Liam Adams: Sordid episode has left Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams politically toxic
Published 02/10/2013 | 10:30
Major questions hang over the political leadership of Gerry Adams following the conviction of his brother Liam for child sexual abuse.
The Sinn Fein president's right to hold public office was last night brought into doubt as his evasive and duplicitous account of his relationship with his brother – and his disturbingly inadequate response to Aine's claims that she had been raped – were exposed.
And by not informing Sinn Fein of the sexual abuse allegations against his brother when he was first told them in 1987, Mr Adams broke his own party's rules.
Reporting restrictions during the trial meant that his actions couldn't be put in the public domain. But the inexcusable inadequacies of his response after learning of his brother's paedophilia can now be detailed.
Gerry Adams has believed for 27 years that his brother Liam is a paedophile. Yet he attended his wedding, took him canvassing for Sinn Fein in Dundalk, and Liam remained a highly visible and active member of the party years after Gerry claimed he had him kicked out.
In 2009 Mr Adams told UTV's Insight that he had believed Aine from the moment in 1987 when she told him her father had raped her. He said he'd always supported her and that, after hearing her claims, he had been estranged from his brother for 15 years until 2002-3.
This was not true. Photographs given to this reporter show the Sinn Fein president at Liam's wedding and reception in the Bellingham Castle Hotel in Co Louth 10 years after he said he was estranged from his brother. He is pictured standing smiling beside Liam wearing a green ribbon for IRA prisoners.
During Liam Adams' first trial, a prosecution barrister accused Gerry Adams of telling "another lie" after he made the same assertion that he and his brother spent a decade-and-a-half apart.
Contrary to what he said on TV, Gerry Adams maintained regular contact with Liam, staying overnight at his home in Dundalk; and Liam actually lived with him for several weeks in his west Belfast home after he had secured a job in a youth centre in Clonard.
Gerry Adams never disclosed to UTV that his brother had been a Sinn Fein member. When he was later forced to admit it, he portrayed Liam's involvement as minor and shortlived.
Liam Adams was actually a high-ranking Sinn Fein member in Dundalk in the 1990s and in Belfast the following decade. He sought the nomination to be the party's Co Louth candidate in the 1997 Dail election but failed.
Gerry Adams has said that when he "heard" that the brother he believed to be a paedophile was in Sinn Fein, he "moved immediately" to stop his Dail nomination and "to get him dumped out of Sinn Fein... I moved very, very quickly".
Again, this was not true. Photographs eight months after Gerry Adams said he had Liam "dumped" from the party show the Sinn Fein president canvassing in June 1997 in the Dail election campaign with the brother he believed was a paedophile, and from whom he was allegedly estranged.
The Adams brothers are shown laughing on the canvass in a shopping centre and on the Dundalk streets. Several republicans on the canvass have made statements saying the Adams brothers were very close and on excellent terms.
Sinn Fein initially stated that Liam Adams was "never a party officer". That was untrue. He was Sinn Fein's most senior official in Co Louth. As chairman of the Louth comhairle ceantair, he liaised directly with the leadership.
A photograph published in a local Dundalk paper shows Liam Adams standing beside Martin McGuinness at the official opening of the party's new office in the town in June 1996.
And 13 months after Liam Adams was supposedly "dumped" by his brother from Sinn Fein, he chaired the Edentubber IRA martyrs commemoration in Co Louth attended by thousands of republicans. He introduced Sinn Fein's then national chairman Mitchel McLaughlin as the main speaker at the event, which is one of the most important in the republican calendar.
Gerry Adams is on the record as saying he didn't tell anyone else in Sinn Fein that there were allegations of paedophilia against his brother. This contravened the party's constitution at the time, which stated: "Where allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault are made, they should be referred directly to an ard comhairle."
The most powerful man in Sinn Fein has treated his party's internal rules with contempt. Liam Adams' political career spanned both sides of the border.
After his involvement in the party in Dundalk, he went on to be an active and founder member of the Lower Andersonstown Sinn Fein cumann, which met weekly in the Felons Club, two streets away from Gerry Adams' home.
He was a treasurer for Sinn Fein in west Belfast and a joint signatory on the Cumann mheon na Fuiseoige chequebook. He had previously been a member of Sinn Fein in Co Donegal and had attended party events in Dublin.
Gerry Adams knew that his brother was working with children in various youth projects in west Belfast. Yet, despite his public claims, he has produced no evidence to prove he took action to have Liam swiftly removed from his position by his employers. The only named person that he says he informed is a now dead priest.
Gerry Adams' repeated evasions and failure to take decisive action to ensure other children were potentially not at risk from his paedophile brother surely make him politically toxic.
They certainly strip him of any credibility and moral authority he had left. His actions are hardly in keeping with a party which is in Government here and seeks the same in the Republic.
The Louth TD continues to cling onto the reins of power but it is impossible to believe that any other political leader on this island would survive such a damning history.