Belfast Telegraph

How Liam Adams' daughter Aine challenged the most powerful republican family on the island

By Suzanne Breen

Aine Dahlstrom is a woman of the most amazing courage and determination. While it's never easy for any victim of rape or child abuse, she had to take on the most powerful people and organisations in society in her fight for justice.

Little did she know when, as a 13-year-old girl scribbling down the words on a school jotter – "mummy, my daddy makes me sleep with him" – the huge battle that lay ahead of her.

Sometimes it seemed like everything was stacked against her.

The police, social services, and her uncle Gerry Adams were all hopelessly inadequate in their response to what Aine had gone through.

Sometimes the pressure on her took its toll.

On the first day Aine was due to give evidence in court, she was so stressed she took pains in her arms and chest and had to be taken to hospital.

But she was back in court the next day giving evidence, and never for one second did she think of giving up. Reporting to the police what her father had done to her was a brave move for a young teenage girl in 1987.

Even in cases of child abuse, talking to the police carried risks for people in republican areas.

Aine went to police because she'd learned her father had a daughter from a new relationship and she was worried for the child.

But the response Aine and her mother told the court they received from some police – more interested in asking for information on IRA activities than investigating the abuse – was abysmal.

Fearing their lives were in danger, they reluctantly withdrew their complaint.

They told the court they were effectively abandoned by police and social services – who also were informed of the abuse – and left with no one in the world to trust except themselves.

To everybody else, the issue was dead.

But, even after her previous experience, Aine returned to the police in 2006 and asked to have the case reopened.

Detectives didn't seek a face-to-face meeting with her until eight months later, she claimed.

"I believe they didn't want to reopen a can of worms," she said.

Aine has lodged a complaint with the Police Ombudsman.

But Aine wasn't just standing up against the state. By making a complaint against a member of the most powerful republican family on this island, Aine was challenging other interests.

While Gerry Adams said he believed her allegations against her father, he was far from supportive, she claimed.

After she and her mother travelled with him to Donegal to confront her father, he didn't offer the help that would be expected from a concerned uncle.

He made no contact with her to see how she was coping. There wasn't even a birthday or Christmas card.

"The only present I ever received from him was a signed copy of his autobiography, Before The Dawn, in 1996," she said.

"I was horrified when I opened the book and read the foreword. He had thanked all his brothers and sisters, 'especially Liam'.

"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."

Liam Adams worked with several youth groups in Belfast and Dundalk.

Again, it was Aine doing the job that the state should have been doing in terms of protecting young people potentially at risk. She had heard that her father was working with youth groups in west Belfast but didn't know which ones.

She raised it with Gerry Adams, telling him she feared children were at risk.

She said he told her that working with young people was "Liam's way of trying to make up to the community for what he'd done" to her.

"I considered standing on the streets of west Belfast handing out leaflets saying, 'Liam Adams is a paedophile'. That's how desperate I was," she said.

When she found out the identity of the groups concerned, she visited them herself and expressed her fears.

Yesterday's verdict should bring Aine some personal closure. But she was right yesterday when she said that Liam Adams' conviction wasn't a victory or cause for celebration.

That such a heroic and persistent effort was required from one solitary west Belfast woman to bring a paedophile to account casts all those who let her down over the decades in an appalling light.

Belfast Telegraph

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