Wednesday, September 15, 2021

My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman

 

Jean McConville with two of her children shortly before her disappearance.


My hero: 

Jean McConville

 by Amanda Foreman

30 October 2010

J

ean McConville died in December 1972, but her mutilated body remained hidden for 30 years. It was only in 2003 that her skeleton was accidentally unearthed by beachcombers in County Louth, Ireland. She is now buried in St Paul's Catholic Church, Belfast. But even now, almost 40 years on, no one has been brought to justice for her torture and murder. This even though we know who did it and why.

Jean, pictured left with two of her children, was born in 1934, a Protestant from east Belfast who converted to Catholicism when she married Arthur McConville. Both suffered prejudice and abuse for "marrying out". But when they went to live in the Falls Road in west Belfast, it seemed as though they had found a certain amount of acceptance in the Catholic community. They went on to have 10 children, one of whom became an active member of the IRA. After Arthur died in 1971, Jean was left to bring up the children on her own: the oldest was 14, the youngest, six. According to reports, Jean angered the IRA after she offered water to a dying British soldier who had been shot outside her front door.

On the night of 7 December, 1972, 12 masked men and women burst into the McConville home. Jean was dragged from the bathroom, in front of her screaming children, and hauled into a waiting car. It was the last anyone saw of her. We now know that she was tortured – "interrogated" in the words of the IRA – for several days. Her fingerless hands speak for what she suffered. Finally, she was taken to County Louth. Forced to walk on the stones on Shelling Hill beach in her bare feet, she was killed with a single shot to the back of her head. Her orphaned children were then subjected to a campaign of terror and abuse from which most have never recovered.

Jean's name is largely forgotten. There is no statue to commemorate her courageous act of humanity – or the terrible price she paid for it. But she is my hero.

THE GUARDIAN




2009
001 My hero / Oscar Wilde by Michael Holroyd
002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm

2010

017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

2011
079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill

2012

190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer

2015
2016

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