Belfast Telegraph

SF leader's catalogue of evasions, untruths and prevarications over Liam Adams

Gerry Adams with his brother Liam at a wedding
Gerry Adams with his brother Liam at a wedding
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Gerry Adams is not in any way accountable for the actions of his paedophile brother Liam. But the former Sinn Fein president is certainly responsible for his own actions when he learnt that his brother had raped his own daughter, and then again when the story came into the public domain.

Even a cursory examination shows a catalogue of evasions, prevarications, and untruths.

Any other party leader in these islands would have resigned or been removed when the truth was exposed between 2009 and 2013. But in Sinn Fein, in those days anyway, normal political rules didn't apply.

Aine Dahlstrom bravely waived her right to anonymity in 2009 to tell UTV's Insight programme how her father Liam had sexually abused her from the age of four for six years.

If they didn't already know about the abuse from their own surveillance, MI5 will certainly have learned about it in 1987 when Aine and her mother Sally reported it to the RUC.

It seems odd that the intelligence services never leaked the details to the media in an attempt to damage the Sinn Fein president.

When the story broke, it seemed he did everything possible to protect his own reputation and the Adams' name.

He constructed a narrative of how, after learning his brother was a child rapist, he was estranged from him for 15 years until around 2002-2003. This reporter nailed that as a lie.

As Northern Editor of the Sunday Tribune, I started digging and found this estrangement was about as true as Gerry Adams' denials that he was in the IRA.

From trawling through old newspapers and talking to republicans in Dundalk and west Belfast, the Sinn Fein president's story was blown apart.

It certainly wasn't a case of anonymous sources casting doubt on his credibility. There was actually written, and most importantly, photographic proof that he wasn't telling the truth.

I discovered what Gerry Adams didn't want revealed - that Liam had been a highly active figure in Sinn Fein in Dundalk who remained close to his older brother.

Veteran republicans there were furious that the Sinn Fein president had hidden the truth about Liam which meant they had unwittingly worked alongside a child rapist for years.

I uncovered photographs of Gerry Adams at the wedding of his "estranged" brother to his second wife Bronagh. He attended the ceremony and the reception in the Castlebellingham Hotel. The pictures show the brothers and guests, arms around each other. Mr Adams is even wearing a republican emblem.

I reported that Liam Adams had been a prominent figure in Sinn Fein in Co Louth. I found a photograph and newspaper report of him welcoming Martin McGuinness to open the party's new office in the town.

I learned that Liam Adams had contested the Sinn Fein Dail nomination in the constituency in 1997 but was beaten by local republican Owenie Hanratty. The party strongly denied this. They presented Liam as having played a brief, minor role in Sinn Fein.

Gerry Adams said that when he heard Liam was interested in the Dail nomination "I moved immediately both to stop that and to get him dumped out of SF ... I moved very, very quickly".

But there was photographic evidence to the contrary. Far from having Liam dumped from the party, Gerry Adams accompanied his paedophile brother on a Sinn Fein canvass through Dundalk town centre just days before the June election. Photographs show the brothers laughing while on the campaign trail.

The other republicans in the pictures were livid.

Former Sinn Fein election agent Fra Browne told me: "No one on that canvass except Gerry Adams knew that Liam was a paedophile. Unlike Gerry Adams, had we known, we'd have chased Liam.

"A child abuser has no place on any party's election team. Gerry Adams kept us in the dark. I'm stunned... it sullies the name of the republican movement and gives the idea that we protected a paedophile."

The Sinn Fein Dail candidate Owenie Hanratty said: "Neither my wife Marie (who was also in the picture) nor myself had any idea Liam Adams was a paedophile. Had we known we would most certainly not have allowed ourselves to be photographed with him under any circumstances. As the Sinn Fein Dail candidate, I would not have allowed Liam Adams on the canvass had I known he was a paedophile. We weren't told."

Far from being in Sinn Fein in Dundalk only briefly, I discovered Liam Adams had been active there for seven years and had risen to become the chair of the comhairle ceantair - the most senior elected official in the county, who was responsible for liaising with the Belfast leadership. He was seen very much as his brother's eyes and ears in Dundalk.

Five months after Sinn Fein said Liam Adams was supposedly dumped from the party, I found he had played a prominent role in the Edentubber 40th anniversary commemoration just outside Dundalk. Honouring five IRA members killed in the Border campaign, it's the most important individual commemoration in the republican calendar after Bodenstown.

Despite the tension between the Belfast leadership and local republicans, Liam Adams had been liked in Dundalk. He was seen as much friendlier than his brother and was regarded as having breathed new life into his local cumann in Muirhevnamor.

His role in Sinn Fein continued well beyond the 1990s. He moved to west Belfast where he was a founder member of the Lower Andersontown cumann which met weekly in the Felons Club. He was a treasurer for Sinn Fein in west Belfast.

Gerry Adams said he didn't tell anyone in Sinn Fein that there were allegations of paedophilia against his brother. This contravened the party's constitution at the time.

The former Sinn Fein president's actions would have caused uproar in the ranks of any other party. But in Sinn Fein, not one of his senior colleagues made even the slightest criticism.

Party representatives including Mary Lou McDonald - who had rightly railed against the Catholic Church's response to paedophile priests - disgracefully failed to rebuke him, and still do to this very day.

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