In Belfast’s Balmoral Hotel today, the Sinn Fein commander Gerry Adams took to the podium to address the assembled party faithful regarding the Máiría Cahill controversy that he and his party have been embroiled in since the broadcasting of a BBC Spotlight documentary almost two weeks ago. From the limited snatches provided by RTE he seemed more wilted than blooming. Unlike his arrival in the same hotel in May, straight from the custody of British police who had detained him under the label “murder suspect”, today’s event seemed subdued. Absent was the profuse adoration and adulation from the pews. Although certainly not a requiem mass for his political career, the bishop was preaching to a subdued congregation.
When parsed, his speech amounted to little more than a concoction of polemic and diatribe hurled in the direction of those who have great difficulty buying into his narrative. Finding some “crat” to blame it on has long been a blood sport for the party’s smear machine and this time it was no different, the indocrats of the Independent News Group being the fox the hounds were set upon.
The rampart Adams tried to establish, and which he hopes is fortified sufficiently to withstand scrutiny, was signposted by the line “Sinn Féin has not engaged in any cover-up of abuse at any level of this party.”
Whatever about the circumstances pertaining to the Mairia Cahill case which Sinn Fein has advised the public to regard as a rape, the manner in which Gerry Adams presented his late father and brother in public make it hard to mount a credible defence that there was no cover up. There clearly was and its purpose was to ensure no depreciation in the value of the brand name. Clothing his father, whom he knew to be a paedophile, in the legitimacy of republicanism at his funeral, and having his brother Liam whom he believed to be a child rapist, seek the party nomination to be its Louth Dail candidate in 1997, are best described as Weapons of Mass Deception. The threat both men posed to children was covered up – literally in the case of the father – with the Irish tricolor.
The spin being put on the matter by Sinn Fein is that the party has never been involved in protecting child abusers. This is true to the extent that the party frowned severely on abuse and approved the sanctions employed against those engaged in it. What was being protected and covered for was the reputation of the party and the IRA. Much the same way that the Irish Catholic Church covered up and was rightly pilloried by Sinn Fein for having done so. The Church held a canon law internal investigation, remained silent about the findings, and relocated the offender - all in a bid to protect the reputation of the institution. Canon Law, IRA code: try getting a cigarette paper between them.
As Gerry Adams last week pointed out, the IRA had a well-established history of policing republican communities in the North. It also had internal disciplinary procedures through which it processed complaints against its members including charges of sexual abuse.
At any time when dealing with these offences the IRA could have, instead of quietly exiling people from the North and forcing them to relocate elsewhere, as easily used tarring and feathering or some other measure that clearly demonstrated to the public that the member had been involved so that there really would be no hiding place for them, no recycling opportunity to start all over again in a different abode safe from the informed apprehensions of the new host community. It could also have, through the pages of the movement’s newspaper, named and shamed those deemed guilty by the IRA’s internal disciplinary system for the same reason. But to do that would have been a public admission that the IRA or Sinn Fein members were involved in abuse. The reputation of the organisation rather than the abuser per se was prioritised for cover up.
All of which will lead observers to conclude that today’s presidential address was neither an explanation or an expiation, but an excision of clarity: all about covering up for the cover ups that Sinn Fein have been involved in.