Talking ill of the dead

Ed Moloney’s ‘Secret History of the IRA’ was the first book that claimed definitive knowledge of why and how the IRA killed Jean McConville. It claims she was twice found in possession of transmitters and was a ‘spotter’ for the British Army. In that book Moloney attributed the claim to ibid.

Given the interviews published in Moloney’s ‘Voices from the Grave’ it seems clear ibid, in this case, was Brendan Hughes and he is the only person that has presented this claim of ‘justification’ for her death.

Until corroboration appears (if it ever does) we only have the word of someone admitting involvement in the killing, legitimising the act. I’d therefore suggest the claim in ‘Secret History’ is not corroboration but repetition from the same source.

Adds – apologies, didn’t put in the root of the ibid. It was ‘Confidential information, IRA source, May 2000.’

Blogging at:

  • Michaelhenry

    p.l.o killed there touts the british army during wars killed there touts,thats what touts are for,to get rid of them.whats the big proplem.

  • Mark McGregor


    If you are going to do drunken piece of shit can you attempt some form of accepted punctuation?

    There’s no expectation of you ending the teenage fuckwittery but at least make it legible.

  • Michaelhenry

    you can not make any sence of what i say in your sober old age mark.

  • IRIA

    It should be said that Hughes didn’t show remorse for her killing.

  • Ibid means ‘the same place’ so what was the reference before it in ‘Secret History’?

  • Alias

    “…is not corroboration but repetition from the same source.”

    Err… isn’t that exactly what ibid(em) means? (“The aforementioned location”) It’s a sound bet that Moloney’s source for his 2002 book regarding “The Unknowns” is Hughes or someone who had access to the content of McIntyre’s interview with Hughes prior to his death. If that person was McIntyre, then it’s also a sound bet that Hughes agreed it. It’s the same information, around the same time, so it’s likely to be the same source.

    It likely that it was Hughes directly, however, since how else would Moloney have known about how Adams’ handlers planned his progress to leadership of the Provos, specifically his concealment of a substantial weapons cache from the leaders of the Belfast Brigade in (I think) 1974, thereby tricking them into declaring a disastrous ceasefire due to a weapons shortage which had the planned effect of discrediting the existing leadership?

    If Mrs McConville was supplied with a radio transmitter to communicate with her handlers then that would be the first documented example of the use of such a bizarre method. It is more likely to be schoolboy propaganda that plays on old stories of German spies in Ireland during WW2 who were issued with radio transmitters, thereby casting Mrs McConville in a similar role.

    Of course, if the Shinners shoot those who pass information to the British state, then shouldn’t the Shinners now commit mass suicide as collaborators with the British state?

  • Jimmy Sands

    Did any non-shinner ever swallow that story to begin with?

  • Brian MacAodh


    Why do you think she was killed?

    That story makes more sense than any other I could think of.

  • USA

    It would seem to me that if you are going to believe the part of Brendan Hughes’ testimony that claims Adams ordered the killing of Mrs. McConville, then you cannot dismiss the element of that same testimony that claims she had been working for the British.
    Either way the whole damned situation was a terrible tragedy. Heart wrenching.

  • Jimmy Sands

    I’ve no idea who ordered what. If Adams held a leadership position then he’s responsible. The more interesting part of Hughes account is the observation that although he understood why an informer would be punished he failed to understand why the punishment would be concealed as this surely defeated the object of the exercise.

    I don’t know why she was murdered. I don’t believe the transmitter story for reasons which have been well thrashed out. I’m equally unconvinced by the suggestion it was sectarian or something to do with comforting a soldier. What does that leave? I don’t pretend to know but I doubt the motive was particularly elevated. It recently occurred to me that if Aine Tyrell hadn’t withdrawn her abuse complaint back in the day we’d have shinner groupies today assuring us that her late mother had been found with a transmitter.

  • USA

    I think your last post sums up your contributions to Slugger quite well.
    “I’ve no idea..”
    “I don’t know..”
    “I don’t pretend to know..”
    Then you go on to make up some story about Aine Tyrell and a radio transmitter.
    You consistantly have nothing to offer but partisan clap trap, do go play with the traffic.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    Got to agree Jimmy, poor stuff.

    Academically you are correct Mark as the recollation of events by BH is thus far uncorroborated. Myself and one or two others quickly pointed out in the 10 plus page previous thread that we could not dispense with part of his testimony because another part was so good for kicking Gerry Adams(no matter how some desperately wanted to). A desire for which slugger may never recover I fear.

