Gerry Adams should be the last person to criticise Trump over attitudes to women
SF leader proposes to challenge US President over misogyny... this from a man whose organisation murdered scores of women. By Eilis O'Hanlon
Gerry Adams has a very odd sense of humour, so he may have been joking when he announced his intention to raise Donald Trump's attitude to women if the two men got a chance to meet in Washington this week.
It was an easy promise to make either way, since the Sinn Fein leader had less chance of a personal meet-and-greet with the new US President this St Patrick's Day than Hillary Clinton. This is quite a snub to a man who has become so used to hobnobbing with the rich and powerful across the pond that he seems to regard it as his divine right to be feted in the White House each year for single-handedly bringing peace to Ireland.
Twelve months ago, there was anger after Gerry was held up for 90 minutes by Secret Service agents in Washington as he waited to get into the party.
Officials blamed it on an "administrative error".
Adams' supporters suspected a conspiracy. But then that's the thing about white men of a certain age. They have such a bloated sense of entitlement.
It's almost a pity that Adams hasn't been granted an audience with Trump, if only to see the moment when the Irish republican tried to tick off the US Republican for his statements about women.
"Hold on a moment," Donald could have turned to Gerry and replied. "Aren't you the guy who, despite a child abuse scandal in your own family, decided it was a good idea to favourite a tweet on social media showing a picture of Neville Longbottom from the Harry Potter series with the caption: 'Hey bby gurl, I got something LONG 4 ur BOTTOM'? And you're telling me that I'm the one who's insensitive to women? Get out of here. I mean it. Get out of here, you schmuck."
If it was just a question of Gerry Adams' serial insensitivity when it comes to issues of sexual abuse within his beloved republican movement, that would be bad enough. But the organisation of which he's been a senior figure for practically the entirety of his adult life has treated women appallingly from the start - beating, torturing and murdering them with a regularity and enthusiasm that would shame serial killers.
Jean McConville is the name that everyone remembers; her secret burial on a beach on the Cooley Peninsula, while her 10 orphaned children were led a cruel dance by those who had taken away their mother, fixed her fate so indelibly in the public imagination as to horrify even those who thought they could no longer be shocked.
But there were hundreds of others. Some, such as Mary Travers, the young teacher shot while leaving Mass in south Belfast in 1984 by gunmen who also tried to murder her mother, are still remembered. Other women to lose their lives at the hands of the IRA have slipped into obscurity, commemorated and mourned only by their families.
One whose suffering still defies forgiveness is Caroline Moreland. A Catholic mother-of-three and cancer patient, she was, like Mrs McConville, accused of being an informer.
Moreland was abducted, tortured for almost a week at a house in Co Monaghan, then shot through the head, before her body was dumped near the border, all within two months of the 1994 ceasefire, making her death all the more pointless.
Years later, her daughter, Shauna, managed to arrange a meeting with the IRA to ask why they did it.
They didn't apologise.
The list goes on. There was Joanne Mathers, the 29-year-old census worker shot dead in Londonderry in 1981, apparently on the orders of the senior IRA man in the city.
There was Heidi Hazell, a German woman, who was sitting in her car near an Army base in Dortmund when terrorists approached and opened fire at point-blank range with a Kalashnikov.
Her "crime": to be married to a British soldier.
Gillian Johnson was just 21 when she was killed in a similar hail of bullets. The young chemist shop assistant, from Belleek, was suspected of dating a member of the UDR. She wasn't.
The IRA later claimed that its volunteers had meant to shoot her brother, who it named as the actual UDR member. In fact, he wasn't a soldier, either.
Margaret Ann Hearst was another young Protestant woman who was murdered at her family's farm in south Armagh by an IRA unit led by the infamous 'Border Fox', Dessie O'Hare, as her three-year-old child slept in a cot nearby. There are scores of others like them.
Yet, Gerry Adams dares to say that he would censure Donald Trump for being insufficiently respectful of women, when it's the republican movement which has treated women's bodies as collateral damage for decades. Compared to what the IRA actually did to women, what Trump said about them barely registers on the scale.
Is it fair to deny Adams the right to speak out about the treatment of other women just because of what the IRA did in the past? Absolutely it is, because the Sinn Fein leader is one of the few remaining direct links between then and now.
Others of his generation have either died or left office. He still hangs around, like the proverbial bad smell and, far from showing any remorse for the atrocities which happened under his watch as the senior republican leader of his era, Adams still unapologetically defends the Provisional IRA as patriotic heroes.
The women named above are just a handful of the women who were deliberately singled out for death. The list scarcely scratches the surface of the women who lost their lives, because they were tragically caught up in IRA gun and bomb attacks.
Young or old. Catholic or Protestant. In uniform or out of it. IRA commanders never lost a single night's sleep about mounting attacks in which the bodies of women were butchered.
Sinn Fein now likes to present itself as a party that stands squarely for the rights of women, with the moral authority to chide the leader of the free world for his less-than-enlightened and progressive opinions.
Advocating for the "right to choose", or allowing Michelle O'Neill to be the figurehead in the north for a shiny, new strategy, is all very nice, but feminism is no more than a fashion accessory if it means keeping quiet about what republicans repeatedly did to women in the name of a united Ireland.
Actions speak louder than words. And the IRA's actions make any claim to care about women sound insultingly hollow.