The guilty verdict in the retrial of Liam Adams on ten offences, including rape and gross indecency, against his daughter, Áine, leaves unanswered questions about the evolving narrative of his brother, Sinn Féin president and Louth TD, Gerry Adams, post the 2009 UTV Insight programme when the allegations were made public. Indeed, the absence of Gerry Adams as a witness in the retrial was questioned by the jury – as UTV reports
During a first trial earlier this year, which was abandoned for legal reasons, the former west Belfast MP claimed Liam Adams had confessed to him in 2000, but rejected claims he had also admitted the offences at an earlier meeting in Buncrana, Co Donegal.
However, Mr Adams was not called during this second trial to give evidence on behalf of the prosecution, something which was not lost in the minds of the jury.
A short time before delivering their verdict they sent a note into court seeking an explanation. In the note they asked for a reason why “Gerry Adams has not given evidence in this case as he is such a prominent figure throughout”.
Judge Philpott told the jury simply that they should consider the case only on the evidence given to them in court, and not to speculate on any other matters.
Here’s an edited version of a post I put together at the time of Gerry Adams’ evidence during that first trial [some links have been removed as they no longer work].
In cross-examination during the first trial, the defence counsel, unsurprisingly, questioned Gerry Adams’ evolving narrative of events. From a 23 April BBC report
The prosecution put it to Mr Adams that he had said he had not been in contact with his brother for 15 years from 1987 until 2002, while photographs and other evidence suggested they had been in contact on a number of occasions.
“Well your grasp of the calendar of these events is better than mine,” Gerry Adams said, adding that the separation may not have been as long as 15 years.
Mr Adams told the court that he “did have a problem with exact timelines” for events, but denied that he had lied to a journalist about his brother in an effort to distance himself from him.
An Irish Times report 23 April noted another example of that evolution.
The court also heard how in 2007 Mr Adams told police about how 20 years earlier, in Buncrana in Co Donegal, his brother Liam Adams denied that he had sexually assaulted his (Liam’s) daughter Aine.
This statement was made in June 2007, Eilis McDermott QC, for Liam Adams, told the court.
But it wasn’t until October 2009 – “two years and four months later” – that Gerry Adams told police Liam Adams had admitted to him in 2000 that he sexually assaulted Ms Adams.
Ms McDermott said it appeared that Mr Adams and his solicitor had withheld information from the police between June 2007 and October 2009 about Liam Adams’s alleged confession.
“Not only were you withholding information from the police but your solicitor, it appears, was withholding information for two years and four months,” she said.
“You went to the police on this occasion [October 2009] because you knew that the question of your withholding information was going to become a matter of public debate,” added Ms McDermott.
“I did not know that but I knew that a TV programme was being made about the matter,” replied Mr Adams.
As an Irish News report on 23 April added
Gerry Adams said he had engaged with police only after his niece had gone to the PSNI in 2006.
The court heard that that Mr Adams, on the advice of his solicitor, had first made a statement the following year.
A further statement in 2009 revealed the allegation that Liam Adams had confessed to Gerry Adams nine years earlier that the accused had abused his daughter once.
Gerry Adams yesterday[Monday] said the timing of the second statement, a month before he was interviewed for a television programme about Ms Adams’s child abuse claims, “may be chronologically right but to link one to the other is absolutely and totally wrong”.
On 24 April the Irish News also reported on the subsequent testimony of PSNI Detective Inspector Eamonn Corrigan, the lead interviewing officer in 2007.
Yesterday Belfast Crown Court heard how Gerry Adams had not told police about the alleged confession until October 2009, despite making a statement to the PSNI more than two years before.
Mr Brolly asked the detective: “Did he refer anywhere in that detailed three-page statement about his brother having confessed to him between 2001 and 2007 or alternatively during a stroll in Dundalk in 2000 when it was raining?”
The lawyer later suggested: “There was not a whisper of a confession from Mr Gerry Adams.”
Mr Corrigan said: “That information was not given to us or it would have been put into a statement.”
As mentioned above, Gerry Adams’ 2007 statement to the police came after Áine Tyrell went back to the police, in January 2006, and had the case re-opened.
Liam Adams walked voluntarily into a Belfast PSNI station for questioning in February 2007. He was released without charge. Áine claims police told her it took Gerry Adams four months to make a statement to the PSNI on his brother. “The police said he kept making appointments, then cancelling them because he was busy.”
“Looking back he was buttering me up. In the end I realised it was all about PR and protecting his own image.”
There was one other piece of new information to emerge. It related to a question arising from a claim the Sinn Féin president made in 2010 - ”When [his brother Liam] worked in the Clonard Youth Club [1998-2003] I tried to get him to leave and when he wouldn’t I ensured that the authorities in Clonard were made aware of the allegation.” From the 23 April Irish Times report
Mr (Gerry) Adams said he had informed a Clonard priest, a Fr McGoran, when he became aware of the sex allegations against his brother. Fr McGoran died in 2006, the court was told.
Then there was Liam Adams’ role as an active and founder member of the Lower Andersonstown Sinn Féin cumann, as well as joint signatory of the cumann cheque book, for “a number of years” after 2000.
Back to the present and, as Suzanne Breen points out in the Belfast Telegraph today
The most powerful man in Sinn Fein has treated his party’s internal rules with contempt. Liam Adams’ political career spanned both sides of the border.
After his involvement in the party in Dundalk, he went on to be an active and founder member of the Lower Andersonstown Sinn Fein cumann, which met weekly in the Felons Club, two streets away from Gerry Adams’ home.
He was a treasurer for Sinn Fein in west Belfast and a joint signatory on the Cumann mheon na Fuiseoige chequebook. He had previously been a member of Sinn Fein in Co Donegal and had attended party events in Dublin.
Gerry Adams knew that his brother was working with children in various youth projects in west Belfast. Yet, despite his public claims, he has produced no evidence to prove he took action to have Liam swiftly removed from his position by his employers. The only named person that he says he informed is a now dead priest.
Gerry Adams’ repeated evasions and failure to take decisive action to ensure other children were potentially not at risk from his paedophile brother surely make him politically toxic.
They certainly strip him of any credibility and moral authority he had left. His actions are hardly in keeping with a party which is in Government here and seeks the same in the Republic.
The Louth TD continues to cling onto the reins of power but it is impossible to believe that any other political leader on this island would survive such a damning history.
Added After the Policing Board meeting today Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly was asked by UTV
“Has Gerry Adams ever explained to you why it took him 9 years to tell the police about his brother’s confession?”
Gerry Kelly’s response [2mins in]
You know, I don’t know enough about the detail of this, except what I’ve told you.
People have been following this very publicly. It has been horrendous not only for Áine Adams but for the whole family, and families, that have been involved here. And they want to move on.
What they wanted was justice. They got justice. And then they want to move on.
For me to start picking at the detail or, if you don’t mind me saying, for you to do it, isn’t actually helping that process.