With Máiría Cahill looking on from the public gallery, a five hour debate took place in the Dail this afternoon ‘on allegations of sexual abuse by members of the Provisional Republican Movement.’ It was harrowing stuff, the subject matter black and bleak. The more discerning and concerned members of Sinn Fein, not the tweeters or wall muralists, must feel that party leader Gerry Adams emerged looking as odious as any Catholic bishop. They can hardly fail to notice that because they have shied away from quarantining him, the political Ebola he emits has a contagious effect within the party.
Looking at the TDs placed around Adams, although helpless to deflect the salvos of blows that landed on the party image, it is easy to see why the Coalition or Fianna Fail for that matter might have reason to worry about the party. Sinn Fein does have impressive people in its ranks, which makes it all the more ludicrous that they have to account for the crimes of their leader. They are not responsible for his actions so why make themselves answerable? Because whatever way this issue is looked at, one demonstrable crime of Gerry Adams is that for years he covered up for a man he believed to be a child rapist, and who was later found guilty of child rape.
It is a matter of public record that Adams was indeed determined to protect his niece, Aine, but from head lice rather than rape. He reported to the authorities not the man he believed to have abused his niece but the child’s mother for allegedly keeping an unhygienic home. It is also a matter of public record that he openly campaigned in a vote drive in the company of the same child rapist in Louth. Even he, despite his monumental capacity for lying, could hardly claim he was unaware that Liam was his brother. Although were he to make the absurd denial, there would be no shortage of TDs lining up behind Mary Lou McDonald to say they believed him. Such is the bind that obligatory insertion into a hierarchy of liars has placed them in.
The debate did not go well for Sinn Fein. All too often parallels were drawn between the party and the Catholic Church, a bell around the party’s neck which it badly needs to divest itself of before its peel is heard by everyone. Another weak spot exposed was the relentless online bullying of Mairia Cahill. Bullying is standard fare for Sinn Fein. One of the party’s devout practitioners of smearology is a lecturer in journalism at a prestigious private college and it is hard to see how it could replace intimidation with non-coercive persuasion and still secure the desired result of widespread obedience and conformity.
Their best performer Pádraig Mac Lochlainn who crucially managed throughout to avoid emulating the smirking of Adams, made a number of bona fide criticisms of the government, which in any other context would gain traction but are lost in a debate like this, their power dissipated in parrying rather than being concentrated in rapier-like thrusting. But even he was disabled by his inability to mention Mairia Cahill during his ten minutes on the floor.
Mary Lou McDonald again donned attire much too short to cover her Achilles heel. Completely outshone by Meath Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty, in her attempt to sling a shot at the Taoiseach who had earlier referred to the Disappeared, she pointed out that Briege Wright, whom Enda Kenny disparaged, was a sister of one of the Disappeared. Whatever profit she hoped to accrue from that investment, became an instant loss, because of who was sitting at her shoulder: the former IRA chief of staff regarded by many as the architect of the Disappeared. When she spoke of the things in the North that many thousands lived in fear of, she again failed to see the elephant in the Dail, who hundreds of thousands in the North believed struck terror into their hearts.
Ultimately, the Dail debate cast Sinn Fein as a serial evader, determined not to deal with the issue but to deflect it. While the party continues to acquiesce in the power lust of its leader, the substantial risk he exposes it to in order to keep his political career on track, shows little sign of diminishing. Controversy and crisis are from here on in an abuse victim away.