SEVERAL hundred republicans staged a rally in Belfast calling for the release of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams today.
The 65-year-old is facing his fourth overnight in police custody as detectives from the PSNI’S Terrorist Investigtion Unit quiz him over the 1972 murder of Jean McConville.
While Adams continues to be questioned about the murder and his membership in the IRA, Sinn Fein has been trying to garner street support against his detention.
Martin McGuinness said on Saturday that the arrest of his boss and Louth TD was “politically motivated”.
The deputy First Minister claimed there was an “embittered rump of the old RUC” within the PSNI that was trying to settle old scores.
He was speaking during the unveiling of a mural on the Falls Road in west Belfast of Adams.
McGuinness told the crowd that Adams’ arrest was designed to affect Sinn Fein ahead of local and European elections.
However, Adams had volunteered for the interview with the police having crossed the border from Louth.
Ahead of his interview with PSNI, he gave an interview to RTE revealing that he was heading north to see police and denied any involvement in Mrs McConville’s abduction, murder and secret burial.
The PSNI released no details of his plans to see detectives. A statement on Wednesday said that a 65-year-old man had been arrested over Mrs McConville’s murder.
Added McGuinness: “No police force anywhere in the world is immune from criticism if it is acting in a politically biased and partisan fashion.
“The arrest of Gerry Adams is evidence of that fact that there is an element in the PSNI who are against the peace process and hate Gerry Adams and hate Sinn Fein.
“They are what the reformers within the PSNI have described to us as the ‘Dark Side’.”
Last night a judge allowed the PSNI a further 48 hours to hold the Sinn Fein president at Antrim police station.
The party has warned it will review its support for the police if the veteran leader is charged.
Mr McGuinness added today that the PSNI was guilty of “political policing”, and using information that had been around for 40 years.
He said: “In my view this is a failed attempt at the replay of the effort in 1978 to charge Gerry Adams with membership of the IRA.
“That case was based on hearsay, gossip and newspaper articles. It failed then and it will fail now.
“Thirty six years later those within the PSNI who are hostile to the peace process are using the same old dirty tricks.
“They are deliberately and cynically exploiting the awful killing of Jean McConville and the grief and hurt inflicted on her family.”
Mrs McConville was dragged screaming from her children in the Divis flats in west Belfast by a gang of up to 12 men and women after being wrongly accused of informing to the security forces.
She was interrogated, shot in the back of the head and then secretly buried – becoming one of the “Disappeared” victims of the Troubles. Her body was not found until 2003 on a beach in Co Louth, 50 miles from her home.
Stormont’s justice minister David Ford said this morning that Adams’ arrest was “entirely appropriate”.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “It is normal practice if somebody is likely to be arrested in the course of an inquiry that they are arrested at the start of discussions.”
The justice minister added: “I don’t know whether Gerry Adams thought he was going to turn up at Antrim’s serious crime suite, have a wee chat for half an hour and then go off again, but clearly on the scale of the concerns expressed, of the information – which I entirely accept is not yet evidence – it was entirely appropriate that should be followed up in the normal way.
“Those decisions are for the police, supported yesterday by an independent judge in extending the time for that investigation to continue.”