Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Gerry Adams must go over abuse failings

Aine Dahlstrom, the daughter of Liam Adams, fought a courageous battle to bring her evil father to justice for raping and sexually abusing her over a six-year period from when she was four-years-old.

She had to overcome apparent disinterest from police and social services as well as going against the prevailing mood in republican circles in the late 1980s to involve the RUC in any investigation.

It took tremendous bravery to turn the spotlight on one of the most prominent republican families on this island on such a deeply personal issue.

Now she has been vindicated after a jury found Adams guilty of 10 counts of child sex abuse.

What the case has also done is throw into question the behaviour of Adams' brother, Gerry, the president of Sinn Fein and member of the Irish Parliament.

According to evidence given at a previous hearing – which was halted for legal reasons – Liam confessed to Gerry in Dundalk in 2000 that he had abused Aine.

Over the next few years Liam worked with youth organisations in west Belfast and Dundalk but Gerry never informed the police of his brother's sinister past.

Even when he eventually told police in 2007 that he was aware of the abuse allegations against his brother, he did not reveal to officers that his brother had confessed his guilt to him.

It was another two years before he gave this information to police.

Most people will be astounded that Gerry Adams, who admitted he believed Aine's claims of abuse, was not more supportive of her in her bid for justice.

This catalogue of inaction and prevarication on the Sinn Fein president's part has not been brought to public attention by some ill-willed political rival. He stands condemned by his own words, given in evidence to a court.

He was told his niece had suffered grievously at the hands of her father but took a long time to disclose that information.

Was that because he feared the political fallout, as was suggested at one point during those previous court proceedings?

Whatever his reason, most parents will find it chilling that a man of such influence appears to have done nothing to support his wronged niece for almost nine years.

Of course we are used to viewing events and behaviour through a very distorted prism in Northern Ireland.

There will be some who will argue that no blame should be attached to Gerry Adams because he took risks for peace and he helped to bring former enemies to the negotiating table resulting in today's power-sharing administration.

They will also point out that people who were guilty of terrorist activities, up to and including murder, have been rehabilitated into society and are now among the political classes.

But we cannot forever continue to excuse the activities of people in prominent positions who do not use their influence well.

In this case, Gerry Adams fails the test of what would be expected of a man in his position and armed with his knowledge.

And it should throw into grave doubt his fitness to be leader of one of the major political parties on this island and – although it is not in this jurisdiction – his fitness to continue to represent Co Louth in the Dail.

If he was a politician anywhere else in these islands he would be out of office and party leadership very swiftly, and that is the standard by which we should judge him here.

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