7 January 2010 Edition
Tragic Tale of Sexual Abuse
In the week before Christmas many people will have been shocked by a deeply moving UTV Insight programme which contained allegations of sexual abuse by Liam Adams, a brother of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, against his daughter Áine Tyrell. In the course of the programme Áine outlined her story, which contained a horrific catalogue of alleged sexual abuse from her childhood. As part of the programme Gerry Adams, in a deeply personal contribution, talked about his shock at first hearing of the allegations, his support for his niece and his confrontation with his brother. Gerry Adams also revealed that he had made a statement to the PSNI in support of his niece and that he was prepared to go to court and give evidence against his brother. It emerged that Liam Adams had absconded from the North after being charged in connection with the allegations. Speaking after the programme, Mr Adams said “I participated in the programme to support my niece and to make a direct appeal to my brother to hand himself in. Áine is a remarkable young woman who has shown great strength through all of this. She must get justice”.
Sinn Féin Vice President Mary Lou McDonald said that while the matter was obviously a private family issue “I can only hope that Gerry’s niece, Áine, can get the justice she wants and deserves. Liam Adams must be arrested and brought before the courts”.
In the days following the UTV programme Gerry Adams, in an interview with RTÉ, revealed that he had learned some years ago that his father had sexually, emotionally and physically abused members of his family. Gerry Adams said, “This abuse happened over many decades. This discovery, and the abuse which preceded it, have had a devastating impact on our entire family. Our family have debated for some time whether to publicise our father’s abusive behaviour. We do so now in the hope that in time this will assist the victims and survivors”.
Sinn Féin have confirmed that Liam Adams was a party member for a period in the 1990s in the Dundalk area. A party spokesperson told An Phoblacht that “contrary to media reports, Liam Adams was not proposed as a party candidate in Louth and he left the party after an intervention by the party President. Nobody in the party in Louth was aware of the allegations against Liam Adams”.
It has also come to light that Liam Adams received both RUC and PSNI clearance to work in a number of youth projects in Belfast. He also worked in a similar project in the Dundalk area. This happened despite the authorities being in possession of a statement from his daughter alleging serious sexual abuse. Gerry Adams has made it clear that when he discovered his brother was working in the Clonard Youth Club he ensured that authorities in Clonard were informed about the allegation against Liam Adams. He also personally intervened to get him to leave the other project in the Beechmount area. He was not aware of the nature of his brother’s work in Dundalk, having had limited contact with him from the late 1980s.
In the weeks since the UTV Insight programme much of the media focus has shifted from the need for Áine Tyrell to get justice, and the need for Liam Adams to appear in court to answer these charges, to a political witchhunt against Gerry Adams by predictable elements in the media. This is quite disgraceful. The victim in this case is Áine Tyrell and the alleged abuser is Liam Adams. At all times Gerry Adams has sought to carry out the wishes of his niece. It is quite shameful for a small number of media outlets to allow those opposed to Sinn Féin to attempt to hijack a young woman’s demand for justice and the very serious issue of sexual abuse to further their own political aims.
This issue can only be dealt with through the courts. And the sooner the PSNI complete the necessary EU warrant and Liam Adams is given the opportunity to answer these allegations in court, the better.
Statement issued by the Adams family
On Sunday, 20 December 2009 the Adams family issued the following statement:
"In the late 1990s we discovered that our father had been sexually, emotionally and physically abusing members of our family.
This abuse happened over many years.
This discovery and the abuse which preceded it have had a devastating impact on our entire family.
We are still struggling to come to terms with what happened.
We live with the consequences every single day.
We have been dealing with this with the support of a number of professionals who have the expertise to deal with these matters.
We thank them for their help.
Abuse of any kind is horrendous but sexual abuse, particularly of a child, is indescribably wounding and heartbreaking.
Our family have debated for some time whether we should publicise our father’s abusive behaviour.
We do so now in the hope that, in time, this will assist the victims and survivors to come to terms with what happened and help them to move on from these dreadful events.
All citizens need to be educated and children need to be listened to, empowered and protected.
Many people in other families have suffered from abuse.
Our family knows how deeply hurtful and traumatic that can be. No-one should have to deal with abuse or its consequences in isolation.
Victims of abuse in our family are still, years later, recovering from the trauma inflicted on us.
Our prayer is that everyone will be healed.
Most of us have grown in strength with the help of other family members, partners and friends.
We know this will continue.
Our family are united.
We believe that there is a way out of this awfulness.
We hope this knowledge can be of some help to other families who are in the same situation.
Anyone affected by these issues should contact the Samaritans or any appropriate agency.
We would ask the media to give us some privacy, particularly over this Christmas period."