Now that I have stuck my neck out after yesterday's post, I might as well go all the way and ask a controversial question: is it not time that we had an official and rigorous enquiry into the death of Mrs Jean McConville, the Belfast woman murdered by the IRA during the Troubles? Mrs McConville's case is once again in the news as the Taoiseach, who likes baiting Sinn Fein TDs on their past, has raised the case once again following a documentary on RTE a few nights ago, Disappeared.
In brief: Mrs McConville was born in East Belfast into a Protestant family in 1934. She married a Catholic and soon after she converted to the Catholic faith, not an easy thing for a Northern Ireland Protestant to do - she must have been committed to the faith to take such a step. Her husband died in 1971 and was left to raise ten children on her own. She had her difficulties, her son was imprisoned for terrorist activities in the IRA - he would later go on to join another paramilitary organisation, INLA.
In December 1972 Mrs McConville was abducted from her home by twelve IRA terrorists. She was taken to an unknown location and shot in the head. Her body was buried in a secret grave which remained undisclosed by the IRA until August 2003 when it was accidentally found buried on a beach in County Louth. It took twenty years for the IRA to admit killing her.
Why was Mrs McConville killed? According to the IRA she was a British spy, passing on information on Republican activities to the British security forces: her killing, according to the party chairman of Sinn Fein in 2005 was not a criminal act. Mrs McConville's children have denied that she was a spy and an official investigation by the Northern Ireland police ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan in 2006 confirmed that she was not a spy.
According to her children and neighbours, Mrs McConville was killed for coming to the aid of a wounded British soldier: she was murdered by Irish Republicans for showing Christian compassion to an injured man. As expected, this has been disputed by Republicans.
So why was Mrs McConville killed? Are we dealing with a genuine case of a Catholic killed for coming to the need of someone who was injured? If this is true, and she had no involvement in the Troubles and was not a spy this would make her a martyr of charity. For the sake of clarity, a rigorous investigation is needed to establish the truth: was she a spy? Was she a heroic woman?
The time of the Troubles was a dark period in Irish history, and it is one which is still present through strained relationships on the island of Ireland. Would it not a ray of hope for all involved if it were proven that in the midst of hatred, terror and suffering there was a martyr for charity who laid down her life to overcome evil with good? There were many who did so, on both sides, and their stories need to be heard. An investigation into Mrs McConville's life, activities and death could be a starting point.