An interesting comment on the allegations surrounding Gerry Adams brother was added to a piece on the topic on Irish Left Review a couple of weeks ago. It’s one of three comments, but is of considerable utility in pointing up some of the problems implicit in the issue…
“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?”
Consider this from a number of aspects. Is there any obligation on anyone to comment on allegations? Particularly ones that are of such a sensitive personal and potentially legal nature? And that legal aspect is important. In any given area one does not want to do anything that might ultimately prejudice a case. And where allegations come into play there are clear problematics. How to weight their veracity? No blog is a court of law, and that simple fact alone, whatever the issue, calls for some degree of caution as to what is or is not addressed.
Secondly political blogs, whether of left or right, are about politics. Obviously that’s tautological, but…the fact of it requires people to consider this in a two-fold way.
Primarily it begs the question is this a political matter at this point in time? There have been no resignations or protests within SF over this matter. There has been, bar one or two peripheral interjections, no serious political attacks on Adams or SF by their opponents. There have been no attempts that one can tell from reading the media by the governments or by Nationalists, Republicans or non-aligned people generally to protest. There is no evidence that this has altered in the immediate past – or during the current talks – the policy positions of either SF or other parties North or South. And if it were to hang heavily upon those involved in the talks the bizarre events surrounding other politicians would – one presumes – cancel out their effect. In other words, what then particularly is the political issue as it stands at the moment that can be pointed at that relates to this? And if there is none so far evident then what are the political ramifications?
It is more than possible that the allegations might politically weaken Adams, and/or Sinn Féin. Again, so far, to judge from the polling data we have from the RedC and MRBI polls last week, that does not seem to be the case. At that point this would indeed become a political issue.
And that begs a secondary question as to why does the fact that Sinn Féin has sought to become part of a left alternative legitimate commenting on allegations? Does that make any more sense than saying that because Sinn Féin has a policy on agriculture that one would expect the IFA to be raising the matter? Or to put it another way, is the personal entirely indistinguishable from the political? And from that comes a further question, are SF and Adams indistinguishable and are their fortunes so closely intertwined that one cannot do without the other?
Well, clearly SF hasn’t been like (most) other parties over the years. The conflict itself and tradition has shaped them. But, if one uses that line of reasoning to push Adams and SF together to bind culpability, then logically one can also use it to explain the context and environment, that of secrecy, putting the organization and the goals above all else, that might mean that responses would not be identical or even similar to those in more ordinary circumstances – this is indeed the line of reasoning taken to explain a range of acts from no warning bombings through to individual murder.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting either is the case. I’m pointing out that the logic used allows either interpretation, but the commentor quoted above explicitly notes that the circumstances were not ordinary given that this was during a ‘dirty war’. Note too that the commentor moves from asking questions about a party to asking questions about Gerry Adams, and explicitly ring-fencing ‘long-time Republican activists from a degree of culpability. If this is about a ‘leading part of a left alternative’ is it the party we’re talking about containing those self-same long time Republican activists or is it not? And even if we include those long-time Republican activists who walked away, say, to pick a date at random, from 1995, what of the situation predating their departure?
Is this issue about Adams, or rather the family of which he is a member? Is it about Sinn Féin? To me this seems, at least this far, more pitched towards the former than the latter. That may change.
But it feeds into a dynamic where most people are, I suspect – whatever our political origin or position, able to distinguish between the political and the personal, even in the context of the political wing of an armed insurgency. Now, it may be that as this draws out the latter does become inextricably entwined. That it is impossible to look at the history of these events and not make certain conclusions. That actions taken and responses made were inappropriate or insufficient. In that context it would clearly become a political issue.But again, given that legal issues enter the fray it seems wrong to place the cart before the horse.
The other questions raised by the commentor, as regards the progress of political change in the past twenty years? Impossible for anyone not directly involved to answer and therefore leading only to speculation. Now speculation is grand, is fine, is interesting and often entertaining. Sometimes it fills the pages of blogs, political and otherwise, but… it seems to me to be somewhat less fine when that speculation – political or otherwise – is based around an issue of child abuse which has yet to be dealt with in a court of law.
In that circumstance that speculation, or drawing conclusions prematurely seems to me to move towards using the issue of child abuse as cover to launch political attacks, because so much of this is – again at this point, unanswerable. Key figures involved have not spoken. It seems that more is to come to light.
Political attacks made in that context seem, on some level, wrong.
There will be time for consideration, little doubt of this, when any further information comes into the public domain and more particularly when it is treated in the appropriate areas. There may well be time for finger pointing, or perhaps not. But at this time in this process, in my opinion – for what its worth, there simply isn’t enough, even putting aside the sensitivities of the legal and personal issues concerned, to make any clear definitive judgments.
Anything else seems like gratuitous speculation.
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