Dozens of officers — many sporting full riot gear with flame-retardant boiler suits, body armor, helmets and shields — confronted the hardline Protestants, many of whom covered their faces, as they tried to block Adams' exit by sitting down in the roadway. After a 15-minute standoff, police escorted Adams out via a rear exit that the protesters could not see.
Adams said detectives chiefly questioned him about audiotaped interviews that IRA veterans gave to a Boston College oral history project. Police successfully sued in U.S. courts last year to acquire the accounts, which had been given to researchers on condition that they remain secret until the interviewees' own deaths. Some accused Adams of being the Belfast IRA commander who ordered McConville's killing. One former Adams colleague in the Belfast IRA, Brendan Hughes, specified that Adams gave the order that her body should vanish to leave her fate deliberately unclear.
The IRA did not admit responsibility for killing McConville until 1999, when the underground organization defended its action by claiming she had been a British Army spy. Her remains were found accidentally in 2003 near a Republic of Ireland beach. An investigation three years later by Northern Ireland's police complaints watchdog found no evidence she had been a spy.
Most of McConville's 10 children, aged 6 to 17 at the time of her disappearance, were placed in separate foster homes and grew up as strangers to each other. On Sunday they expressed disappointment, but no surprise, at Adams' freedom.
"The McConville family is going to stay to the bitter end of this till we get justice for our mother," said Michael McConville, who was 11 when about a dozen IRA members came into the family home and dragged his mother away. "We know it is going to be a long road, but we have already been fighting for justice for 40 years and we are not going to stop now."