville’s murder and secret burial more than 40 years ago after she was wrongly accused of passing information to the security forces.
Sinn Fein’s decision to sign up to support the police in 2007 was viewed as a major milestone in the peace process and prompted the return to devolved rule at Stormont, with the republican party and the Democratic Unionists entering government together.
McGuinness said: “We worked very hard to reform policing. Sinn Fein’s negotiations strategy succeeded in achieving new policing arrangements, but we always knew that there remained within the PSNI an embittered rump of the old RUC [Royal Ulster Constabulary].”
Stormont first minister Peter Robinson, justice minister David Ford and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers have defended the police’s handling of the arrest and denied the action was politically motivated and designed to undermine Sinn Fein ahead of European elections.
McGuinness said Sinn Fein fully supported the PSNI in the “fair and democratic” implementation of policing.
But he added: “No police force is immune from criticism if it is acting in a politically biased and partisan fashion.
“The arrest of Gerry Adams is evidence that there is an element within the PSNI who are against the peace process and who hate Gerry Adams and Sinn Fein.
“They are what the reformers within the PSNI have described to us as the dark side.
“They are small in number, but very influential. This group is working to a negative and anti-peace process agenda and are actively involved in political policing.”
McConville was dragged, screaming, away from her children in the Divis flats in west Belfast by a gang of up to 12 men and women after being wrongly accused of informing to the security forces.
She was interrogated, shot in the back of the head and then secretly buried – becoming one of the “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles. Her body was not found until 2003 on a beach in Co Louth, 50 miles from her home.
Adams, an elected representative for Co Louth in the Irish Dail, voluntarily presented himself for interview by prior arrangement with detectives.