Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams will be returning to the campaign trail today for the forthcoming local and European elections after being freed by police investigating a notorious Jean McConville IRA murder.
Less than an hour after he was freed from questioning, he said he was an innocent man and denied all involvement in the abduction, killing and burial of widowed mother-of-10 Jean McConville in 1972.
He offered the police his full, ongoing support but warned he was “concerned about the timing” of his arrest which came before the polls.
Sinn Fein has accused an “anti-peace process rump” within the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) of orchestrating the detention with the aim of damaging the party ahead of the polls.
It had also warned it would review its support for policing if Gerry Adams was charged.
The republican party is holding a European election rally in Belfast this evening and a similar event in Dublin on Tuesday.
The decision to let him go on Sunday night after four days in custody being questioned was met with anger as loyalist protesters attempted to block the road outside the police station to stop him leaving.
Mr Adams, 65, told a news conference in west Belfast: “Let me be very clear – I am innocent of any involvement in any conspiracy to abduct, kill or bury Mrs McConville.
“I have worked hard with others to have this injustice redressed and for the return of others killed during the conflict and secretly buried by the IRA, and I will continue to do so.
“While the past needs to be dealt with and Sinn Fein is up for doing this, including the issue of victims and their families, there can be no going back.
“Peace needs to be built with a determination and a consistent focus.”
He also revealed he did not eat during the first two days of his detention.
He said: “The old guard which is against change, whether in the PSNI leadership, within elements of unionism or the far fringes of self-proclaimed but pseudo-republicans – they can’t win.
“The dark side of the British system cannot be allowed to deny anyone – Catholic, Protestant or dissenter – from our entitlement to a rights-based citizens-centred society as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.
“I’ve never disassociated myself with the IRA, and I never will. But I’m glad that I an others have created a peaceful and democratic way forward for everyone. The IRA is gone, finished.”
As Mr Adams gave a news conference at a west Belfast hotel, Mrs McConville’s son Michael called for an independent body to investigate the allegations made against Mr Adams “so there is no political pressure on the police”.