Gerry Adams feels wrath of IRA victims’ families as he faces calls to ‘come clean’
Families whose loved ones were murdered by the IRA have urged Gerry Adams to "come clean" before he steps down as Sinn Fein leader.
The decision by Mr Adams to retire after 35 uncontested years at the helm of the party has been widely welcomed. The 69-year-old republican told the party's ard fheis in Dublin it would be his last as leader, and a special meeting would be called next year to elect a successor.
- Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald firm favourite to take over from Gerry Adams
- Irony of peace process is how Adams’s violent past haunted him
- Gerry Adams steered Sinn Fein to unrivalled success, but not to a united Ireland
- Spare me your 'forgiveness' and offer up an apology, Mr Adams
Mary Lou McDonald (48), the current deputy leader, is the clear favourite to succeed him.
But relatives of some of the IRA's most high-profile victims have said the move brings them no closer to justice.
Despite Mr Adams's denials of IRA membership, families of the terror group's victims, such as 21-year-old Paul Quinn from south Armagh, believe he could help jail their murderers.
"He must know who the murderers are. All of them. Why doesn't he come clean now and say who they are?" said Paul Quinn's father Stephen.
"I'm glad to see him going."
Paul was beaten to death by an IRA gang in a barn in Co Monaghan in 2007.
Every bone below his neck was broken by the gang, who used iron bars and nail-studded cudgels. He had fallen foul of the Provos after punching the son of the south Armagh IRA commander.
Mr Adams' speech also drew IRA victims' anger after he branded the Troubles "a war".
Serena Hamilton (49), a mother-of-two from Cookstown, was just seven when her father David Graham, a part-time UDR man, was shot dead.
The 38-year-old father-of-three had been on his way to his day job in a factory in Coalisland when he was killed.
She said: "When my father signed up to the UDR it was to assist the police and the Army, he did not believe he was entering into a war. He was helping to protect people, to keep them safe from terrorists.
"Nor was he ever told it was a war - if it was then where were the IRA soldiers? Why were they not fighting on the streets instead of hiding in ditches and hedges in the dark waiting to murder innocent people."
She added: "It wasn't a war, it was a terrorist campaign."
Mr Adams's comments also drew condemnation on Twitter, where hundreds of tweets, under the hashtag #itwasntawar, revealed a roll call of loved ones who died at the hands of the IRA.
Among them was Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was shot dead by gunmen out to kill her father, Catholic magistrate Thomas, as the family walked home from Mass in south Belfast in 1984.
She posted: "Mary Travers murdered 8/4/84 age 23, while walking home from mass by IRA."
Stephen Gault, whose father Samuel was killed in the 1987 Enniskillen bomb tweeted tributes to the victims of the IRA atrocity.
It was also noted by some critics that Mr Adams did not mention any victims of IRA violence during his speech.
Meanwhile, the son-in-law of Jean McConville (37), who was kidnapped and murdered by the IRA in 1972, said Mr Adams will "just take his secrets with him".
Seamus McKendry said: "It'd be nice if he just left a file and said 'you deal with that'. But it won't happen."
He described Mr Adams as "an embarrassment to Sinn Fein".
The body of Oliver McVeigh's brother Columba (17), from Donaghmore in Co Tyrone, has never been recovered.
Oliver said: "It is irrelevant to me whether it was a war or not, there was a war in other places but people got loved ones' bodies back to bury them - we still don't have my brother."
Mr Adams has also been criticised over the case of Brian Stack (48), who was the chief prison officer in Portlaoise prison when he was shot in the neck.
The father-of-three was left brain-damaged and died 18 months after the attack.
"As a family, at this stage, we have no expectation that Gerry Adams will ever tell the truth," Mr Stack's son Austin said.
Detective Garda Jerry McCabe's wife Anne said his murder in 1996 left behind five children "during Gerry Adams' leadership of Sinn Fein".
"Four men were convicted of his killing and received prison sentences. These four killers were strongly supported by Gerry Adams and Martin Ferris. Two men are still on the run and are wanted for questioning by An Garda Siochana," she said.
Mr Ferris, who spent time in prison for gun-gunning was embraced on stage on Saturday night as it was announced that he will not contest the next election.
Yesterday, Mr Adams claimed he understands how victims of IRA violence feel. He said those killed during the Troubles cannot be brought back, but that it is possible to ensure history is not repeated.
Commenting on the criticism, he said: "There have been many victims. I have a particular affinity with those who were victims of the IRA because obviously throughout my political life I have defended the IRA. But I understand how people feel."