“The IRA is gone,” Louth deputy Gerry Adams said on Sunday evening after his release from detention.
He also said he is backing the PSNI but condemned the police’s handling of his arrest. He was held under the North’s terrorism act.
He was released on Sunday evening pending a report to the North’s Public Prosecution Service.
He said the police taped 33 interviews.
“Those who authorised my arrest and detention could have done it differently,” he said. “They had discretion. They did not have to use pernicious coercive legislation to deal with a legacy issue, even one as serious as this, which I was voluntarily prepared to deal with. They did not have to do this in the middle of an election campaign.
“I will continue to work with others to build a genuinely civic policing service. I am an Irish republican. I want to live in a peaceful Ireland based on equality.
“I have never disassociated myself from the IRA and I never will but I am glad that I, and others, have created a peaceful and democratic way forward for everyone.
“The IRA is gone.”
His arrest started a bitter political row both North and South at Stormont, with Sinn Fein implying there is “an old guard rump” within the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) orchestrating the detention with the aim of damaging the party ahead of the European and local government elections.
But at his press conference at the Balmoral hotel in west Belfast on Sunday evening,
deputy Adams moved to dispel suggestions that Sinn Fein’s commitment to policing has wavered.
Deputy Adams said he came voluntarily from the Dáil to Antrim PSNI barracks last Wednesday having contacted the PSNI two months ago through his solicitor to say he was available to meet them following further media speculation alleging his involvement in the killing of Mrs Jean McConville.
When the PSNI contacted his solicitor he was concerned about the timing, given that Sinn Féin is involved in EU and local elections.
But he quickly made arrangements to go to Antrim. He thanked his solicitor and everyone who has sent goodwill messages.
“Let me be very clear,” he said. “I am innocent of any involvement in any conspiracy to abduct, kill and bury Mrs McConville.
“I have worked hard with others to have this injustice redressed and for the return of the bodies of others killed and secretly buried by the IRA and I will continue to do so.
“The Commission set up by the two governments at the request of myself, and the late Fr Alex Reid, has said that it is receiving 100 per cent support from republicans.”
He said he was mindful that Monday was the anniversary of the death of Bobby Sands.
Sitting in his cell he had reflected on that and on the dreadful summer of 1981.
“But this is not 1981. This is not 1972,” he said. “The people of this island, with a few exceptions, have carved out a new dispensation and while the past needs to be dealt with I have no wish to be treated differently from anyone else.
“I am an activist. This is my life. I did not go to Antrim barracks expecting special treatment, but it is crucial that everyone is treated fairly.”
He said it was crucial that everyone knows that these are changed times, that everyone can can have hope and confidence “in the new developing dispensation, including the police service”.
“To send any other signal is to encourage the bigots.
Despite his experience over the past week, deputy Adams said he wanted to make it clear that “I support the PSNI”.
He said the police interviewed him about his time in the Civil Rights movement, his arrest and detention in Palace Barracks, his time in Long Kesh and even the peace talks in 1972.
Newspaper articles, photographs of Martin McGuinness and himself at Republican funerals, books and other open source material were produced by the police.
He said much of the questioning concerned the Belfast Project run by Ed Moloney and Anthony McIntyre as part of a history project at Boston College.
He said the llegation made against him of conspiracy in the killing of Mrs McConville is based almost exclusively on hearsay from unnamed alleged Boston College interviewees but mainly from Dolours Price and Brendan Hughes.
“I rejected all the allegations made about me in the Boston Tapes,” he said.
“There is only one way to go and that is forward. There will be diversions. There are elements out there actively setting up diversions.
“But I offer sympathy to the McConville family and all those who have suffered especially at the hands of republicans.
“There is clearly a responsibility for all of us, especially those who survived the conflict to deal with this.
“My resolve is to built the peace, not to let this put us off. the past is the past. The future is for our children and grandchildren. We need equality and justice for everyone,” Deputy Adams said.