BELFAST/ANTRIM: Northern Ireland police are planning to extend the detention of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams for questioning about a 1972 murder beyond the initial two days, his party said yesterday, 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 loyalists.
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, a Sinn Fein member and close Adams ally, said he had been informed that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) would seek an extension to Adams’ initial 48-hour detention.
“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 in a sign of normalisation since the peace pact.
The PSNI had until 1900 GMT to charge Adams, who led the IRA’s political wing in the 1980s and 1990s, free him or secure permission of a judge to extend his detention.
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.