Jean McConville’s death: one horror among many


Why, I wonder, of all the horrors that the Troubles visited on us, is the death of  Jean McConville  receiving such attention? Perhaps because she was a woman and a mother of ten children. Perhaps because her body was not discovered for decades after her death. Perhaps because it seems so horrible that a person would be killed for helping a dying soldier. There was an investigation into claims that she had been passing information secretly to the authorities – that is, spying – but an investigation found no evidence of this. She was killed, as were many others, by the IRA. Whether it was because she comforted a dying soldier, or because the IRA thought she was passing information to the authorities, seems to matter little now.

Her death certainly was a cruel and brutal one. As were so many other deaths during the Troubles. From the many hundreds, here are a few.


“When they killed my darling, they killed me too. Despite my outward appearance I am dead, so this seemed a sensible solution. Let me also tell you, Mum and Dad, how very much I love you and how very sorry I am for the pain I’ve caused.”

Note left by girl who took her own life after loyalists killed her boyfriend


“As I bury my son, both of you bury your pride. I don’t want any mother or father going through what my wife and I went through today. Please stop this. Bury your pride with my boy. To those who’ve done this, I and my family forgive you.”

Father of Catholic man shot by loyalists


“I took hold of the other Catholic and set myself up as judge, jury and executioner. I beat him to death with a breeze block in an alleyway off the Shankill.”


“Nobody, nobody, has ever, ever, ever said to me, ‘I’m sorry about your eldest son, your first-born son, I am sorry that I killed your son’.”

Mother of Derry youth knocked down by an Army vehicle


 “The despair would hurt you now and again. I’ll never get rid of her name – she wrote it anywhere, inside the airing cupboard and on books. I was changing a pillowcase and she had written her name on the inside of it.”

– Mother of 14-year-old schoolgirl killed by a plastic bullet.


And then there are the dozens of deaths catalogued by Anne Cadwallader in her book Lethal Allies, where innocent people were killed by loyalist gangs working in conjunction with British military authorities.

None of this is to take away an iota from the suffering caused by Jean McConville’s death or the suffering passed onto her ten children. But so harrowing are  even the few cases I’ve instanced above, I can’t rid myself of the suspicion that Mrs McConville’s death has been plucked out from the hundreds of other heart—crushing stories because it can be used as a political weapon. Do those who shout loudest about the pity of her lonely death secretly rejoice in the political club it provides?

Perhaps I’m wrong – I don’t know enough about the case. But if I am, the question remains: why her?

23 Responses to Jean McConville’s death: one horror among many

  1. giordanobruno March 23, 2014 at 5:21 pm #

    Certainly Jean McConville’s death is used as a political weapon, just as SF use the Bloody Sunday deaths and Ballymurphy amongst others.
    Hers has continued to appear in the news periodically as it has not been resolved,just as the Bloody Sunday deaths have reappeared frequently.
    I don’t know the excerpts you give above, but some look as though they were resolved? Such deaths tend to fade in the memory.
    And the alleged involvement of Gerry Adams means it will continue to be used to goad him.

    • Antonio March 23, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

      ‘I don’t know the excerpts you give above, but some look as though they were resolved?’ What makes you think they may have been resolved? were people imprisoned for those murders?

      • giordanobruno March 23, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

        I don’t know which is why I put a question mark there.
        The death of the girl by suicide for example would not lead to any prosecution directly.
        The third case seems to be a confession,although it could have been anonymous I suppose.
        The girl knocked down by the Landrover, again I don’t know, but I see you are calling it murder. What were the details?
        To avoid any doubt I would want to see justice for all the families in these cases just as I do for the family of Jean McConville.

        • Antonio March 23, 2014 at 11:48 pm #

          Nobody ever went to the woman and apologised for the death of her child which leads me to believe the British army were covering up something very sinister. If it was an accident apologies would likely have been given to the woman. So likely murder

          • giordanobruno March 24, 2014 at 7:55 am #

            It might have been murder, but the lack of an apology does not make it so.
            I hope you are not a lawyer.

          • Antonio March 24, 2014 at 2:41 pm #

            I said likely murder. I did not say 100% definetly murder.
            Why do you get so hung up on the exact wording of what I say and why does it bother you so much that I call the British army killing a child murder?

            Nobody ever spent a day in prison for what was gross negligence at least if not murder. You should get vexed and angry about that injustice rather than whether I call it killing or murder,

            No I’m not a lawyer you arrogant smug person. If I was employed as the lawyer for the prosecution then yes I would choose my words more carefully but that is not the setting we are in. Please stop replying to my messages moaning about the semantics of it all, it’s damn irritating.

          • giordanobruno March 24, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

            In reply to your comment below at 2:41, in the interest of civil debate I apologise if I irritated you. I am an irritating sod.
            Please don’t refer to murder in cases where we do not know the details.
            It gives the appearance of making assumptions based on prejudice.
            And then I feel compelled to challenge it.

