There is something extremely upsetting about the case of Jean McConville and her family. It is not so much that it says a lot about the Norn Iron Troubles and just how sordid it all was. It say something about ourselves and our own sordid nature.
I have never felt happy with the whole “we are all perpetrators and we are all victims” mantra
I dont feel guilty. But there is something haunting about that single photograph.
A woman with some children. A woman not used to having her photograph taken.
A photograph seemingly from 1965…a curiosity in many ways.
How we were…pre-Troubles.
A Protestant …she marries a Catholic. They live in loyalist East Belfast and when the Troubles break out, he has a gun put to his head and the family moves to the very modern Divis maisonettes on the Catholic Falls.
Very modern in 1970 but they were already a slum. A difficult area and they maybe stood no more than twenty years before being knocked down. An area so bad that the rest of the Falls Road looks down on it. It really was THAT bad.
And when her husband dies, Jean McConville is left alone with ten children in alien territory as the Troubles escalate.
In 2014…a “mixed marriage” seems a sophisticated thing.
It strikes me that the ghettoisation brought about by the Troubles isolated so many working class “mixed marriages” in Troubles hot-spots.
So what do we know about Jean McConville and her death in December 1972.
We know that the doors of her home were broken down andJ ean McConville was abducted and taken away by several men and women, assumed to be tne Irish Republican Army.
Her children were traumatised.
She never returned home.
She would become one of around fifteen of the Disappeared. Missing Presumed Dead.
It is odd. I can recall far too much about West Belfast in 1972.
But the event does not register with me at all.
In fairness, it happened over three miles from me. And the circumstances only really became newsworthy when it was evident that she would not be returning home.
Maybe there was just too much happening before Christmas 1972.
The Troubles were escalating on a daily basis.
Or maybe I was just 20 years old and too busy thinking about Kate, my first real girlfriend.
And the children? They went into the care of the State.
So why did this happen?
Well there are only versions.
That Jean McConville went to the aid of a wounded British soldier…thats not true.
That she was a British “agent” who had a radio transmitter in her home…that seems unlikely. Yet for an impoverished widow, in alien territory, it might just be credible.
That she said the wrong thing to the wrong Provo-associated neighbour…seems more credible than any other version that sanctifies or demonises Mrs McConville.
Yet when the IRA as part of the Peace Process, finally acknowledged the Disappeared and the Injustice and entered into a commitment to recover bodies.
Mrs McConvilles body was indeed found …accidently but a short distance from the general location identified by the IRA.
But really this is an issue which just wont go away.