Irishwoman at center of IRA tapes fight found dead
An Irish Republican Army veteran who accused Sinn Fein party chief Gerry Adams of involvement in IRA killings and bombings has been found dead in her home, police and politicians said Thursday.
Dolours Price, 61, was a member of the Provisional IRA unit that launched the very first car-bomb attacks on London in 1973. She became one of Irish republicanism's most trenchant critics of Adams and his conversion to political compromise in the British territory of Northern Ireland.
Police said her death Wednesday night at her home in Malahide, north of Dublin, was possibly the result of a drug overdose and foul play was not suspected. But it could have implications as far away as the U.S. Supreme Court.
In interviews Price repeatedly described Adams as her IRA commander in Catholic west Belfast in the early 1970s when the outlawed group was secretly abducting, executing and burying more than a dozen suspected informers in unmarked graves. Adams rejects the charges.
Since 2011 Northern Ireland's police have been fighting a legal battle with Boston College to secure audiotaped interviews with Price detailing her IRA career to see if they contain evidence relating to unsolved crimes, particularly the 1972 kidnapping and murder of a Belfast widow, Jean McConville. Price allegedly admitted being the IRA member who drove McConville across the Irish border to an IRA execution squad.
Boston College commissioned the collection of such interviews with veterans of Northern Ireland's paramilitary warfare on condition their contents be kept secret until each interviewee's death.
In October, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the handover of the Price tapes pending resolution of a string of other connected lawsuits and legal challenges in lower U.S. courts. Her death could trigger a new wave of legal petitions on both sides.
Boston College in a statement expressed regret at news of Price's death but said it couldn't speculate on its potential legal consequences.
Ed Moloney, the Irish journalist who oversaw collection of the taped testimonies, and Anthony McIntyre, the former IRA convict who actually conducted the interviews from 2001 to 2006, lauded Price as "both a friend and a valued participant in the Belfast Project."
They blamed the police's pursuit of her testimony for hastening her death - and vowed that their own legal fight to prevent police from receiving any tapes from the Boston College archive would continue "with renewed vigor."
"Throughout the last two years of our fight to prevent her interviews being handed over to the police in Belfast, our greatest fear was always for the health and wellbeing of Dolours," Moloney and McIntyre said in a statement. "Now that she is no longer with us, perhaps those who initiated this legal case can take some time to reflect upon the consequences of their action."
Price joined the IRA as a Belfast teenager, in part because her father Albert was a senior IRA figure. She led a 10-member IRA unit that planted four car bombs in central London on March 8, 1973, including outside the Old Bailey criminal courthouse and Scotland Yard police headquarters. Two detonated, wounding more than 200 people.
After the Provisional IRA cease-fire of 1997 paved the way for Adams' Sinn Fein party to enter a new power-sharing government in Northern Ireland, Price denounced Adams as a hypocrite who had betrayed the cause of forcing Northern Ireland into the Irish Republic.
And in a 2012 interview with Britain's Sunday Telegraph, Price accused Adams of sanctioning the 1973 bomb attacks during a Belfast IRA meeting.
"Adams started talking and said it was a big, dangerous operation. He said: `This could be a hanging job.' He said: `If anyone doesn't want to go (to London), they should up and leave now through the back door at 10-minute intervals.' The ones that were left were the ones that went. I was left organizing it, to be the OC (officer commanding) of the whole shebang," Price was quoted as saying.
Adams made no reference to Price's accusations in a prepared statement on Price's death.
"She endured great hardship during her time in prison in the 1970s enduring a hunger strike which included force-feeding for over 200 days. In more recent years she has had many personal trials," Adams said.
When asked later about Price's criticisms, Adams said he had "no concerns about any of those issues because they are not true."
Price had been counseled for depression and alcoholism for more than a decade after being convicted of using forged prescriptions to acquire drugs in 2001.
Price was diagnosed with psychological problems, including anorexia nervosa, during her prison sentence. She and her younger sister Marian, who also was imprisoned for the same bomb attack, received early paroles in 1980 on compassionate grounds. Britain sent Marian Price back to prison in 2011 over her alleged continued involvement in dissident IRA circles.
Dolours Price married the Belfast actor Stephen Rea in 1983, and they had two sons, but he divorced her in 2003.