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.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty