McConville and the wall of silence…?

Jim Cusick goes back to that tragic year of 1972, in which so many victims apparently randomly lost their lives, and looks at the isolation which faced the McConville family, who were orphaned in a stroke by the IRA that year. He argues that, ever since, they’ve been victims of unremitting pressure and disinformation.

The lying and persecution of the family began almost immediately after her abduction and murder. The local republicans daubed “soldier lover” on the family door and then spread a rumour – and actually told the hungry, lonely children that their mother had abandoned them and run off with a British soldier.

Not a single person on the Falls Road believed the fabrication. Everyone knew the IRA was engaged in a campaign of isolating and ostracising anyone who showed sympathy to the British army. In the couple of months before Jean McConville’s disappearance, at least 14 women were taken from their homes and beaten.

Cusick claims that the isolation of her children went on for over a month:

Her children, looked after by their 14-year-old sister Helen, were left completely alone and to fend for themselves for five weeks. Neighbours in the Divis Flats complex actually ignored the children, mainly out of fear of reprisal from the IRA.

Helen, as well as providing for her younger brothers and sisters, was also desperately trying to find out about what had happened to her mother. No one on the Falls Road offered any help.

Eventually she went to the Civil Rights office in Belfast city centre and asked them to help. The Civil Rights people drew the disappearance to the attention of the media and the children were filmed in their spartan maisonette, bewildered and frightened.

He also claims that years later when the eldest girl began, with her husband, to find out what had happened to her mother, some individuals in Sinn Fein were less than helpful:

Sinn Fein figures tried on several occasions to try and block the McKendrys, continuing to threaten Seamus and Helen. The couple and their children were forced to flee their home in Poleglass because of threats. They moved to a mixed area in south Co Down but the threats continued.

The publicity given to the cases of the ‘disappeared’ meant that the McKendrys continued to be given some support. A couple of months after being forced out of west Belfast, the couple were invited to a reception at the American consulate in Belfast. A Sinn Fein guest at the party came over to Seamus and pointedly asked how Seamus’s father was getting on and mentioned that he lived at Crossgar in Co Down. He then said to Seamus that he knew that he and Helen were living not too far away, either.

“It was just to tell us that they knew where we were and to shut up,” said Seamus, who ignored the threat.

He contrasts the energy the party has put into other campaigns for truth with its foot dragging on this and other apparently innocent victims of the IRA’s campaign:

Unlike their calls for inquiries into the killing of 12 people in Derry in January 1972, the bombings of Dublin and Monaghan by the UVF in 1974 and the murder of Pat Finucane, Sinn Fein and Mitchel McLaughlin will not call for any inquiry or prosecution for the murder of Jean McConville or any other IRA atrocity.

  • TroubledTimes

    This is a horrifying story.
    Anyone going to vote for Sinn Fein in the future should remember what happened to Jean McConvilles family as they are voting.

  • ricardo

    The Andersonstown News is at the moment running a competition to pick a historical figure from West Belfast who they will erect a statue to. They have a shortlist of 5 but my preferred choice, Jean McConville isn’t on it.

    Nevertheless I will be submitting my suggestion to the paper at, and I would encourage others to do likewise.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Who’s on the list?

  • ricardo

    Some of the individuals have a fairly tenuous link to West Belfast at best. The list is:

    James Connolly

    Joe Devlin (one time MP for west Belfast)

    Mother Teresa (apparently visited Ballymurphy in the 70s?)

    Charlie Tully , ex Belfast Celtic and Glasgow Celtic.

    Bobby Sands.

    The paper has invited nominations of people who aren;t on the list so go right ahead. The address again,

    I would imagine that even if Jean McConville was nominated by everyone, the Andytown News would ignore it. This is the paper that also ignored her funeral, choosing to run with a more ‘Sinn Fein friendly’ headline on the day of her burial.

  • willowfield

    What exactly are James Connolly’s links to west Belfast?

    Who drew up this list?

  • mickhall

    He lived there when he was the Belfast organiser of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union,

  • cg

    I think Connolly is the best option

  • Davros

    You would LOL Joe Devlin by a mile – he was the people of West Belfast’s choice in his day. A great local man. No disrespect to Connolly implied. Also a great man who sadly- IMO- made one wrong decision.

  • cg

    Need I ask what mistake that was? 😉

  • Davros

    Abandoning his secular socialism for the seductions of Pearse’s Messianic violence. I know you won’t agree, but his loss was crippling.

  • cg

    He said “I know some of my socialist friend’s won’t understand but I am Irish also”

    “Republicanism and Socialism aren’t antagonistic but complementary”

    The proclamation is a secular document. I also accept his loss was crippling for both socialism and the pursuit of a 32 county socialist republic.

  • Davros

    The proclamation may be secular – debatable, the rising very definitely wasn’t.

  • cg

    “The proclamation may be secular – debatable”

    How is this debatable?

  • George

    It’s generally accepted that Pearse wrote the Proclamation pretty much on his own not Connolly.

    Why wasn’t the Rising secular Davros?

    I mean probably the majority of Fenians in Antrim at the beginning of the last century were Protestants and the Ballynahinch branch even banned Catholics because they had a tendency to blab to their priests.

  • cg

    “It’s generally accepted that Pearse wrote the Proclamation pretty much on his own not Connolly.”

    George I never denied otherwise but my point was that Connolly signed the proclamation and he signed a secular document

  • Davros

    George – Have I not-e mailed you John Newsinger’s article and Fr Shaw’s article on the religious aspects of the rising ? ( The Shaw one was ‘held over’ from 1966 by Studies, the Jesuit magazine , until 1970 – I have a copy from The Field Dat Anthology rather than Studies itself. ). If I haven’t , I will – and anybody else interested.

    cg: secular, in my book, don’t start with

    In the name of God and of the dead generations

    and end with

    We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God. Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, in humanity, or rapine.

    I’m STILL trying to find out if The Rosary is still read at the SF Easter Commemoration in Belfast.

  • J Kelly

    Davros why dont you attend and find out.

    Historical figure for West Belfast could be Alex Attwood because as far as I hear he hasn’t been seen there for years.

  • willowfield


    He lived there when he was the Belfast organiser of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union,

    For how long was that?

    The man is most definitely not widely known for an association with west Belfast. He would be a ridiculous choice: a dishonest attempt to retrospectively associate west Belfast – a strongly Redmondite seat – with a republican icon.

  • Davros

    Davros why dont you attend and find out.

    I would, at some point, love to attend something like that, but I doubt if It would be wise for a few years.

  • mickhall

    Approx. 1910-14 when he went South to stand in for Jim Larkin as acting General Secretary of the ITGWU. (Larkin was in the US at the time raising finds for the Union and doing what he did best)

  • mickhall

    I feel Connolly would be a good choice for a statue, as for a time he did manage to unite Catholic and Protestant workers during his time in the north, indeed he managed to lead both groups during the Belfast Docks strike. It is said before throwing in his lot with Clarke, Pearse and the boys he also insisted in not a shot being fired in the north during the Easter Rising. A lesson for today there perhaps.

  • willowfield

    Connolly’s associations with west Belfast are tenuous. It would be dishonest to try and claim him as a west Belfast figure.