Ivor Bell: Who is veteran republican in McConville case?

Ivor Bell is a veteran republican who is believed to have first become involved with the IRA in the 1950s.

The Belfast man is then thought to have left the group, before joining the Provisional IRA after it was formed in the early 1970s.

In 1972, he was part of a republican delegation, along with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, who were flown to England for secret ceasefire talks with then Northern Ireland secretary William Whitelaw.

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness
Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness (Brian Lawless/PA)

Three years later he was convicted for trying to help Mr Adams attempt to escape from prison in 1974.

In 1983 Mr Bell was charged with membership of the IRA and other terror offences following claims by supergrass Robert Lean.

However he walked free after Mr Lean withdrew his evidence.

Mr Bell turned away from the republican movement in the late 1980s during a period when it was focusing more of its efforts on Sinn Fein and politics.

In 2014, he was arrested after the Police Service of Northern Ireland seized a number of taped interviews carried out as part of the Boston College Belfast Project.

He was accused of being interviewee Z and was charged with soliciting the murder of mother of 10 Jean McConville.

Jean McConville
Jean McConville (PA)

However he was found unfit to stand trial in November last year and a trial of the facts was ordered.

A trial of the facts aims to determine the truth of allegations against a defendant. It cannot result in a conviction but if the court is not satisfied that the accused committed the acts alleged, then he will be acquitted.

Mr Bell, who is 82, was excused from attending proceedings at Belfast Crown Court over the past two weeks due to health problems.

The trial was the subject of blanket reporting restrictions which were lifted on Thursday following a challenge from a number of media organisations including the PA news agency.

On Thursday, Mr Justice O’Hara directed a jury to find Mr Bell not guilty after ruling on Wednesday that the Boston College tapes were unreliable and could not be used as evidence against him.

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