As Liam Adams is convicted, focus turns to what SF leader knew
Gerry Adams was aware of abuse allegation against his brother as far back as 1987
Liam Adams: this trial and an earlier one, which collapsed in April, brought a sharp focus onto Gerry Adams that is not going away. Photograph: Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
There were elements of finality for two members of the Adams family in Belfast yesterday but not for the third, the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams.
At Laganside Crown Court in the city centre Liam Adams was taken away by prison officers to serve a 16-year sentence for sexually abusing his daughter Aine. She referred to her “absolute relief that this nightmare seems at last to be coming to an end”.
Over in west Belfast where he was about to attend the funeral of Fr Alec Reid the Sinn Féin leader, brother of Liam Adams, must have mused that the nightmare isn’t at all over.
This trial and an earlier trial of Liam Adams, which collapsed in April, brought a sharp focus on to Gerry Adams that is not going away.
Police Ombudsman Dr Michael Maguire and Attorney General John Larkin are as a result of the two trials reviewing issues around whether Gerry Adams withheld information about his brother’s sexual assault of Áine Adams.
It is the result of those examinations that could determine whether Gerry Adams will suffer more political damage due to these trials.
Larkin is expected to conclude his investigation next week, while Maguire’s work could take until early next year.
Both the first and the second, completed, trial raised serious questions for Gerry Adams. It emerged that as far back as 1987 the Sinn Féin president was aware of the abuse allegation against his brother – an allegation Liam Adams denied that same year when confronted by the Sinn Féin leader in Buncrana, Co Donegal.
That case never proceeded because Aine Adams retracted her evidence to the RUC, complaining that some police officers appeared more interested in her uncle Gerry Adams than in her allegations.
In 2006 she repeated the allegations to the PSNI. She said she had always wanted her father to admit the abuse so she could achieve some form of “closure”.
In the first trial, which collapsed for legal reasons, Gerry Adams said that during a “walk in the rain” in Dundalk in 2000, Liam Adams admitted to him that on one occasion he had sexually assaulted his daughter, although he denied raping her.
After Aine Adams reactivated her 1987 allegation, in 2006, Gerry Adams went to the police in 2007 to give a statement – but did not tell them about the 2000 admission by his brother.
It wasn’t until 2009 that Gerry Adams told police about Liam Adams’s partial and limited confession.
During the first trial, Liam Adams’s counsel, Eilis McDermott QC, said the reason he gave the 2009 statement was because he already knew that UTV’s Insight programme was about to run a special documentary about the abuse.
She said: “You needed to make the statement at that stage because you wanted to do your best to avoid allegations that you had withheld information about child sexual abuse?”