Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 13 July 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Gerry Adams' credibility is now beyond repair

Gerry Adams' leadership of Sinn Fein may not be able to survive the controversy over his brother Liam's confessions of child sex abuse

Gerry Adams has had a long political run, but he must be nearing the end of it. His credibility has run out and such a reek of scandal surrounds him that he is getting in the way of any message which Sinn Fein hopes to project.

The problem was clear when he turned up on Monday at the Dublin launch of Sinn Fein's alternative economic strategy. As a result of his presence, the Press conference was given over to fielding allegations that he had covered up child sex-abuse. No party wants that.

In what other party would a leading figure survive after being accused of authorising the secret burial of "disappeared" murder victims, like Jean McConville, and of failing to act effectively to clear up a child-abuse case?

In what other party would the leader have to admit, as Gerry Adams admitted in 2010, that his lawyers had advised him that the Press "can publish anything, [including] total untruths" and that he should not sue?

He has made many untrue claims. He told the family of Jean McConville, a west Belfast mother murdered and secretly buried by the IRA, that he was in jail when she was abducted – but he had actually been freed.

He publicly claimed that a vivid prison memory was singing a Monty Python song, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, with other inmates, after being brutally beaten by prison officers. The song was not written until after his release.

All this, not to mention his denial of IRA membership, undermines any attempt to defend his probity.

He speaks of supporting Aine, his niece, when she told him she had been abused by her father, Liam, his brother. During 2002-7, he was holding meetings with Aine (left) and her mother Sally to try and get Liam to meet her.

"Our Liam can't cope with life and I am trying to get him to meet you, but you know he is a coward and he might not want to do that," Aine quotes Mr Adams as telling her in a UTV interview. Liam was being presented as a man under stress, when he was in fact running a youth project in Beechmount, near Gerry Adams's home and the Sinn Fein Press Centre.

Aine was subjected to a litany of excuses and frequent, inconclusive meetings.

The families of many of those killed and secretly buried by the IRA during the Troubles were treated the same way, as was the family of Robert McCartney, the man murdered by IRA members in 2005.

The year 2005 was also that in which Liam Adams returned from Co Louth to work in another west Belfast youth club.

When he gave evidence at the first, aborted, trial of Liam Adams in April, Gerry Adams said he hadn't told the police, or raised the alarm, because "I was trying my best to resolve these matters in a way which helped Aine, but also, if I may say so, in a way which allowed Liam to get rid of these demons".

Questioned about Liam's continued role as a youth worker after confessing to child-abuse, Mr Adams replied: "I didn't believe at that point that my brother was a danger... given his acknowledgement to me and the fact that he said this only happened the once."

"He said it only happened the once" wasn't an explanation which Mr Adams accepted from the Catholic hierarchy after clerical child-abusers were allowed continued contact with unsuspecting young people.

A politician with this much explaining to do is a liability to everyone associated with him.

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