Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein leader linked by ex-IRA members to Jean McConville murder, remains jailed in Ireland

DUBLIN -- Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams remained in police custody for a second day Thursday as detectives questioned him over his alleged role in the Irish Republican Army's abduction, killing and secret burial of a Belfast mother of 10 in 1972.

Senior politicians in Adams' Irish nationalist party said they hoped he would be released soon without charge and accused British authorities of timing Wednesday's arrest to undermine Sinn Fein's campaigning in elections taking place in both parts of Ireland later this month.

Under Northern Ireland's anti-terrorist law Adams can be held until Friday night, by which time police must release or charge him, or seek a judicial extension to his custody.

Adams, 65, has always denied any role in the outlawed IRA, but every credible history of the Sinn Fein-IRA movement has identified him as a senior commander since the early 1970s. The IRA killed nearly 1,800 people from 1970 to 1997, when it ceased fire to permit Sinn Fein to pursue peace negotiations with Britain and leaders of Northern Ireland's Protestant majority.

A woman named Dolours Price admitted to CBS News a year and a half ago that she drove the car the night Jean McConville was abducted and killed. She said Adams ordered the killing.

Price, who has since died, also accused Adams of ordering a bombing that she carried out in London.

"Who sent me to London to blow it up?" she asked. "Gerry Adams."

In a statement released via Sinn Fein following his arrest, Adams said in his role as an Irish republican politician taking part in the peace process, he has "worked to bring closure to victims and their families who have contacted me. Even though they may not agree, this includes the family of Jean McConville.

"I believe that the killing of Jean McConville and the secret burial of her body was wrong and a grievous injustice to her and her family. Well publicized, malicious allegations have been made against me. I reject these. While I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will, I am innocent of any part in the abduction, killing or burial of Mrs McConville."

An undated family photo shows Jean McConville with three of her children
An undated family photo shows Jean McConville with three of her children.
CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports that in December 1972, McConville -- a 37-year-old widow at the time -- was dragged from her Belfast home by a group of IRA men and murdered. The IRA, which only admitted to the killing in 1998, falsely accused her of being an informant for the British army. An investigation by Northern Ireland's Police Ombudsman said there was no evidence that she was an informant.

Her remains, including a skull with a single gunshot wound to the back of the head, were finally discovered in 2003, more than 30 years after she disappeared, buried on an Irish beach.

Former IRA members interviewed for a Boston College-commissioned research project linked Adams to McConville's murder.

Northern Ireland police successfully sued in U.S. courts to acquire several tapes of IRA members, and have already used them to charge Adams' alleged former Belfast IRA colleague, 77-year-old Ivor Bell, with aiding McConville's killers.

Michael McConville, one of the slain woman's sons, told BBC radio this week that the children know the names of some of the IRA men who abducted their mother, but "I wouldn't tell the police."

"Me or one of my family members or one of my children would get shot by these people. People think this (IRA threat) has gone away. It hasn't," McConville said. "Splinter groups of the IRA would class you as an informant and shoot you."