          • Antonio March 25, 2014 at 6:42 am #


            Apology accepted and yes I probably should choose my words more carefully. You are an irritating sod but then I am too aggressive when talking about such emotive issues and this will get people’s backs up.

            Our so-called impartial media always describe IRA killing as murder and terrorism etc. But when it comes to the British army it is always a case of such and such was ‘shot dead’ etc. It is rarely if ever described as murder by the media. Even the Bloody Sunday murders by the Paras are still referred to as killing, shooting dead etc. That was murder, that was a crime, that was terrifying so yes it was terrorism.

            Yet the refusal of so many in our society to describe it as such, (including those in our media employed to be arbitrators and give a balanced, objective account of events) perpetuates a hierarchy of victims.
            And this is after decades of the media, both locally and in Britain, suggesting that at least some of those murdered that day were IRA gunmen and not unarmed civilians.

            So when I am constantly hearing these insults and then read about the so-called security forces driving over and killing a child and then not having the decency to apologise to the child’s mother I think to myself ‘fuck it i’ll call that murder’. Lets face it based on their track record in Ireland I wouldn’t put it past the British army to do that.

  2. ANOTHER JUDE March 23, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

    Politicians have been using this poor woman`s death for their own narrow political interest. They should be ashamed of themselves. Jim Allister made great play of the death of Mary Travers for a similar reason, does anyone seriously think he would have said anything had she been killed by Loyalists or the British state forces? Of course not. Mike Nesbitt and co. do not regard any deaths other than those inflicted by Republicans as worth bothering about. They are hypocrites. They have an hierarchy of victims and people killed by the IRA are at the top, those killed by the British army/RUC/UDR are firmly wedged to the bottom. Disgraceful.

  3. michael c March 23, 2014 at 6:49 pm #

    It amazes me how Hughes,Price and their colleagues are praised as beacons of truth when they mention Adams but are then dismissed as liars when they state Mrs McConville was a British agent operating a transmitter.

  4. Antonio March 23, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

    Even if she was some sort of informer for the Brits it is not like she would ever have been able to provide her ’employers’ with any real damaging information on the IRA. Why couldn’t they just leave her be. The people who murdered her were ruthless and heartless almost beyond belief.
    Even looking at it in a more cold way – did none of the people going to her flat that day to kill Jean McConville think to themselves ”what we are about to do will be a propaganda disaster for our cause – maybe we should not do this’
    It is up there with Enniskillen and Bloody Friday amongst the IRA’s most unforgivable acts

  5. Colman March 23, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

    For once I am in agreement with you all.

    As Giordanobruno states, there are so many unanswered questions regarding this tragedy and like flight 370, the unknown keeps the intrigue going.

    You are also right Michael. It is ironic how some like to seize on the information that suits their political agenda and ignore that which conflicts with their ideology. I believe Hughes and Price when they say Gerry Adams was involved. I also believe them when they say they had evidence that Mrs McConville passed information to the British forces. Taking a life is horrendous enough and I am as guilty of excusing the actions of the IRA during the long war; but I am saddened Mrs McConville was disappeared and that the family were lied to for many years.

    And lastly, I agree Jude that the media have used this issue as political football, just like some bloggers and political commentators.
    Just for once, I would love to see some serious journalism evolve out of this though.
    Why hasn’t the one person who is always at the center of this story never been arrested and questioned, yet some of that politically oppose him and his party’s policies have been brought to trial and imprisoned?
    Why hasn’t any journalist reported on why there seems to be absolution protection for this individual?
    Haven’t these media people noticed that once again, just like Gerry McGeough’s arrest and imprisonment by PSNI when HE stood as a political candidate against this individuals party, that the man now being changed for involvement in the McConville case is spearheading the current election campaign for a candidate opposed to that individuals party?
    Whose agenda is being served here?
    As you often say, Jude, it’s all about the election…and we know which party Britain wants to win.

    • Antonio March 23, 2014 at 11:49 pm #

      A lot of our journalists are more like propagandists I suppose

  6. michael c March 23, 2014 at 11:53 pm #

    Colman, the person who is always at the centre of this story did not give an interview to a dodgy”Historical project” and talk so carelessly about himself and others .Had he been so foolish to accept the word of a pair of political chancers ,he may have found himself in trouble too.Gerry McGeough was able to contest the election and promote his eccentric views and the electorate gave him the inevitable answer.I doubt very much if the campaign of another joke candidate has much of a bearing on the issue under discussion.

