Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Sinn Fein has to deal with all these dirty little secrets

Out of touch: Gerry Adams
Out of touch: Gerry Adams

Does my sexiness upset you?' There could be few more inappropriate words when under pressure for failing to alert others to allegations of serious sexual abuse, but that line – from a Maya Angelou poem tweeted by Gerry Adams last weekend – almost symbolises how out of touch the Sinn Fein leader is becoming in this still unfolding story.

There was more of the same too: 'Does my sexiness upset you?/ Does it come as a surprise/ That I dance like I've got diamonds/ At the meeting of my thighs?' Those who always suspected that the Adams Twitter account is a parody could never have been more convinced that they were right.

If only they were. Adams has asked for space and privacy to deal with traumatic issues in his own family, yet still comes out with ill-advised gestures such as this.

Whilst SF accuses its critics of making political capital out of their leader's personal difficulties, Adams also does not hold back from using Twitter to condemn the "despicable posturing of some cynics" in response to the questions he still has to answer about what he did or did not do after being told by his niece Aine that she was abused by her father, Adams's brother. Sinn Fein's attitude to all this is that it is a private matter and they will not comment until the Attorney General (AG) has completed a review in to the decision not to prosecute Adams for withholding information. But that is only one aspect of this story.

The other aspect concerns Adams's own actions within Sinn Fein and in his own life – and SF's wider responsibility.

The handling of child abuse allegations has torn Ireland apart in the last two decades, as Mary Lou McDonald appeared to recognise when, in comments following the publication of the Ryan report in to clerical child abuse in 2009, she declared: "Anyone, including gardai, found to be complicit in the cover-up of child abuse must be... made to face the full rigours of the law."

When the Stormont Executive in Belfast launched an inquiry in to how historic child abuse allegations had been handled, SF's Sue Ramsey said: "Obviously this inquiry must be victim-centred."

Such statements are becoming increasingly difficult for SF to make, as more cases emerge of how the republican movement dealt with victims of sexual violence.

Given our history, child protection issues should be at the forefront of every party, but SF is in the position of now hoping they go on the back-burner, because, each time the issue comes up, their own leader's poor judgement will be raised.

Last week, guest writer Antaine Mac Dhomhnaill wrote a piece on The Pensive Quill, the website run by former IRA volunteer Anthony McIntyre, describing how he became aware, as a novice republican, that a Sinn Fein member was grooming young men for sex. He was eventually dismissed.

The idea of SF cover-ups has been confirmed repeatedly by the Belfast Rape Crisis Centre.

There are only two options. Sinn Fein in the Republic either does not know the powder keg on which it's sitting, because representatives have not taken the trouble to look into the testimonies of victims, or else they do know but are crossing their fingers and betting on a hope that more of the party's dirty little secrets don't come tumbling out.

For all his other faults, Enda Kenny has never wavered for one second on child protection. Sinn Fein still refuses to do likewise. What are they so afraid of?

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