When a killing is not a crime…

There’s an interesting controversy blowing up over Mitchel McLoughlin’s performance on Questions and Answers. It’s already been subject to a vigourous discussion on Slugger here, around the Sinn Fein chairman’s statement that although Jean McConville’s killing was wrong – it was not a crime.

The controversy continued on Morning Ireland (towards the end), when Jean McConville’s son Michael expressed anger with Mitchel, but also with politicians who consistently use the killing of his mother as a political football (no doubt the minister’s ears were burning).

He was reluctant to be drawn on his meetings with Gerry Adams over the incident, except to draw a distinction between the tone of Adams’ dealing with him and his family and McLaughlin’s performance on Q&A. The point of those talks appear to be a definitive statement from the IRA that Jean McConville was entirely innocent of the charges made against her at the time – ie, that she was a British Army spy.

On the face of it however, McLaughlin seems to be taking a false rap for simply being consistent with the party’s line on formal law and order. If the writ of the law in Northern Ireland is not yet acceptable to the party (or the IRA), then it (nor any other breach of the civil or criminal code) cannot per se have been a crime.

This was the point of McDowell’s most powerful play on Q&A, when he picked up on Sinn Fein’s refusal “to exclude criminality in December”. He went on to suggest that “then we had the pretence that the only outstanding issue was a photograph”.

When challenged to indicate how far the bar might be raised, he stated that there must be “no exiling, no robberies no kidnappings, no punishment beatings” by organisations associated with Sinn Fein, otherwise it “will exit the process”.

McLaughlin retorted: “that is a matter for the people of Ireland”.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    The Green Book states that IRA members are not to engage with the Gardai. It says it is punishable by death, not to be supported by a campaign for release.

    If the IRA can’t abide by its own rules and doesn’t recognise anyone else’s, that is of concern to those who want to serve in a government that is fundamentally based on trust.

    Because trust doesn’t exist any more.

  • cg

    thanks for the answer.

    Do you believe it was appropriate for Sinn Fein’s five TDs to show support (photoshoot) to men who should have been courtmartialed by the IRA for their unsanctioned actions”


  • Davros

    Even though it was against prison rules cg ?

  • cg


  • Jimmy Sands

    “they were volunteers of Oglaigh n-Eireann and as such joined the Army to end the British occupation of North-East Ireland.”

    Were they lost?

    How would you assess their contribution to the struggle for freedom?

  • willowfield

    Young Republican

    they were volunteers of Oglaigh n-Eireann and as such joined the Army to end the British occupation of North-East Ireland.

    There was no British occupation of North-East Ireland, so your reasoning for people joining the IRA is nonsensical.

  • willowfield

    cg, a member of Provisional SF, has said that abduction and murder are not crimes. I find it disturbing that a member of one of the leading political parties in NI is able to make a public statement in support of barbarism without censure from any other posters.

  • Davros

    It’s not as simple as that Willowfield.

  • davidbrew

    any chance of cg answering mine of yesterday @ 3.59 p.m.?

    If he’s consistent he’ll be condemning the Saville Inquiry as a waste of time and money ( except for the legal costs, of course- that’s never a waste)

  • Davros

    the legal costs, of course- that’s never a waste

    Even for lawyers employed by the PFC ? 😉

  • willowfield


    cg has said he doesn’t consider abduction and murder to be crimes.

    Do you disagree that a society in which such activities are legal would be a barbaric society?

  • Davros

    I think it is more productive to express one’s own opinion, discuss so that one can understand from where he is coming and try to persuade rather than censure.

  • cg


    “cg has said he doesn’t consider abduction and murder to be crimes”

    I didn’t say that

  • cg

    Seems to want a return to the old days of discrimination and censure and he has the bloody cheek to question my morals.

  • George

    would you not agree that by supporting these men, Sinn Fein is not supporting IRA volunteers because these boyos certainly weren’t.

    These guys (I don’t even think all were in the IRA, 3 are Limerick gangsters – open to correction there) were not on active service, were contravening orders and perpetrated a murder that was not only contrary to a direct standing military order, punishable by death, but also jeopardised the release of hundreds of their comrades.

    You speak of morals but this action of going to support them in prison looks like the moral equivalent of all the MPs of some pro-union party visiting murderer Lee Clegg in prison for a photoshoot to show they supported the British Army.

    Or is there a difference?

  • willowfield


    I didn’t say that

    You refused to acknowledge that they were crimes, thus you must believe them not to be crimes. If you are saying that this conclusion is wrong, then you must clarify your position.

    Seems to want a return to the old days of discrimination and censure and he has the bloody cheek to question my morals.

    Perhaps you would explain why you have made the above statement.

  • davidbrew

    “Or is there a difference?”

    well, yes actually George. The British army didn’t say they weren’t involved, then admit they were, and claim it was part of their remit.

    Looks like cg won’t answer my post of yesterday. It’s almost like he knows he has no case to argue. He hasn’t even tried to smear me like poor old Willow as wanting the good old bad old days back -and Willow isn’t even a “rejectionist”!

  • aquifer

    Not until the IRA win and become the government, then its a crime to be prosecuted in the Hague with more than a few others.

    Tiofach ar la

  • willowfield

    Note cg’s refusal to clarify his views on the criminality of abducting and murdering.