‘We weren’t discussing his teddybears’

Analysis: Adams becoming a problem for his successor in Sinn Féin

Maíria Cahill speaks to Irish Times political correspondent Mary Minihan after her meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in October 2014.Video : Bryan O'Brien

 

Maíria Cahill brought a very serious allegation to Taoiseach Enda Kenny this morning: that child sex abusers were moved by republicans from Northern Ireland to locations south of the border.

Ms Cahill, who alleges she was raped by an IRA member, repeated today her claim that she discussed her allegation with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams at a meeting with him.

Mr Adams has denied this happened - although he says they talked about it later and he told her to go to the RUC.

“I met him from 2000 right through to 2006. I mean, we weren’t discussing his teddybears, he knows exactly what we were discussing,” she said after her meeting with Mr Kenny in Government Buildings today.

This was a cutting reference to Mr Adam’s whimsical Twitter persona and frequent allusions to the escapades of his bear (or is it alter ego?) known simply as Ted.

Is Ted about to take a tumble?

Mr Adams was gravely offended last night when Mr Kenny suggested if he was at the centre of a similar controversy he would not retain his position at the top of Fine Gael for long.

It is true that if you were to put Mr Kenny, Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin or any other party leader in Mr Adams’ current position, internal support would inevitably ebb away.

The man at the top would be replaced.

But Sinn Féin is not like other parties, which have seen numerous leaders come and go over recent years. Mr Adams has been leader for three decades.

There is obviously a historical context which other parties in the Republic do not share, but his standing in the party North and South remains unassailable.

The party evidently cannot visualise itself without the Belfast man at the helm.

This is a problem for the person who will become his successor.

In politics, power is there to be grabbed when the moment is right and generally when the leader is wounded and weakened.

Attempts to ensure a peaceful transition of leadership rarely work out for the person who takes over. Brian Cowen and Gordon Brown can probably testify to that.

The focus of Sinn Féin’s political opponents is now is on Mary-Lou McDonald, deputy leader of Sinn Féin and staunch defender of Mr Adams.

With the Cahill controversy playing out in public, Ms Cahill today revealed Ms McDonald had used Twitter to send her a direct message.

Ms McDonald set out her contact details and urged Ms Cahill to get in touch should she wish to do so, according to Ms Cahill.

Ms Cahill said she would meet Ms McDonald when she and other leading Sinn Féin figures are “prepared to say I’m telling the truth”.

But Ms McDonald will not go further than saying she believes Ms Cahill was abused and continue calling on anyone with any information about child sexual abuse to go to the authorities immediately.

To entertain to any extent Ms Cahill’s other allegations would put Ms McDonald in direct conflict with Mr Adams.

This, Ms Cahill says, is why other abuse victims are not coming forward: They are watching how she is being treated and are afraid that they too will not be fully believed.

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