    I re-iterate that for me if Adams involvement as BH testifies is correct. Then Adams participation in meeting the family of JMc is abhorrent.

  • RepublicanStones

    Weren’t the Brits stationed on top of the flats? They went in some time in the 70’s….anyone know the exact date?

    The cherry picking of BH’s statement by some is bizarre.

  • Reader

    Prionsa Eoghann: we could not dispense with part of his testimony because another part was so good
    Do you believe all of it, some of it, or none of it?
    Republican Stones: The cherry picking of BH’s statement by some is bizarre.
    Do you believe all of it, some of it, or none of it?
    Also – any volunteers to be the first Shinner to give a straight answer to that question?

  • I have to say I find this argument that if you believe one part of Hughes’ statement, then you must believe all of it, bizarre. Why must you?

    I have no idea if his accusations against either Adams or Jean McConville are accurate. He could be telling the truth, but I can see why he might have wanted to lie about one bit or both. He is admitting involvement in discussions that led to her death. If she wasn’t an informer, then it means he was at least partly responsible for the death of an innocent mother of 10. That wouldn’t be very good for either his own self-image, or how others saw him and the organisation he was part of. So it’s entirely possible that he is sticking to a story that casts the organisation in the least worst possible light, while making Adams look as bad as possible.

    And further with regard to cherrypicking. I suspect that a lot of those making this argument don’t believe all of Hughes’ accusations against Adams but do believe them against Mrs McConville. And so are doing it themselves.

  • Prionsa Eoghann


    In a court of law you cannot pick out one part of the testimony and run with that. If any part is considered untruthful then it clouds the rest and affects its standing.


    See above.

    BH was much respected and I know of no reason why he would lie, it doesn’t make sense. On that basis I cannot then pick out certain bits that I do not like and profess them to be untrue.

  • RepublicanStones

    So the moral of the story is, pick the bits that suit your political narrative and leave out the bits that don’t. What the cherrypickers fail to realise is, people can therefore choose to believe the bit about JmC being an informer, but ignore the bit about Gerry being involved. It is just as valid a position as the reverse, and any attempt by supporters of the reverse to claim otherwise merely undermines their own position. As it is, in answer to your question reader, i do not believe any of it.

    So it’s entirely possible that he is sticking to a story that casts the organisation in the least worst possible light, while making Adams look as bad as possible.

    So BH sets his story up to portray JmC as an infomer and Gerry as the bad-guy. Seems we agree Gari.

  • PE,

    It happens all the time in courts that some bits of the same testimony are regarded as more credible than others. It certainly does not have the same standing as something that is regarded as completely credible, but it does not mean it is regarded as entirely worthless.


    Yes I agree that Hughes is doing that. It doesn’t mean that both parts of his story must be taken as either true or false with no possible middle ground.

  • RepublicanStones

    In that case Gari, all we can simply talk about are ‘possibilities’. And given the sordid history of the North, BH testimony is indeed possible. But for some to pick one part, ignore the other and go round up a posse is laughable. As it remains uncorroborated (and i’m a demon for footnotes, sources etc) we are where we are.

  • Indeed RS, we are talking about possibilities, and we weigh the likelihood up for ourselves. What is quite clear and beyond dispute is that someone or some people in the Provos made a decision to start disappearing people, including Mrs McConville. The likely candidates are those in senior positions in the Belfast provisionals at the time given that most (if not all?) of the victims who were disappeared were from Belfast. So the question is, is it credible that two of these people were Hughes and Adams. That seems to me to be likely.

    As for the British army placing not one but two transmitters in a flat in Divis where a mother lived with lots of children, personally I find that less credible. The chances of keeping it secret would be small. Given the Provos’ track record of shooting people then claiming they are informers when it turns out not to have been the case, I find it credible that they shot this woman thinking she was an informer, and made up the transmitter story to justify it to themselves and others.

  • RepublicanStones

    The difficulty there Gari, is that while you think that, and your entitled to think that, you cannot decide to treat such theories as sufficient enough evidence to make accusations. You see I could say, its possible that the British army thought a mother of 10 would be safe from any punitive action from the Provos and also may have installed the transmitters without her knowledge. Divis was operationally very important for the Brits, hence the post on the roof. Furthermore, given the recent evidence coming to light of the security services instead of caring about the welfare of an abuse victim, attempted instead to recruit her as an informer, means they have form when it comes to selecting vulnerable people for dangerous work. But you know what that is? A possibility, nothing more, using the posse’s cherry-picking logic.

