The quagmire of sex abuse scandal refuses to allow Sinn Fein to escape from its suction. With more reports in today’s papers coupled to the stormy valedictory from former Sinn Fein councillor Brendan Curran - through the amplification system of a council chamber, in which he linked the party to even more cover-up, Sinn Fein’s escape strategy resembles one step forward two steps back.
Padraig MacLochlainn, the party’s justice spokesperson, put up a spirited performance in a televised interview during the week. It wasn’t enough, too closely resembling the beleaguered Sinn Fein that could so often be found manning the walls during difficult moments occasioned by the party’s military wing having perpetrated a disastrous armed action like the Enniskillen bombing. It was confirmation of the oft stated view that when you are explaining you are losing.
In a bid to claw back lost ground, and replace harsh glare with soft focus, Mary Lou McDonald has been claiming that her party leader Gerry Adams has been doing his best to create the atmosphere whereby people will come forward with what they know about sex abuse. So successful has he been in this creative endeavour that she believes “that it’ll happen. I believe that people will come forward. I believe people must come forward.”
The people they should come forward to are An Garda Síochána whom she believes are best placed to get to the truth in cases like that of Paudie McGahon, targeted for rape by an IRA volunteer billeting in the McGahon family home. Her party leader will not be found wanting in his disclosures to the police: “Gerry has made it very, very clear that he will bring forward, as is absolutely correct, any information, any names, anything that he comes across.”
Yet, as stated on this blog two weeks ago, it still seems very, very unclear with what information they may come forward. Are the information and names that Gerry Adams is very, very clear he will come forward with, only in respect of abusers or is it also about those people said to have been in the IRA and who also may have been involved in IRA inquiries and the organisation’s own court system?
The reason that this is important is that it would be a grave abdication of responsibility and an abandonment of a duty of care on the part of McDonald - a middle class Dubliner far removed from the dangerous facts on the ground as the raped and abused understand them - were she to urge people to take risks that would have potential harm for them and absolutely none for her.
Many of the people who have been abused and who have subsequently had their claims processed by the IRA’s own Gerrya law will not believe what McDonald claims to believe - because Adams very, very clearly told her – that he was never a member of the IRA. They will find her at best embarrassingly naïve about these matters: a naiveté that would call into question her judgment in respect of how people should deal with information they might have about the IRA.
It is vital that Mary Lou McDonald finds out from her leader and then states very, very clearly if there is a verboten clause somewhere in the small print of the party appeal for information. Before she asks others to sound the bell on what they might know she will need to demonstrate that it will not be for them that it tolls.