Questions for Mr Adams


Questions are being asked about the integrity and principles of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, arising from the sexual abuse of his niece by his brother and the abduction and murder of mother of ten Jean McConville, in Belfast in 1972. The events may be 25 or more years in the past, but their reverberations undermine the party’s demands for high standards of transparency and accountability in public life.

During the week, a new television programme on “the disappeared” saw Mr Adams denying any involvement in the abduction and murder of Mrs McConville. It was of a piece with his disclaimers of Provisional IRA membership and of being Belfast commander, even when disillusioned colleagues implicated him in her death. Whatever about past IRA activities, the Sinn Féin leader’s failure for many years to report the sexual abuse of a young girl will find few apologists. The abuser was, indeed, his brother. But the allegation, brought to his attention in 1987, was acknowledged as true in 2000. Nine years were to pass before Mr Adams went to the police with this information, though he had earlier called on republicans to accept and support the PSNI. Last month, Liam Adams was found guilty of the rape and sexual abuse of his daughter.

The murderous, twilight world of subversion and terrorism in Northern Ireland clearly twisted the moral compasses of those involved. The “cause” was used to justify almost any excess. Truth became just another casualty and was regarded as dispensable by both the IRA and Sinn Féin. Outright denials of involvement followed the murders of Det Garda Gerry McCabe in Limerick and of Robert McCartney in Belfast. A similar response followed the Northern Bank robbery. It wasn’t a matter of plausibility, but of determined fabrication by those involved.

Obfuscation and denial served Mr Adams well while he and like-minded colleagues led militant elements of the Provisional IRA down the political road towards compromise, the Belfast Agreement and disarmament. Disillusionment and accusations of sell-out followed. But the republican movement was brought into alignment with the will of the people and Sinn Féin supplanted the SDLP as the primary voice of nationalism in Northern Ireland.

In this State, to the chagrin of Sinn Féin, the electoral spoils went to Bertie Ahern and Fianna Fáil who were regarded as the main drivers of the Agreement. Since then, the political landscape has changed. Sinn Féin has made considerable gains and regards itself as a future party of power, in a coalition government. Mr Adams was elected for the Louth constituency and leads his party in the Dáil. His past activities have not, however, gone away, while his denials and prevarications have become increasingly threadbare, self-serving and unacceptable.