  • I’m not attempting to do what you say in terms of accusations RS. But I am saying that there is no reason that Hughes account must be taken either entirely or not at all.

  • RepublicanStones

    Indeed, as i said, if you run with part and ignore the rest, you cannot criticize others for opting for the reverse.

  • Indeed RS. But these have been my first comments, and I am not criticising others for picking which bits they find more credible. I did though point out that it was likely that everyone was doing it, rather than just those looking to use these allegations to hurt Adams.

  • Cynic2

    Lets get real – if I had murdered her and over 2499 others too, I would deny it too

  • Cynic2

    Has anyone considered that Gerry may be suffering from PTSD and blotting out the memories that give him nightmares

    – the murdered mothers and orphaned children
    – young men starved to death pointlessly for political advantage when a deal was on offer
    – family paedophilia by his father and brother
    – the shock of military and political defeat leading to his beloved party (his creation) in office as British Ministers in a British Assembly in the hated Stormont
    – Marty’s love in with Papa Doc
    – the exposure of his closest aides as touts
    – the faces of all those long dead comrades watching him now
    – the spectre of history waiting in the wings to judge him

    It would be a lot for anyone to cope with

  • Seosamh913

    Couple of things struck me about the book. It is possible that the interviews were in fact fairly short and/or limited in scope – which would be disappointing, if so. It is possible that there is a lot more which may or may not be released subsequently, although one would have thought that had there been enough material to use then they would have gone for a book only featuring Hughes’s life rather than splitting it to include Ervine’s. It could be that legally there are reasons why all we got was all they felt safe in publishing. It could also be that certain strands were used as they were among the more readable and interesting bits. It’s not impossible that the editing worked to highlight the Adams impact and/or it’s not impossible that Hughes himself had predonditions in terms of what could be released upon his own death, then perhaps there is other material which could be released perhaps 10 or 30 years later e.g. following the deathj of other volunteers etc. I’m unclear whether Moloney had full access to everything and had unfettered access to publish anything he wanted and the basis upon which he was granted access to publish any of it by Boston University.

  • RepublicanStones

    Which is why Gari, I’ll leave it until something firmer stands beside it. Hypothesize by all means but I’ll let the PPS (political point scorers) run mad with the scissors.

  • RS,

    I wouldn’t be hypthesizing if people hadn’t insisted there were only two possible hypotheses 🙂

  • Heres a hypothesis, we know the Provos became convinced Mrs Jean McConville was an informer, they arrested her and according to some she admitted this fact. It seems unlikely they would send her home with a warning, this may have been a ruse, as the war was very intense at that time, more likely they sentenced her to death, but had to pass this sentence up the line to be confirmed by the army council.

    We know this often took some time as there are examples of other people being held for weeks before the AC confirmed the death sentence.

    Here a problem arose, if the Belfast Brigade sent Mrs McConville over to Donegal/where-ever to await execution, due to being a mother of ten children a hue and cry would go up across Ireland, not least because these kids needed looking after.

    So the Belfast Brigade sent her home with a warning, knowing full well they could pick her up any time if and went the AC confirmed the execution.

    Just a hypothesis and admittedly it does raise doubts about whether she was an ‘informer, or just someone the army talked to on their rounds as she was loose tongued and careless if not
    downright foolish about what she said. ( Being stupid is not a good enough reason to shoot anyone though.)

    If there were transmitters, I would have thought those who arrested this poor unfortunate woman would have photographed them as they would have been a gift for provo propaganda, so perhaps they are out there somewhere, or perhaps not.

  • Seosamh913


    You would ? On what basis would you deny it – shame, moral cowardice, expediency, sociopathy ?

  • Fearglic

    so you are saying that you were NOT involved? I jest but if a dead friend of yours left a will claiming that you committed a crime then can you give us a reason why we should not believe the allegation?

  • IRIA

    Wasn’t McConville kidnapped on one occasion and seen walking back to her place in a “dazed state”, only to be kidnapped again a few days or weeks later? Whatever happened was terrible, but the idea that she was in the wrong place or mistaken identity seems misplaced.

