The alleged child abuse in Gerry Adams’s family is close to being a perfect metaphor for Ireland’s failure to confront the disaster of violent republicanism. With sexual violence as with political violence, with the personal as well as the political, Irish nationalism cannot break from the dire illusions of the past.
As of Christmas, we had learnt that in 1987, 14-year-old Aine Adams claimed to her Uncle Gerry that her father – his brother, Liam – had been abusing her since she was four years old. He believed her. “She was always a very good wee girl; I just couldn’t imagine a child like her making up such a serious allegation,” he told Ulster TV, before going on to reveal that his father, whom he had buried with full republican honours, had also been a paedophile. Inadvertently or not, the unexpected baring of a soul few suspected he possessed diverted attention and it took a few days for the press to move from praising Adams’s “bravery” in emoting about his father to the practical question of what he had done for his niece and for other potential victims.
As far as I can see, for 22 years, he did next to nothing until Aine forced the issue by going on camera. She told Adams she had proved that there was a prima facie case to answer by agreeing to a police medical examination. Instead of being supported, Aine was persuaded to stop co-operating with the forces of British imperialism. In 1995, Adams went further and insisted that all abused Catholic boys and girls should refuse to talk to the RUC because the authorities used “these issues for their own militaristic ends”.
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