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Laurence White: Gerry’s response to abuse claims shows how he trusts the police

It is difficult to know which is the more astonishing — the level of sexual abuse which went on in the Catholic Church or the level of sexual abuse that allegedly went on in the Adams' household.

Gerry Adams has found himself on unfamiliar ground during the last week, answering questions about alleged abuse within his family circle.

First of all his niece waived her right to anonymity to highlight the fact that her father — Gerry Adams' brother Liam — is wanted on charges of abusing her when she was a child.

Gerry admitted he backed his niece's actions and had given information to the PSNI about what he knew of the alleged abuse. He also appealed for his brother to surrender to the courts to face charges.

Then at the weekend Gerry admitted that his father had carried out emotional, physical and sexual abuse against family members for many years.

Gerry was not one of those abused since he learned of the abuse only during the 1990s.

His father, he said, died a lonely old man.

These are startling issues for the Sinn Fein president to get so publicly involved with.

There was a time when any hint of sex — consensual sex never mind sexual abuse — would cause a scandal and blight everyone touched by it.

The differing reactions of family members to the alleged abuse they suffered is also telling.

Those abused by Mr Adams senior didn't want to go to the police.

Presumably the allegations surfaced at a time when Sinn Fein and the RUC were sworn enemies.

Hints of any sexual scandal in the wider Adams household would have been seized on gratefully by their opponents.

Now Gerry feels able to go to the police and make a statement about alleged abuse carried out by his brother. His niece also felt able to involve the police in the first instance.

If nothing else, their actions are a real commentary on how life has changed in Northern Ireland in the last decade.

No longer do Sinn Fein members have to have their arms twisted up their backs before they will admit through gritted teeth that perhaps the police are the proper authorities of law and order and should be given any information that will help their enquiries into any crime.

The other day a Sinn Fein MLA from the New Lodge road area urged locals to shop the hoods who have been carrying out terrifying racial attacks on an Indian family in the area.

Such a statement would have been unthinkable not so very long ago.

It shows how the mindset of Sinn Fein has changed and challenges those unionists who argue that there is not sufficient public confidence to allow policing and justice powers to be devolved to the Executive.

If Gerry Adams can admit to helping the police with their enquiries — in the widest sense of that phrase, it should be added — then we have fairly strong evidence of how widely the PSNI is accepted in Northern Ireland.

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