    • Colman March 24, 2014 at 1:55 am #

      No, you are right Michael, the person who is always at the center of this story did not give an interview to an historical project…but he did order the disarmament/surrender of Oglaidh na heireann, the only time in its history it had given up its weaponry. WHY?
      I tell you what; Let’s eliminate contentious rumours like his involvement in needlessly sending 6 more gallant young Irishmen to die in 1981 rather than accept Thatchers capitulation. And Lets dismiss the accusation that he had a hand to play in the massacres of the East Tyrone Brigade at Loughgall who steadfastly opposed the running down of the armed campaign against British Rule.
      Lets deal only with what we know.
      He placed Scappatacci, an outed Brit informer) in charge of IRA security.
      He employed Roy McShane, an outed Brit informer as his personal driver.
      Prior to the ceasefires, he ordered Denis Donaldson, an outed paid Brit informer, to go to New York and decimate everyone in Irish Northern Aid opposed to the peace (appeasement/surrender) process.
      All these informers, he went to bat for.
      He successfully disbanded Irish Northern Aid and made it redundant in the US.
      He arranged for IRA statements to be dictated by the British Government.
      Let’s recognise that the Brits said way back in 1972, ‘this was a man they could deal with.’
      Lets acknowledge that the pursuit of the Boston Tapes was not to persecute that man, but actually to make sure he was protected and remove anyone who might incriminate him. That is why Ivor Bell is going down and Britain’s favorite Irishman will continue to sell Irish Republicanism down the chunnel.
      And if you want to know why this fiasco continues, it is because there isn’t a journalist with any balls that will touch with it with a bargepole because they all know it will be the last job they have.

  7. ANOTHER JUDE March 23, 2014 at 11:55 pm #

    At the time she was killed it was just the latest in a long line of such killings. The IRA probably didn`t give it a second thought, loads of women and girls died in the war, to be honest I never heard Jean McConville`s name mentioned until the peace process started. Rest assured, if someone DOES go to jail for this, another cause celebre will be seized upon by the anti Sinn Féin politicians and commentators. The only people genuinely grieving the woman are her family. All the others are two faced hypocrites.

    • Páid March 24, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

      At the risk of sounding like giordanobruno, is there any proof for any of these allegations, are you saying he knew these people were informers when he employed them in the various tasks and how do you know?

  8. Antonio March 23, 2014 at 11:58 pm #


    You were saying

    ”Why hasn’t the one person who is always at the centre of this story never been arrested and questioned, yet some of that politically oppose him and his party’s policies have been brought to trial and imprisoned?”

    It’s likely the case that the only evidence P.S.N.I have against him is the words of Brendan Hughes & Dolores Price. This would not be enough to charge him.

    Maybe they have some other evidence against Bell that could lead to conviction. Time will tell. My best guess is we are looking at a similar case as Marian Price. He will be held on remand for ages pending the court case

  9. William george March 24, 2014 at 6:58 am #

    Whataboutery on stilts!!!

  10. paul March 24, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    State killings and state collusion into killings has a more sinister undertone for me. Breaking the law to uphold the law. What is wrong with this picture. Jim Allister beleives every death of a catholic /republican is justified, . equating a catholic with being i provisional or provisional supporter. Unionist hypocrisy is boundless. Hutchinson proclaims his act prevented a united Ireland, …Unionist silence. Alliance party member Lo merely states that a united Ireland is an aspiration of many, and Arlene Foster rants about insults and demands apologies.

    The DUP and the TUV are hopelessly tied to the past. I am not saying SF are blameless, but the “NO NO NO” mindset of many unionist parties speaks volumes

  11. Argenta March 24, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

    There are obviously many aspects to the murder of Jean Mc Conville that continue to make it ye focus of media attention.One factor is that the I R A denied knowing anything of her until 1999 when it finally admitted its responsibility for her death and the policy of ” disappearing people”.Many may feel that this does not fit neatly in with the myth of “noble freedom fighters” that Republicans seek to convey nowadays.

  12. michael c March 24, 2014 at 4:51 pm #

    Colman,would there be any chance that you are spouting your pro dissident nonsense from the safety of the USA. Nobody in Ireland uses the word “center” so I presume you are another example of the classic “long gunner” ie those who fought an imaginary war from the safety of the free state or in your case even further afield!

  13. Pointis March 24, 2014 at 10:01 pm #

    Hi Colman,
    Can we assume you are no friend of Gerry Adams or the Good Friday Agreement?

    Even those in politics here who are diametrically opposed to each other believe that there is no other realistic options on the table which provide for the possibility of a mutually agreeable shared future on this island.

    Are you aware of some other equally effective framework that would have lead to an acceptable peaceful resolution to the strife which was pervasive here?

    Frankly your assertions that Gerry Adams is responsible for all those things which you claim sounds quite far fetched. There are plenty of shrewd heads in Sinn Fein. To believe he could hoodwink them all along with his own family and close friends just sounds like too much like UFO abduction!