If you've forgiven somebody for his responsibility for the murders of innocent people, it may be an impossible moral contortion to challenge him about his role in the protection and promotion of an alleged paedophile. How else to explain the relative media silence about revelations in this newspaper that Gerry Adams had allowed an accused child abuser – his brother Liam – to rise to a position of some prominence in Sinn Féin but, vastly more seriously, to work on a continuing basis with young people throughout Northern Ireland?
Adams and his party have lied on several occasions about Liam Adams' role in Sinn Féin and supposed warnings to a putative employer of his, and these lies have been outlined in some detail in this newspaper.
But the so-called big beasts of the media world — most particularly The Irish Times and RTÉ — have effectively ignored the story while dutifully and correctly pursuing members of the hierarchy who were named in the Murphy report, some of whom also facilitated the employment of child abusers, real and alleged,
in close proximity to children.
Given the enthusiasm for kicking Bishop Drennan up the arse (to slightly alter a line from Father Ted), why not the same courageous pursuit of the truth in relation to the Sinn Féin president?
To answer that is to grapple with the nature of the establishment media (self-styled) in modern day society. There are newspapers and broadcasting organisations which see themselves as a counterbalance to and challengers of the centres of power and then there are newspapers and broadcasting organisations which see themselves as the centres of power – movers and shakers and key players in the daily doings of the country. Any challenge to the official consensus (as the Sunday Tribune's revelations have been to the idea of Gerry Adams as Ireland's Mandela, a benign and cuddly peacemaker) will not be tolerated; all tough questions are avoided and all official spin is gratefully swallowed. Sinn Féin representatives have apparently suggested to some media groups that undue attention on Adams might affect the latest delicate stage of the peace process, and those media groups have bought into this, although it is obvious nonsense.
But those questions we mentioned haven't gone away, you know. Our Northern Editor Suzanne Breen has posed them two weeks in a row, and I ask them again today, for the record and to highlight the fact that Adams and Sinn Féin have so far refused to answer them (and indeed have lied when they have deigned to deal with the controversy). Why did Adams attend the wedding of his brother and stand smiling for photographs when he believed him to be a paedophile? Why was Liam allowed to be in Sinn Féin for at least seven years? Why in his 1996 autobiography Before The Dawn did Adams make 11 references to "our Liam" with no negative insinuation, almost a decade after he believed he had raped his daughter Aine?
Liam Adams worked for several youth projects in Dundalk and west Belfast. Adams claims that, whenever he became aware his brother held positions, he informed those projects. Where is Adams' written record of this? Who are the people he spoke to? When Gerry Adams saw Liam so successfully seeking and securing jobs working with young people, why didn't he make his concerns public? Why did he stay publicly silent when children in his own west Belfast constituency were potentially at risk?
Despite the unwillingness of the likes of The Irish Times and RTÉ to ask these questions, they are being discussed widely in Republican circles. I'm told that at a level in Sinn Féin, just below the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil monkeys who make up the party's two parliamentary delegations, there is huge anger at the casual manner in which Gerry Adams dealt with a brother he believed to be a paedophile.
Because of the nature of the party and its traditionally strict approach to discipline (to put it euphemistically), it can be hard for these people to make their displeasure known, but you have to think that if another scandal was to erupt around Adams, or other Sinn Féin leaders, all hell would break loose in the party. It might then, finally, undergo the kind of intense self-examination and internal debate it needs as it struggles to cope with life in 21st-century Ireland. Whether such a scandal would be of interest to the likes
of RTÉ is another question altogether.
Minister snow flake, bring out men in green
The Minister for Snow, John Gormley, began in his new role by blaming opposition parties for the difficulties encountered around the country during the bad weather. When he's stopped playing politics with the situation, perhaps he could turn his attention to some of the real problems being faced by people.
As the snow minister says, the main roads are mostly fine so far; it's the footpaths that are causing some real difficulties for people. One solution to would be to task our basically unemployed army with removing ice and snow from paths in villages, towns and cities throughout the country. It would be of huge benefit to shoppers, the elderly, schoolchildren (if they ever go back after the holidays) and workers. It would also be a good pr move for the army, whose soldiers seem to spend most of their time confined to barracks with no interaction with their local communities.