“The fact of the matter is that somebody ordered that Jean McConville be murdered…”

The BBC reported that, following the broadcast of the recent BBC/RTÉ programme on The Disappeared, the Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said

The fact that some families still do not know where their murdered relatives were secretly buried by the IRA is a “wound that must not be left to fester”

[But whose wound, Martin? – Ed]  And on what body…  The quote continues,

“I understand that these killings happened decades ago and those involved may be dead, may not have been active in republicanism since that time or indeed may well be hostile to Sinn Féin and the peace process”

But, equally, those involved may still be alive, may still continue to be active in republicanism and, indeed, may still be prominent members of Sinn Féin.

On which point, Miriam Lord notes,

It’s a pity the man who was commander of the IRA in west Belfast all those years ago wasn’t in the Dáil chamber yesterday afternoon.

He could have cleared up a few questions.

Miriam Lord went on to describe the scene in the Dail on Tuesday

“It’s a long time ago but the hurt is obviously as palpable and as relevant now as it was then,” the Taoiseach told a hushed Dáil.

The Fianna Fáil leader spoke for those families who still didn’t know where their loved ones were hidden or buried. “I would ask that every effort is made to pursue the case of the murder of Jean McConville and that all involved should be in a position to co-operate fully,” said Micheál Martin.

Gerry Adams couldn’t agree more. A sorrowful Sinn Féin leader told the House that he had also seen the documentary. Not only that, but he took part in it. He seemed quite proud of this.

“I took part in the programme in order to focus on the necessary effort to get those whose remains have not been recovered to be retrieved as quickly as possible and returned to their families.”

Did Adams see the icy-expressions on the faces around him as he spoke? Did he hear the cynical sighs of disgust? And if so, did he wonder why?

“I would ask the Taoiseach to join with me in assisting very actively in the work of the commission which was established under the last government . . . and I think the programme last night should be a huge motivation to anyone who has information whatsoever to bring it forward.”

Gerry Adams was certainly unanimous with himself in his opinion that he was one of the good guys.

But judging by the chilly atmosphere in the chamber and the eye-rolling of the vast majority of deputies present, they did not share his assessment of his performance.

The Taoiseach coolly noted that Adams had taken part. He too hoped that some good would come out of the programme.

Looking directly at the Sinn Féin leader, who still insists he wasn’t in the IRA, he mused: “The fact of the matter is that somebody ordered that Jean McConville be murdered. Somebody instructed that people take her away. Somebody instructed that Dolours Price drive that vehicle across the Border and somebody instructed that what happened took place.”

The Sinn Féin leader and TD for Louth listened, sitting back in his seat, arms folded across his body.

Two IRA volunteers, now deceased, named Gerry Adams as that person. He has always vehemently denied this and says they named him because of their opposition to the peace process and the part he played in it.

The Taoiseach didn’t name any names in the Dáil yesterday. Neither did Micheál Martin. And when Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Smith raised the issue of “the Disappeared” during Topical Questions, he didn’t name anybody either.

However their comments were as much about what went unsaid as what they put on the record.

And, as the BBC NI’s political editor Mark Devenport notes, after that appearance in the Dáil

…Gerry Adams is flying off to the US to “brief the US administration on the political situation in Ireland” and the need for continuing American engagement in the peace process.

Here’s the Sinn Féin press release on Gerry Adams’ 4-day trip to the USA.    But, as Mark Devenport points out

Given Mr Adams’ and Sinn Féin’s ambitions to expand further in the south, it is only natural commentators should start looking towards other TDs like Mary Lou McDonald or Pearse Doherty as potential leaders in waiting.

Mr Adams’ denials of IRA membership – which fellow republicans might once have viewed as a necessary expedient in a war situation – are increasingly making him an object of derision, even to some within his own tight-knit community.

More than that, even if the substance of the latest allegations is not new, there could come a point when the folk memory of Mr Adams as Sinn Féin’s ‘Mandela’ fades, while the public image of evasive appearances on the TV persists.

Given the impending centenary of the Easter Rising, it is often conjectured that the Sinn Féin president would like to carry on at the helm of his party until 2016.

Whatever happens between now and then, he will want to determine his own destiny rather than appear to be buffeted by his critics into a hasty departure.