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14 January 2010 Edition

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A Family Trauma

Just before Christmas this Blog noted that I might deal with ‘some of the events in the life of my clan and in my own life ... at some other time.’
In recent weeks some elements of the media have been critical of my handling of the issues arising from the allegations of sexual abuse against my brother Liam by his daughter Áine. Some have alleged cover-ups by me and by Sinn Féin.
Some political opponents have also very cynically sought to exploit this personal family trauma in a most offensive way.
Some have tried to compare my family’s efforts to deal with the trauma of child abuse, including the ordeal of discovering that our father was an abuser, with other issues in the political process at this time. This is disgraceful and deeply upsetting to our family.
There was no cover-up. No evasion. The fact is that it was one of my family members who, when we first became aware of the allegations, accompanied Áine and her mother to the Social Services.
A complaint was also made by Áine and her mother to the RUC.
Therefore, the agencies with legal responsibility for dealing with these allegations were informed. There was no attempt to conceal or disguise or cover-up the allegations against Liam Adams.
Subsequently, I confronted Liam Adams on Áine’s accusation, which he denied. I believed Áine.
After that he, and then separately Áine, left the country for some considerable time.
When Liam Adams came back, although we were estranged, we were, as I made clear in a part of the ‘Insight’ interview which UTV did not broadcast, in contact on a number of occasions and I continued to raise this issue with him.
When Áine came back to live in Ireland I offered to go to the police with her. I offered to go public with her and I told her I would support her in whatever action she might decide. Áine told me she wanted Liam to admit what he had done. There commenced a very long and difficult process in which I tried to create the circumstance for him to do precisely what his daughter wanted. He failed to do so.
I received professional advice during this period.
I was told by those with experience in helping victims of physical, sexual, domestic or psychological abuse that, unless the victim is a minor, it is not for anyone else to presume to take decisions for a victim or to publicly identify a victim. That the rights of the victim are vital and should be respected.
This has guided me throughout these last 20 years in dealing with the allegations against Liam Adams, and then the shock of learning that my father was an abuser.
When Áine went to the PSNI I made a statement to the police against my brother and in support of Áine’s case.
The criticism levelled against me is that Liam Adams was a member of Sinn Féin. While I was aware that he was in Dundalk – as I have said publicly I met him there – I was not aware of his membership of the party until I learned that his name was being mentioned as a possible candidate.
When I heard this I contacted him directly. His name did not go forward and as a result of my efforts he later left the party.
I want to make it clear that republicans in Dundalk and senior party colleagues were not aware of the allegations against Liam Adams. The simple fact is in my opinion he should not have been a member of Sinn Féin.
I have also acknowledged on a number of occasions publicly that I have regrets about how I dealt with aspects of this issue. I say this, with hindsight and in the context of today’s standards. However, it is important to state that for me this was first and foremost a private family matter in which all of us were reeling from the revelations around our father and some of us were trying to provide support and closure for those abused by him and for Áine. I did my best.
All of this has been and is extremely difficult and distressing and painful for me and my wider family. We decided to publicise the abuse in our family in the hope that our experience will assist other victims and survivors cope with what may have happened to them, and to demonstrate that it is possible to survive abuse.
As of now, despite the public attention, the case against Liam Adams has not proceeded. It is distressing that despite repeated assurances from the PSNI that the Gardaí had been fully informed, that a European Arrest Warrant was not ready when he handed himself into Gardaí in Sligo. It now seems that this is still several weeks away. The sooner this happens and the matter is brought before the courts the better. My niece Áine deserves justice and has my ongoing support.

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