Northern Ireland

Gerry Adams: A past that hasn't gone away

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Media captionGerry Adams denies IRA claims in court

In the early years of the peace process, Gerry Adams once quipped: "They haven't gone away, you know."

He was talking about the IRA. But it could easily refer to claims about whether he was in the organisation, which have persisted for most of his life.

More lately, the issue of his past has involved the murder of Jean McConville.

Notable republican figures - Ivor Bell, Brendan Hughes and Dolours Price - implicated Mr Adams in the decision to "disappear" the mother-of-10 in 1972.

Their stories emerged from the Boston tapes, an oral history project on the Troubles.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) went to court to obtain the tapes and the arrest of Mr Adams followed in 2014.

But he was not charged, and he flatly denied any role in Mrs McConville's killing or secret burial and ever having been in the IRA.

The former Sinn Féin president, who is now a member of the Dáil (Irish parliament), has always denied being in the IRA.

Although interned twice in the 1970s, Mr Adams has never been found guilty of membership of the organisation.

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Image caption Gerry Adams became president of Sinn Féin in 1983

On Thursday, Ivor Bell was cleared of soliciting the widow's murder. Although Mr Adams was not on trial himself, the judge in the case gave him a victory by placing a major question mark over the Boston tapes.

It is not that the claims contained on them were found to be true or false.

Instead, the tapes were deemed to be tainted evidence because of leading questions from interviewer Anthony McIntyre.

The former IRA prisoner turned critic of Sinn Féin, who conducted the Boston project interviews with republicans, was "out to get Mr Adams", the judge said.

So where does this leave the reliability of the other tapes, should they ever be used in separate cases?

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Image caption Gerry Adams did not speak to reporters outside Belfast's Laganside Courts this week

Questions about Mr Adams' past will not end here and will likely follow him to the grave.

There have been many allegations made against him, about a time before he took violent republicanism down a path of peace.

But evidence, to a courtroom standard, has been found as lacking today as it was in 1978, when the one and only time he was charged with IRA membership did not go to trial.

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