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McConville vs Sinn Fein
Legal News , Issue 1565
mcconville.jpg
THE DISAPPEARED: Jean McConville, who was abducted and murdered by the IRA, seen with her sons Robert and Archie, and daughter Helen
THE family of Jean McConville, abducted and murdered by the Provisional IRA in 1972, will begin trying to sue Sinn Féin for compensation next week. McConville's daughter, Helen, left to care for seven siblings at 15, will launch a crowdfunding appeal for the £10,000 she needs to hire lawyers.

'Helen lost her dreams as well as her mother,' Seamus McKendry, her husband, told the Eye. 'Rightly, victims who were abused by British troops hold the British government accountable as it is the British army's political wing. We want to do the same to the IRA's political wing.'

The case may turn Sinn Féin's own 'lawfare' tactics against it: the party has become very comfortable with Ireland's unreformed libel laws. Gerry Adams is suing the BBC for claiming he sanctioned the killing of a former Sinn Féin official who spied for MI5.

Last month, his lawyers argued in pre-trial hearings that the BBC had no right to use the defence that its reporting was a fair and reasonable discussion of a matter of public interest. In November, Adams won an apology from the Irish Sunday World in an unrelated case. Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald successfully sued Declan Breathnach of Fianna Fail in 2020 over online comments she believes portrayed her as condoning the murders of Irish police officers.

With Dublin now a libel tourism centre to match London – litigants from the US and Algeria are enjoying its legal services – concern has grown among free speech organisations. Reporters without Borders recently said that Ireland's libel laws create a 'prohibitive atmosphere' threatening press freedom. The European commissioner for justice Didier Reynders added that he feared Ireland may be stifling the media's ability to expose corruption.

Filthy rich
For an organisation that abandoned supporting terrorism to become a left-wing party, Sinn Féin is intensely relaxed about being filthy rich. Figures released last year show that in Belfast alone it spent £4.5m, more than double its main rival, the Democratic Unionist Party. Elected officials hand over a portion of their salaries, and Irish Americans fund Sinn Féin as they once funded the IRA.

In 2019, the party received a £2.9m bequest in the will of 82-year-old William E. Hampton, who suffered from a schizoaffective disorder. People who befriended Hampton at a mental health ward in Barming, Kent, said he wanted 'to get one over' on the British government. They said that after he was accused of having an affair with another man's wife, Hampton marched into the road with a kitchen knife and 'sliced off his own penis'.

As Sinn Féin prospered, Jean McConville's children suffered. The IRA kidnapped her alleging that she was an informer, though no evidence has emerged to support the charge. In a further act of cruelty, the IRA did not say what it had done and McConville became one of Northern Ireland's 'disappeared'. A rumour was spread round Belfast that she had callously abandoned her children. From 1972 until 1999, the IRA would not admit to murdering her. It wasn't until 2003 that her body was found.

Seamus McKendry said the former Ireland rugby international and solicitor Trevor Ringland was now advising the family. 'If we can raise the money for a civil action, we would ask to freeze Sinn Féin's assets and for a terrific amount of compensation,' he continued. 'I'm quite happy to do it – and so is Helen.'

More top stories in the latest issue:

LESS, ER, EVILLE?
A major Food Standards Agency overhaul of the food safety system at abattoirs could lead to less work for the Eye's old chums at the infamous Eville & Jones.

MISHCON (OUT OF) CONTROL
A £232,500 fine over money laundering failures is embarrassing for law firm Mishcon de Reya – but it won't come as a huge surprise to Eye readers.

HOLLAND'S LOW POINT
A west London school paid its head more than £280,000 last year, despite being slapped with a 'notice to improve' because of its rash spending decisions.

FEEDER FRENZY
Parents of pupils at a primary academy are challenging a Catholic diocese over the blocking of access to non-Catholic secondary schools.

HUDD COUNT
The University of Huddersfield has been told to pay more than £100,000 to an accountancy lecturer, having refused to reinstate him despite a tribunal ruling.

PREGNANT PAUSE
A charity has had to launch a fundraising appeal for an asylum-seeking couple who are expecting a child, as they have been wrongly denied financial support.

EPIC FAILURES
A coroner has demanded changes after a mentally ill patient with a serious disease was told to leave hospital and attend a job centre to claim benefits.

DIGITAL EVOLUTION
NHS Digital is to become part of NHS England – raising concern over risks of patient health data being shared for use within 'trusted research environments'.

GREASY POLL
Uproar in Scotland, after the Fire Brigades Union stopped the election of its Scottish regional secretary just 15 minutes before the ballot was due to close.

CORONER'S WAIT
Families of the men who died in the Shoreham Airshow crash in Sussex face yet more delay to the inquest, which had been due to start next month.

To read all these stories in full, please buy issue 1565 of Private Eye - you can subscribe here and have the magazine delivered to your home every fortnight.

Next issue on sale: 2nd February 2022
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