    Neither disappearing her or murdering her and leaving her on the side of the road is a pleasant thought. I’m guessing(like everyone) that if they stripped her and left her on the side of the road, the Brits would say she was raped/sexually abused, etc.

  • british citizen

    “I’m guessing(like everyone) that if they stripped her and left her on the side of the road, the Brits would say she was raped/sexually abused, etc.”

    Posted by IRIA on Apr 02, 2010 @ 12:05 PM

    Well judging by Sinn Fein and the IRA’s past record on sexual abuse they probably wouldn’t have had to make it up…

  • GFASupporterButRealist

    Republican Stones: “You see I could say, it’s possible that the British army thought a mother of 10 would be safe from any punitive action from the Provos.”
    You think that the Provisional IRA would have let the fact that she was a woman and mother, get in their “moral” way !? Hardly. The horrific inhuman cruel actions of these people, plus the Prod paramilitaries, show, in spades, that the Provos didn’t have too many qualms about revolting actions like they took against Jean McConville. So much for her “civil rights.” Really. Their nastiness to Jean McConville was all too characteristic of their ruthlessness and utter sectarianism. Cherish all the children of the nation equally ? Like hell.

  • Niccolo

    No, no, let’s give Mr Adams the benefit of the doubt. I have no problem affording him the basic civil and human rights that were so cruelly denied Mrs McConville. In my opinion, anyone who condones the ‘execution’ of another human being, as sanctioned by some faceless kangaroo court, is pond life.

    Nevertheless, this leaves me with the following questions:

    If he is innocent of any involvement in this poor woman’s murder despite allegations to the contrary appearing in print in the public domain, why does he not seek to clear his name via the legal routes available?

    Forget the schoolboy speculation….

    Why has he not sued?

  • Cynic2


    No I cant give you a reason, especially when its part of a confessional statement made to academics relating his part in the Troubles and that he knows will only be published when he’s dead – a sort of dying declaration

    It lacks the immediate satisfaction you would exp-ect someone to want if it was malice

    Can you?

  • Cynic2


    This is an academic archive. It will all be published eventually

    “On what basis would you deny it – shame, moral cowardice, expediency, sociopathy ?”

    Who am I to judge the motivation? All of them perhaps. Add to your list self delusion, politics, money, votes or I could just be a dishonest bastard. Who knows.

  • Cynic2

    “apologies, didn’t put in the root of the ibid. It was ‘Confidential information, IRA source, May 2000”

    Oh dear. That’s a little bit awkward isn’t it. The SF narrative is that Hughes began to spin this story in his declining years , his mind ravaged by drink and disease and nursing an alcohol fuelled sense of grievance. But now we see that he was actually telling this story over 11 years ago when he was fit and well and before the real disillusion with the SF suits had set in.

    That must be a trifle embarrassing. Still, maybe not.

  • “Forget the schoolboy speculation….”

    Why has he not sued?

    Posted by Niccolo

    I despair sometimes.

    The way slugger deals with Adam’s these days reminds me of what Palmiro Togliatti once said about Stalin,

    “Before 1956 everything which was good in the USSR was laid at Stalin’s door, after 56 all which was bad is laid at his door.”

  • Niccolo

    A couple of minor corrections:

    ‘Anyone who executes’? You meant murder, of course.

    ‘Is pond life’? No need to insult pond life, surely you meant: lower than pond life.

  • Niccolo


    The word ‘execution’ in my last post is in inverted commas. I’m just playing along with the term being used by some commentators here. You may call it murder – I can’t say I disagree with you.

    I tend not to use terms that I cannot visualize.

    Can’t think what “lower than pond life” would look like, can you?


    I too despair….

    Instead of waxing lyrical on Mr Adams with some story about Stalin, why can’t you simply answer my question?

    If you worked for me and responded in that way to a straight question – I’d fire you.

  • Niccolo

    You cant think what ‘lower than pond life’ looks like, can I? Hmm, well now that you mention it: Yes! I will give you one guess.

    I apologise in advance for not naming the shite covered pieces of work, and before you threaten to fire me too, its deliberate!

  • If you worked for me and responded in that way to a straight question – I’d fire you.


    Think it through, he does not have a reputation to lose. A Leading republican has been there done that and ended up going home without a dime in his pocket.

    This is also why Adams and Robinson are treated differently by Slugger.

  • RepublicanStones


    You must have missed the part were we were discussing hypothesizing about unknown events. Don’t cut yourself on those scissors !