In the first of a series of pieces, breaking up the lengthy cross examination of Gerry Adams, barrister Eilis McDermott renders Mr Adams unpersuasive when he makes the case that he told his sister in law about the serious allegations of child sex abuse made against her husband.
Cross examination of Gerry Adams by Ms McDermott QC at the Crown Court in Northern Ireland sitting at Belfast; Monday April 22nd 2013. Supplied by the office of the Lord Chief Justice
Ms McDermott: Mr Adams, when you went to Buncrana in March of 1987 you were aware, weren't you, that your niece was alleging that her father had sexually abused her?
Gerry Adams: That's right; yes.
Q: And were you aware, at that time, that she was making an allegation that he had raped her?
Q: Were you aware, at that time, that she was making an allegation that he had caused her to have oral sex with him?
Q: When did you become aware of her allegation that he had raped her?
A: We never discussed the detail of her allegation.
Q: Well you have become aware, at some stage before today, that she is alleging that he raped her?
A: The first time that I recollect I became aware of that was when my brother, Liam, was questioned by the PSNI, and these charges were put to him.
Q: Was that in 2007?
A: Whatever time it was; I don't recall.
Q: Well if you take it from me for the moment that that was 2007. Is it the position then that for 20 years you were unaware that your niece was making an allegation of rape?
A: That's true. But I was very aware that she was making an allegation of serious sexual interference.
Q: Yes, I'm not... I'm not disputing that Mr Adams. I think if you just try to answer the question, the information will flow.
Judge Philpott: Well I think, Ms McDermott, that was probably all right.
Ms McDermott: As your Honour pleases.
(To the witness): And the same is true of oral sex, as is true of rape. You weren't aware of that allegation until 2007?
A: That's true. I... may I explain, your Honour?
Judge Philpott: No, I think that is all right.
The Witness: Okay.
Ms McDermott: And you may or may not be aware that the evidence of Mrs Campbell has been that she told you in detail before the Buncrana meeting about the allegations that her daughter was making?
A: Well I have no recollection of that.
Q: It goes without saying, would you agree, that if you were told that your brother was alleged to have raped his daughter, that's something that would never leave your mind?
A: That's true. Let me say that I didn't want to know the detail, and I consciously (because this is a dreadful thing that allegedly happened) didn't want to know the detail.
Q: Well whether you wanted to know, or not, your evidence is that you did not know until 2007; is that right?
A: The specifics of the rape allegation, and the oral sex allegation, yes, but the specifics of Liam telling me that he had sexually interfered with her, that he had assaulted her, and molested her - I was conscious of that.
Q: Because any allegation of sexual abuse against a child is a matter of the most fundamental seriousness; is that not so?
A: Absolutely, and this matter had been brought to the attention of the police and the Social Services.
Q: I will be coming to ask you about that in due course, Mr Adams. But an allegation of sexual assault against a child is a matter (as you've agreed) of fundamental seriousness, not only because of the harm and damage that it's alleged is done to the particular child, but because a person who would do such a thing is a danger to other children; isn't that right?
A: That's true; yes.
Q: And that is well recognized, and was well recognized by you?
A: Yes, and I... I brought this matter to the attention of Liam's partner at that time. In terms of the 20 year span that you refer to, a lot of that time they were not on the island of Ireland.
Q: I'll be coming to ask you all this, Mr Adams, in due course. Did you say, when you were in Buncrana, to your brother that if the allegations were true, you would hit him with a hammer?
A: No, I did not.
Q: You were well aware (you've just made reference to it, in fact) that your brother was living in Buncrana at that time with, as part of his family, a two year old daughter?
Q: Was his partner in the house on the 9th of March 1987, when you visited?
A: I can't recall that, but I do know that I went to see her subsequently.
Q: Does it strike you as strange that you can't remember whether she was there or not?
A: No, it doesn't. This was a very traumatic event. It's quite a long time ago. I am quite perplexed at my inability, for example, to get the time-line of all of this right. But it doesn't strike me as strange at all.
Q: Well whatever about the time-line - well perhaps I'll just leave the matter at that. You say you've no recollection of her being there?
A: No. I do recollect that we had tea and biscuits, of all the obscure things that I remember.
Q: But you don't remember whether his partner was there?
A: No, I don't, no.
Q: And you have just said that you told her about these allegations having been made by your niece?
A: Yes, because I was very conscious, on the foot of such an allegation, that one has to protect other minors.
Q: You see I want to suggest to you, Mr Adams, that you never told her?
A: Well I did.
Q: When did you tell her?
A: At her home in Andersonstown, in around this –
Q: And when was that?
A: Well, again, it was subsequent to the Buncrana meeting.
Q: Well how much subsequent was it?
A: Again, I can't recall. But my sense of it is that I brought it to her attention quite quickly.
Q: Well when you say the home in Andersonstown, do you mean a home that she was sharing with your brother?
A: No, I don't think so. I think that they were... they were living, at that time, in Buncrana.
Q: No, you said that you brought it to her attention at her home in Andersonstown?
