The Adams Family
For many of his critics it is normally easy to gloat when Adams squirms during televised interviews. But what was there to smirk about here when each little voodoo pin thrust into Adams was fashioned from the horrendous experience of a raped child? For some the sun is shining and the temptation to make hay is irresistible. For others the sun is setting on the long political career of the Sinn Fein boss of bosses, hastened no doubt by the latest controversy. Given the dark backdrop it is something to be observed rather than celebrated.
While the president of Sinn Fein cannot be held responsible for the actions of his brother his knowledge of child sex allegations against the same brother – allegations which Gerry Adams claims to have believed from ‘the very beginning’ - for over twenty years without having brought them to the attention of any authority North or South ensures he will be faced with enormous pressure to explain the stance he took. No different from the bishop whose behaviour was described as inexcusable in the Murphy Report. Moreover, that he should promote a man who he firmly believed to be a child rapist as a possible contender for a Dail seat in 1997 is nothing short of scandalous.
Fanning the flames beneath the Adams feet is the imagery of the priest Aidan Troy visiting the rape survivor at the request of her abuser. It lends itself to a damning fusion which joins the dots between the Catholic Church and the Catholic Provos. Suddenly collusion takes on a new inflection which flags up what should have been a straightforward police matter being steered away from PSNI intervention, for no seeming purpose other than protecting the reputation of Gerry Adams. While many continue not to support the PSNI because of the political policing dimension which overwrites its civic function, there is no cause not to acknowledge the crucial role it has to, and must, play in dealing with cases such as this one.
It is instructive to note that Sinn Fein were much quicker out of the traps calling for their own IRA volunteers to make themselves accountable to the PSNI when they went AWOL during their trial for the kidnapping of Bobby Tohill. Almost immediately the party was screaming for them to give themselves up. Yet an arrest warrant was issued for Liam Adams a year ago and it is only now, when confronted by Chris Moore, that the party leader is calling for this wanted man to make himself amenable.
A subdued and visibly shaken Adams, in no position to resort to the usual bullying and hectoring, laboured unconvincingly to push back the suggestion that he was at best tardy in dealing with the matter and that his real motivation might have been governed by a perceived need to protect the institution of which he is the cardinal figure rather than securing justice for the abused woman. Perhaps he might plead mitigation on the grounds of being embroiled in a complex family trauma where emotions can be strained and tensions simmer. Unlike bishops who cover up for the priests they are not blood related to, Gerry Adams will have undergone some degree of emotional conflict: ‘this is a hugely difficult personal matter.’ Yet none of it absolves him of his responsibilities. He had a duty to become an advocate on behalf of the woman who was child raped rather than promote the rapist. The one appropriate option left to him is to resign from the leadership of Sinn Fein and step down from his role as an elected representative. The Bishop of Limerick can hardly walk off, albeit reluctant and grudging, into the sunset while the bishop of West Belfast clings on forever and a day.
When Tom Hartley told the Spanish academic Rogelio Alonso that Adams ‘acted like an archbishop’ the comparison might prove to be more accurate than Hartley ever envisaged.