Aine Tyrell has said that she never demanded that Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams protect her anonymity over claims that his brother Liam — her father — had repeatedly raped her from when she was four years old.
Aine says that she would have been willing at any time to accompany Gerry Adams to meet Sinn Fein and youth groups in west Belfast to warn them about the allegations against her father.
“I didn’t know Liam was in Sinn Fein but had Gerry bothered to tell me, I would have waived my anonymity without hesitation. I’d have accompanied Gerry to meet his colleagues in Sinn Fein, to talk to the ard comhairle about what Liam had done to me so they could expel him from the party. But Gerry never gave me that option.”
Aine’s words completely contradict the Sinn Fein president’s account that he could not tell his party colleagues because Aine had requested her anonymity be protected. Similarly, Aine says the same applied to the youth projects where Liam worked.
She says she regularly brought the issue up with Gerry Adams during her two years of meetings with him from late 2003 until late 2005.
“I’d heard Liam was working in youth projects in west Belfast but not which ones. I repeatedly raised this with Gerry.
“I said I was very concerned that Liam was seeking jobs working with children. I told Gerry I believed children were at risk. Gerry said it wasn’t my responsibility. I kept telling Gerry to get Liam out of the youth groups.
“Gerry has now said he had to tread carefully with these youth projects in order to protect my anonymity. Again, that’s rubbish. I’d have gone with Gerry to these youth clubs and told them what Liam had done but Gerry never gave me that option either.”
Indeed, so desperate was Aine that she considered standing on the streets of west Belfast handing out leaflets warning the public about the allegations against her father.
In her final meeting with Gerry Adams in late 2005, Aine says: “I told him that I wouldn’t let my kids attend any children’s or youth group in west Belfast in case Liam was involved. ‘Would you feel comfortable letting your wee granddaughter go somewhere Liam was working?’ I asked Gerry. I could see the rage in his eyes when I said that.” On Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show yesterday Gerry Adams said that during meetings: “I told Aine that if she wanted to go public on these issues I would sit on a platform with her. I told her that if she wanted to go to the police, I’d go to the police with her. These matters were reported to social services and the RUC at the time.”
However, this account is directly contradicted by Aine. “Gerry never said he would sit on a public platform with me. It wasn’t Gerry who went to the RUC or to the PSNI about Liam, it was myself and my mother who went to the RUC in 1987, and myself who in 2006 asked the PSNI to re-open the case.”
Indeed, Aine claims police later told her it took Gerry Adams four months to make a statement to detectives on his brother.
Gerry Adams told Stephen Nolan that he had offered to go to the media with Aine, a 36-year-old mother of two teenagers. She completely contradicts this and says the Sinn Fein president was always deeply worried that the story would break in the media, specifically the Sunday World.
“He frantically phoned me about 20 times. He wanted to obtain a court injunction with my help to stop the story. He said he needed to make sure it didn’t’ get into the Press in order to protect me.”
Aine refused to assist him. The story, which didn’t reveal Liam Adams’ identity but concerned his alleged sexual abuse, appeared in that April’s Sunday World.
It was Aine who initiated UTV’s Insight programme last month. She said Gerry Adams made contact afterwards: “He advised me against talking to journalists again. ‘You’ve no experience dealing with the Press’, he said.” Aine no longer wants any contact with Gerry Adams. She now won’t answer phone calls from withheld numbers in case it’s him. Aine expresses anger that “Mary Lou McDonald (the SF vice president) and other Sinn Fein politicians” constantly refer to her when quizzed on the party’s failings by the media. She questions the sincerity of their sympathy and adds: “I want them to stop using my name.”
Aine (36) is the mother of two teenagers. She has just been on her first night out with her partner Tony Dahlstrom — at a Pete Doherty concert — since the explosive UTV documentary. She is certainly not a broken woman, rather one who, despite all she’s been through, retains a sense of humour.
She remembers receiving an unwanted mobile phone text from Gerry Adams. “I thought I’d texted Tony ‘That Beard has just been in contact again’, but I’d accidentally sent the text to Gerry instead,” she laughs.
When Aine finally found out last year that her father had worked in Clonard youth centre she visited the centre. She says she spoke to both a senior youth officer and a priest who were both horrified and told her that no-one had ever informed them of the allegations.
There are other parts of his narrative she wishes to challenge. Gerry Adams went canvassing with his brother for Sinn Fein in Dundalk in June 1997, eight months after he claimed to have swiftly moved to have him expelled from the party.
On Nolan yesterday Gerry Adams explained that although the canvass was “inappropriate”, it had to be understood against a backdrop of him working for “reconciliation”. Gerry said Aine had requested this admission from her father.
While this is true, Aine didn’t make such a request, she says, until six years later — in December 2003.
“My father had sent me £100 for Christmas that year. I was disgusted and took the money to Gerry Adams.
“A two-year long series of meetings between Gerry and myself began and it was at these meetings — not at any stage in the intervening years — that I talked about getting Liam to admit what he’d done to me.”
So, “getting the truth for Aine” is not in any shape or form the backdrop against which the controversial canvass took place. Liam Adams is believed to have remained in Sinn Fein — in Dundalk and later west Belfast — until at least 2004.
Back in 1987 when Aine told her Uncle Gerry her father had repeatedly raped her from the age of four, he brought Aine and her mother to Donegal to confront his brother. At the meeting, Liam Adams denied the allegations.
Aine and her mother returned emotionally and physically exhausted that night in 1987. She says: “When Gerry Adams dropped us back to west Belfast by car, he knew that his 14-year-old niece was deeply distressed. He also knew my mother would have to deal with my pain while trying to bring up four children on her own.
“Yet we received no support from Gerry. He didn’t’ even send me a birthday or a Christmas card. The only present I ever received from him was a signed copy of his autobiography ‘Before The Dawn’ in 1996.”
She was horrified when she opened it and read the foreword. Adams thanked his brothers and sisters “especially Liam”. Aine says: “I threw the book in the bin. It made me feel sick. Imagine sending the person you believed had been abused by your brother a book thanking that brother?”
Aine’s uncle, ex-IRA prisoner Bob Corrigan, says Liam Adams was a researcher for his brother’s autobiography.
When asked about singling Liam out for thanks in his 1996 autobiography on Nolan yesterday, Gerry Adams said: “I don’t know if I thanked Liam especially. I haven’t looked at that book in a long time.”
Aine’s uncle Bob Corrigan believes that Gerry Adams should step down from politics: “He should resign from all three position he holds — Sinn Fein president, West Belfast MP, and Assembly Member. He has failed in his responsibilities as both a public representative and as an uncle.
“I don’t say this lightly. I’m a former republican prisoner who spent 10 years in Long Kesh and was on the blanket protest. There are many good people in the republican movement who work day and night for the community. Gerry Adams has let them down.”
Aine is scathing of the PSNI. When her father didn’t turn up for his first court appearance, police refused her request to release a photofit of him to the media saying “it would look like a witch-hunt”.
Suzanne Breen is northern editor of the Sunday Tribune newspaper