A: I did say that, yes.
Q: When was that?
A: Well I don't remember the exact time but eh...
Q: Well was she living with your brother, in this home in Andersonstown, at the time?
A: I presume so, but I think that was their family home; if that's the right expression.
Q: Well who were they living with?
A: Well they were living at Buncrana at that time.
Q: No, I'm asking you about the home you've referred to in Andersonstown?
A: Well they subsequently lived in a home in Andersonstown.
A: But, again, because of my uncertainty about the time-lines of this that may have been, you know, some long time afterwards. But I do remember making a point of telling Liam's partner of the allegation that was made.
Q: You see, Mr Adams, your brother's wife (as she is now) she's called Bronagh, isn't that right, just...
A: That's right.
Q: ... she might be called that for shorthand. She didn't have a home in Andersonstown until she was living there with your brother in 1999 or 2000; thirteen years after this allegation is made in Buncrana?
A: Well, all I can tell you, and it's the truth, that she was told of this very quickly after the engagement with Liam. Now, perhaps, and I make no apologies for this, there were other development in my family which had nothing to do with Aine, which was also pre-occupying me. And I have a very clear recollection, perhaps not about the exact place that it occurred, that I brought this to Bronagh's attention.
Q: And you brought it to her attention?
Q: And when I ask you where that was, you say it was at a house in Andersonstown?
A: Well I may be mistaken in that, and I acknowledge that.
Q: Well where was it, Mr Adams, and when was it?
A: Well it was quickly after the initial meeting in Buncrana, and I can't tell you with any clarity where exactly it took place. But I can tell you with absolute clarity that I give her this information.
Q: Well she was living in Buncrana at this time; isn't that right?
A: That's right; yes.
Q: When you went in 1987, did you go back to Buncrana to tell her?
A: No, I didn't go back to Buncrana to my knowledge, no.
Q: And your recollection of telling her in a house in Andersonstown or in her home in Andersonstown can't be right; can it?
A: Well I concede that.
Q: So where was it?
A: Well I've already told you I don't recollect. My initial... my initial response to your question was that it was in Andersonstown, but I concede that that may be erroneous but I am very, very clear about me bringing this to her attention.
Q: Well is this not surely something else that would never leave your mind - having to go to your brother's partner to tell her that his daughter had made allegations of serious sexual abuse?
A: Well that's why I'm so clear that I did it.
Q: Can you remember what she said?
A: She refused to accept what was being said.
Q: And what did you do about that?
A: I couldn't do anything, I could simply just tell her what had been alleged. I felt that I had fulfilled my responsibility, by bringing it to her attention.
Q: And did you go and visit her, by yourself, or with somebody else?
A: By myself.
Q: And even now, as you sit there, have you no picture in your minds of the circumstances in which you say that happened?
A: Well I do have a sense that it happened in Belfast, and Bronagh's parents lived in Belfast, and I may have arranged to see her in -
Q: I'm not asking you about a sense, Mr Adams. I'm asking you about a recollection.
A: I'm giving you a sense, with respect -
Q: But I'm not asking you for a sense. I'm asking you for a recollection - whether you have a recollection or whether you don't?
A: A recollection about what place?
Q: A recollection about telling your brother's partner about the allegations that your niece had made?
A: Yes, I do have a recollection of that. I've just explained it to you.
Q: Did you tell Social Services in Donegal about the allegations?
A: No, I didn't.
Q: You've told the court today that your niece's mother, you sister-in-law at that time (now Mrs Campbell) and her family had moved to Scotland?
Q: I suggest to you that that didn't happen until Aine was eighteen?
A: Well, again, I don't have any specific recollection of this. You may, your Honour, recollect that the decade we're talking about (or even more than a decade) was an extremely busy time for me, in terms of my political work.
Q: And you give this as a reason - do you, Mr Adams - why you might not be able to remember some of these things; that you were busy with your political work?
A: No, I give it as an explanation. If you recall, these were the years in which cessations were arranged, in which talks were opened up, in which Good Friday Agreement was negotiated, and so on. I give it not as a reason, but as an explanation. And I also should note that the RUC at that time had... I was advised had a statement and that the Social Services had been given an account.
Q: Mr Adams, have I asked you anything about the RUC just, or Social Services? We're coming to that in due course. And the Good Friday Agreement certainly wasn't being negotiated in 1987; was it?
A: The Good Friday Agreement wasn't, but the peace process was.
Q: The peace process had begun then; had it?
A: Well the history of that is now well known, and you don't need me to give you through all of the dates involved.
Q: No, I'm not asking you about the history of the peace process, Mr Adams. I am asking you whether you know that, in fact, your niece remained in Belfast with her mother and other members of her family (according to her) until she was eighteen, which is five years after the 1987 meeting in Buncrana?
A: Well I think, with respect, I have answered that question. I do have a problem around exact time-lines. I know she went to Scotland. I don't know precisely when she went. I know she was there for some time, and then returned. The only clear landmark date that is in my head was arranged the funeral in 1999.
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