Crisis of a New Order
I did not know Liam Adams and was not aware of any allegations of rape against him up until the Insight documentary. About the only thing I knew on him was that he had been kneecapped in the 1970s. I knew the father, ‘auld Gerry’ as they called him, but only to say hello to on the street. I witnessed him getting nasty at the funeral of Liam Burke in 1995 because he objected to the way the tricolour was being folded prior to the handover of the national flag to the family of the deceased. But ‘grumpy old men’ are what they are so I had no personal reason to take umbrage against him on account of that. Although in the light of Gerry Adams’ comments that his father had besmirched the National flag through his depravity, his objections to how others folded it seemed trite by comparison.
Shortly after ‘auld Gerry’ died I was told that staff in the nursing home where he was had complained that Gerry Adams and other family members did not visit him much. The person telling me added that the reason there was little contact was because ‘auld Gerry’ had abused some of his children. Until this week I never repeated it or passed it on to friends or journalists even in casual conversation. I had not the slightest evidence it was true. Stories like that apart from being a dime a dozen grow legs all too easily and are off on the gallop sustaining themselves when there is nothing else to keep them going. Whatever critiques I mounted against the political strategy of Gerry Adams feeding nastiness of that nature was not part of it. There was little of appeal in the view of some that republican opponents of the party should copy the Sinn Fein tactic of focussing in on people’s personal problems and then smearing their target on the strength of it. What other than poison does that inject into political discourse?
I doubt if any real objection was raised by Gerry Adams to the decision to drape his father’s coffin with the tricolour. He could simply have said the father had confided in him some time before he died that he wanted a ‘civilian’ funeral and not been overruled. Who would have insisted otherwise? A more plausible explanation for the traditional republican send off was that it was part of the cover-up that was put in place to shield Liam Adams. ‘Auld Gerry’ buried without honours would have raised too many questions. Much easier to dupe the thousands who made up the cortege.
That Gerry Adams should only now out his father as a child molester was likely due to the fact that the story was going to break anyway. Fed or not by pre-broadcast leakage from the Insight documentary, it was being predicted in some Belfast circles for almost two weeks prior to Gerry Adams’ announcing it that a sex abuse scandal implicating ‘auld Gerry’ was imminent. Pat Kenny this morning hinted most strongly during his lengthy exchange with Irish News editor, Noel Doran, that Gerry Adams moved before the posse caught up with him. Whatever the intention of Gerry Adams in exposing his father’s wrongdoing the effect has been to cast himself in a soft sympathetic light; he and his wider family now take on the mantle of the victims thus denying Aine Tyrell some of the vital oxygen of publicity. This was followed by Sinn Fein calls for the family to be afforded privacy. Like the recent debate surrounding the Adams handling of the 1981 hunger strike, the intention is to smother any further probing.
In the media there is growing scepticism of Gerry Adams’ explanations. There is a cursory nod made to his personal predicament followed by strong suggestions that he is pursuing a self serving agenda aimed at protecting his political career. Addicted to wielding power, a life without it can only be contemplated as a desolate existence. He has survived every crisis thus far but this is a crisis of a new order. Covering for bank robbers, society can swallow, but as the bishops controversy has shown, covering for child rapists forces society to vomit.