Gerry Adams will not attend the funeral of Old Bailey bomber Dolours Price, it was confirmed today.
The Sinn Féin president said he felt a deep sense of solidarity with her family but would not be at tomorrow’s service in west Belfast.
Price, 62, an unrepentant republican hardliner who fell out with Sinn Féin after the party endorsed the peace process, encouraged the IRA to give up its guns and embraced power-sharing with unionists at Stormont.
Mr Adams said: “I am very sad. I have known her for a very long time. For her sons Oscar and Danny there is nothing worse than losing your mother.
“Dolours was a long time in prison in England, but she also was force-fed for over 200 days…When you consider that, and her own personal trials and tribulations, none of what has occurred in terms of her parting ways with Sinn Féin...should diminish, at all, her life.”
Price was found dead at her home in north Dublin last Wednesday night. Gardaí said they did not suspect foul play.
Hundreds of republicans are expected to descend on St Agnes Catholic in Andersonstown – the heartland of Mr Adams’ former Westminster constituency. Her burial will take place at the nearby Milltown Cemetery where republicans have a dedicated plot.
Price, the former wife of actor Stephen Rea, was convicted and jailed along with her sister for the 1973 attack on London’s Old Bailey courts in which one man died and more than 200 people were injured.
She spent eight years in jail, including several weeks on hunger strike before being released in 1980.
In recent years, she clashed with Mr Adams over her allegations that he had been her IRA Officer Commanding during the early 1970s.
Price consistently claimed that Mr Adams, now a Louth TD, had ordered the kidnap and killing of Jean McConville in 1972. The Catholic mother-of-10 was among dozens of people – later known as the Disappeared – who were abducted, murdered and secretly buried by republican militants during the Troubles.
Mr Adams has always denied being a member of the IRA. He said he was saddened by Price’s death.
He added: “Dolours did make certain allegations. I have denied them and my sense of her passing is one of loss and also of a sense of solidarity with her family.”
Price said she had made the claims in an interview with American university academics who have compiled an oral history on Northern Ireland’s 40-year conflict.
The recordings were started in 2001 and were made on the condition that confidentiality would be guaranteed until after the death of the republican and loyalist paramilitaries who took part.
Researchers at Boston College have gone to the Supreme Court in the States to try to block the release of the tapes after the PSNI launched a high-profile legal challenge to obtain the testimony.
Former IRA man turned historian Anthony McIntyre, who helped compile the interviews, said the Price transcripts would not now be automatically handed over to the PSNI.
He said: “These interviews were carried out for the benefit of society to try and enhance societal understanding in an environment whereby people would not be subject to prosecution," he said, saying that included "the people who made the interview or the people referred to in the interview".
He added; "We are now aware the police have been trying to seize these tapes for the purposes of prosecution. That would be a complete negation of the ethos of the project and for that reason I will not be disclosing what Dolours Price revealed to me.”
Another prominent republican interviewed for the Boston College archive was Brendan Hughes who died in 2008. His testimony was included in a book which connected Mr Adams to murder.
Price who split from her husband in 2000, battled depression and struggled with prescription drugs and alcohol. She denounced the mainstream republican movement and in recent years aligned herself with dissident republicans who have murdered two soldiers, two police officers and a prison guard in the North.
Her sister Marian, also known by her married name McGlinchey, has been imprisoned in the North since 2011 after her licence was revoked for dissident republican activity. It is understood she was granted compassionate leave to attend the wake this morning.
Marian Price’s lawyers have campaigned for her release and have asked the director of public prosecution to release her on the grounds of ill-health.
It has not yet been confirmed whether she will be permitted to attend tomorrow’s funeral.