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Editor's Viewpoint: Mr Adams should consider a break

Published 26/01/2010

Gerry Adams is the longest serving party leader in Irish politics and until recently his position remained unchallenged and unchallengable.

However, in recent weeks the Sinn Fein president has been dogged by allegations that he did not do enough to expose members of the republican movement who, it is claimed, committed serious abuse against children. One of the cases involves his own brother who is being sought by police on charges of abusing his daughter when she was a child.

Mr Adams denies that he was, or is, engaged in any cover-up, or that historically the abusers were protected by the republican movement. However that has not stilled the voices of dissent, chiefly those of his own niece and also a relative of former leading IRA man Joe Cahill. They make serious criticisms of how Mr Adams and other republicans dealt with their claims of abuse, saying that instead of being helped they were further traumatised.

The most serious allegations is that known abusers were allowed, chiefly through inaction by republicans, continuing access to children and young people, potentially putting them at risk of abuse. In some ways republicans in general, and Mr Adams in particular, are accused of behaving like the Catholic Church when confronted with evidence of paedophile priests. The reflex action of both was to attempt to stifle any proper investigation until the publicity became overwhelming.

Just where the truth lies in all the claims and counter-claims is impossible to say, but the issue has put the Sinn Fein leader under serious pressure. Politicial opponents are keen to keep that pressure on him and there is an undercurrent of unrest in his political heartland. Certainly Sinn Fein will not want Mr Adams' personal problems to rebound on the party. There may well be a case for Mr Adams, like DUP leader Peter Robinson, to stand down for a period until the truth of allegations levelled at him are proven right or wrong.

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