Sinn Féin: The Politics of Intimidation and the Culture of Deceit


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I was horrified to read Suzanne Breen’s latest instalment in her brave solo exposition of what is one of the most disturbing stories to emergence from behind the Iron Curtain of the Sinn Féin spin machine in recent years. Two women, the first a former national secretary of Ogra Shinn Féin and niece of Joe Cahill, have come forward alleging that Gerry Adams was aware of cases of rape involving them but did nothing to about it. Ms. Cahill made her allegations against ‘M’, an IRA man from West Belfast. According to her, ‘M’ was allowed to escape to Donegal and she was told that the IRA did not have the resources to go after him.

The second woman, the daughter of a deceased Belfast IRA commander, has told the Sunday Tribune that she was ‘physically, mentally and sexually abused by someone who is currently a Sinn Féin elected representative.’ Most damningly for the Sinn Féin President, she told the paper that, “Another family member informed Gerry Adams face-to-face of what X had done to me… Gerry promised to have X expelled from Sinn Féin immediately. I feel let down.”

Gerry Adams cannot be held responsible for the acts of others but he ought to be held to account for his callous negligence of Aine Tyrell and the two other young women. It is not at all believable that Liam Adams could have rejoined Sinn Féin in West Belfast, a party with highly efficient electoral and party structures, without Gerry Adams knowing or someone else informing him. It is nothing short of outrageous that the Sinn Féin leadership put no discernible pressure on ‘M’ to be returned from Donegal, responding to the victim’s request with the callous dismissal: “what do you expect me to do about it, ban him from every bar in Ireland?”

Sinn Féin is a political party that in the past was umbilically linked to the Provisional IRA and therefore necessarily developed a culture of secrecy and cover-up. I am reminded of a hard-hitting article by Anthony McIntyre from 2005 in which he writes of an ‘IRA culture of culpability’ which granted impunity to the ‘sadists and psychopaths’ who murdered Robert McCartney . He quotes the Times Ireland correspondent, David Lister, asserting that:

“In the Short Strand and Markets areas, ‘justice is dispensed by an IRA unit that counts among its ranks a rapist, a paedophile, a former joyrider, and a man who once attacked a woman by burning her breasts with an iron.”

These ‘Greenshirt thugs’, as McIntyre calls them, ‘were the muscle that the Sinn Féin leadership relied upon to fortify its position on the streets’ and who ‘were always at hand to break a leg or kidnap a critic.’ In this description Sinn Féin appears more like Mussolini’s Italian fasci than a political party, far more ‘semi-constitutional’ than Fianna Fail ever could claim.

Despite the clean suits and slick spin up at Stormont, Sinn Féin remains a political organisation wherein normal rules of morality and legality do not yet wholly apply. The IRA may have disbanded corporatively but its lasting legacy has been to inculcate a sense of extreme secrecy and almost (para)military discipline into its political wing. If the phrase isn’t too literal to function metaphorically, there are undoubtedly countless skeletons in the closet for Sinn Féin elected representatives which necessitate the clamping down of dissent, as demonstrated by the intimidation directed at Dr. McIntyre when he blamed the Provos for the killing of Joe O’Connor in 2000.

Stamping out dissent, it seems, extends even to the most bizarre levels. The comments below Breen’s Tribune article contain people reporting how they are unable to get a copy of the paper in parts of Belfast. One user says that s/he ‘can’t get a Tribune anywhere in Belfast for love nor money.’ While this could be explained away by the great interest in the story, the commenter continues by saying, “A prominent.. well.. regular sinn fein party worker bought the last 4 copies in A/town and threw them in his car boot.. Everywhere else sold out, every shop the same, shelves empty.’ This is corroborated by another person, writing that:

“I know the story has attracted a lot of interest in Belfast BUT I have NEVER had any problems in getting the paper before even at heavy news story times during the Troubles. I asked a retailer this morning were there any Tribunes left and he stated that they were bought up very quickly and some were buying more than   ONE copy.

I now firmly believe that Sinn Fein elements in the city are buying ALL copies of the paper up on a Sunday hoping to hide/bury the Liam Adams story.”

