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Jean McConville

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Jean McConville (1934- December 1972) was a Belfast-born mother of 10 who was abducted from her home and killed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) who buried her body secretly on a beach in County Louth.


Jean McConville was born into a Protestant family in East Belfast but converted to Catholicism after marrying Arthur McConville, a Catholic man by whom she had ten children. After being intimidated out of a Protestant district, the McConville family moved to West Belfast's Divis Flats in the Lower Falls Road.[1] Arthur died in 1971. One of her sons, Robbie McConville, was imprisoned in Long Kesh for Official IRA activities before defecting to the newly formed Irish National Liberation Army in 1974.[2] Jean McConville was abducted from her home in December 1972 by an IRA battalion comprising both men and women, alleging that she was an informer.

Secret burial

McConville's body was buried secretly on a beach in County Louth, approximately 50 miles from her home. The IRA did not admit their involvement until over 20 years later, when they passed information on the whereabouts of the body.[3]

After a prolonged search, co-ordinated by the Garda Síochána - during which the search area and time involved was expanded by the Gardaí - the search was abandoned, as no body could be located in the area specified by the IRA.

In August 2003, her body was accidentally found by members of the public while they were walking on Shelling Hill beach.

Jean McConville was buried beside her husband Arthur in Holy Trinity graveyard, Lisburn, County Antrim.[4][5]


McConville's family contend that she was killed as a punishment for aiding a dying British soldier outside her home at Divis Flats following a fierce gun battle with the IRA but the IRA claimed that they had discovered she was passing information on local republicans to the security forces via a secret radio transmitter.[3]

McConville's children reject this claim and have called on the IRA to clear her name. In January 2005, Sinn Féin party chairman, Mitchel McLaughlin, claimed that the killing of Jean McConville was not a criminal act.[6]

In response to McLaughlin's statement, Social Democratic and Labour Party Justice Spokesperson Alban Maginness suggested that the IRA were culpable for war crimes as Jean McConville was "killed 'without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all judicial guarantees which are generally recognised as indispensable', and that constitutes a war crime in the definition of the International Criminal Court". A second war crime occurred by the IRA's 'refusal to acknowledge deprivation of [her] freedom or to give information on [her] fate or whereabouts'".[7]

Result of Police Ombudsman investigation

In July 2006, Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan stated after an investigation by her office that there is no evidence that Jean McConville ever passed information to the security forces. O'Loan said she would give the family more details of the findings of her investigation in the near future and would make those details public.

O'Loan said it was not her normal role to confirm or deny the identity of people working as agents for the security services. "However, this situation is unique. Jean McConville left an orphaned family, the youngest of whom were six-year-old boys. The family have suffered extensively over the years, as we all know, and that suffering has only been made worse by allegations that their mother was an informant. As part of our investigation we have looked very extensively at all the intelligence available at the time. There is no evidence that Mrs. McConville gave information to the police, the military or the security service."[8]

In August 2006, Northern Ireland's chief constable Sir Hugh Orde said he is not hopeful anyone will be brought to account over the murder, saying that "[in] any case of that age, it is highly unlikely that a successful prosecution could be mounted."[9]

Result of Provisional IRA investigation

"Statement on the Abduction and Killing of Mrs Jean McConville in December 1972", (dated 8 July 2006) by P O’Neill, Irish Republican Publicity Bureau, Dublin


  1. David McKittrick The London Independent 25 September 2003
  2. Hanley & Millar, B & S (2009). The Lost Revolution: The story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party. Ireland: Penguin Ireland. pp. 285. ISBN 9781844881208. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 No evidence for McConville agent claim: O'Loan
  4. Jean McConville laid to rest after 31 years
  5. Adams 'at heart' of IRA's most shameful killing campaign
  6. Resignation call rejected"
  8. Disappeared victim 'not informer' BBC website, 7 July 2006
  9. IRA murder prosecution 'unlikely' BBC website, 14 August 2006

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