Sadly for the party, the internet offers a way around their North Korean media policies. However, the point worth stressing in closing is that Sinn Féin may have pursued an ‘armalite and ballot box’ strategy from 1981 up until decommissioning, but men without armalites can still kidnap, murder and intimidate. And with this functional use of violence comes the ability to cover it up, be it with Robert McCartney or Paul Quinn. Exactly the same tricks have come into play in this latest and shocking development of the Sinn Féin abuse saga.

Photo courtesy of the Sunday Tribune.


3 Responses

  1. krupskaya

    January 21, 2010 2:08 pm

    This is the worst type of journalism.

    Allegations of monstrous behaviour towards women and children are made. In those circumstances, the responsibility of every citizen is to allow the truth of the allegations to be established at the earliest stage, the greatest possible support provided to the victims and that the perpetrators be brought to justice. Anything that falls short of that is to be condemned. That is a responsibility on all alike, Party leaders as much as journalists.

    In the original Suzanne Breen article, there is no indication whatsoever that she made any effort to contact anyone alleged to have been involved in a cover-up, including Gerry Adams. If she contacted him or anyone else and got a ‘no comment’, she should have printed that and let readers draw their own conclusions. Either she contacted them and did not publish the reply, which is censorship, or, worse, she did not even bother to contact them at all.

    In the case of Aine Tyrrell, Gerry Adams says he contacted the PSNI some years ago with details of the case. No-one from the PSNI has denied that. But the PSNI has only recently begun to act, and even then has made a hash of issuing an international arrest warrant.

    This is a pattern. In the Tribune article it is stated of the second victim, “She made a statement to the PSNI almost two years ago and a police file was forwarded to the Public Prosecution Service last July.” Another 18 months dawdling and more than 6 months later with still no action fom the PPS. Except perhaps a leak to the press.

    This is not then a concern for rapidly establishing the truth or bringing justice to the victims; it is an orchestrated pre-election campaign to denigrate the most prominent leader of SF.

    As a principle, any public figure actively engaged in the cover-up of sexual abuse does not belong in public life, and may belong behind bars. That is a principle which has not been adhered to in the 26 Counties, where proven, mass child sexual abuse was known and covered up by successive generations of politicians, clergy, gardai and others, including the holders of current office. As a Republican, that is the standard to which I expect leaders of Sinn Fein to adhere.

    But if it should be found, post-election, that those involved were actually attempting to prvide support to the victims, and were involved in reporting these matters to the authorities as soon as the victims wished it, then I wonder how many column inches will be devoted to it in the Tribune?

    This posting is even worse, dragging in, as it does, unsubstantiated allegations by Anhony McIntyre, a comparison to fascists, and conspiracy theories as to why a scandalous news story might lead a paper to sell out.

    It is unworthy of any blog calling itself Left.

  2. Pope Epopt

    January 22, 2010 9:47 am

    I was talking to a woman from West Belfast, and the stories of these women do not surprise her in the least.

    One of the many tragedies of recent Irish history has been the suspension of feminist (and indeed socialist) goals and perspectives in the North by the Provisional movement, in favour of a narrow nationalism and militarism. Abuses like those recounted by Ms. Breen were inevitable consequences.

    A blog calling itself Left has a responsibility to help move us on by highlighting contradictions between rhetoric and practice so that we can learn for the future.

    BTW the poster does him/herself no favours by quoting a correspondent from the Murdoch press, who should be discounted until corroborated on principle.

  3. Frank Rogers

    January 23, 2010 11:02 pm

    It would be unworthy of a left-wing blog not to comment on allegations involving a party that had/has ambitions of being the leading part of a left alternative. The police/state/social services certainly have questions to answer. They were part of a dirty war. But given that the RUC and therefore Brit intelligence knew over 20 years ago that Liam Adams was accused of this abuse do you not think it strange that it was never dragged out to tarnish Gerry Adams? Long time republican activists had never had an inkling of this until Aine Tyrell went public and that is worrying people: Why did Gerry Adams leave it until now to announce his father was an abuser? Why did the Brits not use this very embarrassing allegation? And why do Gerry Adams stories about his brother’s activity in Sinn Fein not add up?