[Soapbox] Shinners, please don’t blame the messenger!

Gerry Adams is a liar.  There.  I’ve said it.  Cue the wolf circling the sheep and herding them all in.  He’s never been in the IRA. (yeah, right)

He was in jail when ‘Always look on the Bright Side Of Life’ was written (not true).  He is reported to have told the family of Jean Mc Conville that he was also in jail at that time (he wasn’t).

Lies have a habit of tripping you up.  Not so, if you’re Gerry Adams, it appears.

No matter what he says, you could nearly set the clock for the endless line of Sinn Fein workers and supporters who peddle the party line, and hoist Gerry off the hook, time and time again.

Disturbing

Most times, people outside of the party cabal merely roll their eyes, safe in the comfort of the knowledge that they know the truth.  While it’s disturbing, it is not necessarily surprising.

What is rightly disturbing, and at times disgusting, is the party faithful’s reaction to the recent furore surrounding Gerry Adams, and his handling of former Sinn Fein representative Liam Adams (also his brother), and the child rape and sexual abuse of his niece, Aine.

At present, Gerry is well and truly on the hook, and rightly so.

The subject of child abuse is a very emotive issue.  A prominent politician’s knowledge of a confession to abuse, and the considerable delay in reporting of same is always going to be headline news.

That aside, the twists and turns in this story – mostly exposed through strong journalism, amid contradictions within the President of Sinn Feins own version of events, and the party has a major problem.

So, what does it do?

Its key figures go to ground, stay silent, and put their heads in the sand; while the party faithful take to social media sites to, wait for it, not explore the issue of sex abuse cover up within the republican community, but attack the journalists – the only people to date to have asked the hard questions.

Journalism

It was journalists the victims of sex abuse within the republican community went to when they needed to be heard on the issue and action to be taken because those within their own communities were not getting the message.

It was journalists who listened to the frustrations, waited patiently until tears subsided and stories tumbled out and who did something about it.  Journalists gave these victims something which they had not had when meeting Sinn Fein personnel.  Journalists gave them a voice.

At present, supporters of Adams, and indeed the man himself, are citing that this is a “private family matter”, and that his family are rightly entitled to privacy.

Certainly the victim in this case is.  Scrutiny rightly has not been placed in her direction.  She hasn’t done anything wrong.   She has already made her feelings regarding her uncle and his brother known in an emotional interview, with journalist Suzanne Breen.

She was scathing of her uncle Gerry’s action towards her:  “Imagine sending the person you believed had been abused by your brother a book thanking that brother.”

Her story brought other victims forward and current legal cases are ongoing.  The spotlight in this case is, however, rightly placed on a man, in a prominent and powerful position, who has serious questions to answer.

Politics

It was Gerry Adams who politicised this case, firstly by his actions, or inactions while in an elected position, by his use of the “peace process” as an excuse under cross examination in court, and his lashing out at “political opponents” for raising issues.

In essence, he accepts that he is a public figure, subject to scrutiny, but he clearly doesn’t like it.

Neither do his followers.  One tweet from Gerry, and they bleat about “witch hunts”, and “deplorable journalism” and “anti SF bias”, in an attempt to pull the wool over everyone else’s eyes, and the shepherds protective cloak even more tightly around him.

In The Sunday Independent, journalist Eilis O’Hanlon penned a brave piece of journalism, shining a light into the sordid workings of the republican movement when it came to rapists, and sexual abuse.

She researched the issue, and dealt with the facts.  She spoke to a victim.  She quoted another republican and his experience when it came to republican cover up of abuse.  She spoke to the Rape Crisis Centre.

Bizarre

She rightly called Adams out on his bizarre and insensitive tweeting of a Maya Angelou poem – then forensically dissected the disturbing conundrum which faces Sinn Fein at present; the issue of how they can call for arrest and prosecution of other powerful figures in society for covering up for, or not being proactive in child abuse, yet stay absolutely silent when the light is shone in their direction.

It was almost instantaneous, once the article appeared on Twitter.  The vitriolic attacks, the snide remarks and the grotty deflection centred not on the issue or the message, but on the journalist.  Ms O’Hanlon was abused, directly and indirectly, all over the Twitter and Facebook hemispheres.

She was accused of using sexual abuse to “further (her) own narrow agenda”, which presumably was the right not to be a voter of Sinn Fein, of being “bitter”, of “making it up”, she was “vile”, and told to “learn some manners”.

Even her dead sister was brought into the equation as an absurd reason for rightly raising the issue of abuse.

Eilis O’Hanlon is not the enemy.   Child abuse and cover up is.   She is a journalist who works hard, and is required, to write articles on topical issues for a National newspaper.

What other columnist, in a country where arguably one of the most powerful political movements stands accused of issues in relation to child abuse, would simply do what others have done, and ignore the issue?

Damaging secrets

Sinn Fein of course would like to see this subject buried.

It’s not going to happen.  It’s been rearing its head for years now through a trickling of victims, and more are set to come forward.  The dike is open, and the waters can’t be dammed.  The attacks on Eilis, on other journalists, and on victims are an attempt to deflect responsibility.

It attacks the messenger and ignores the message.

Sinn Fein supporters have got it wrong.  They should be asking very hard questions of their movements leadership, and demanding a straight answer.  Blind faith in a man who clearly has trouble with some aspects of his memory is not a clever move.

Instead of seeing him as a victim, they should be mindful  that there are very real victims, who have directly suffered from rape and abuse, and stop retraumatising them with repeated denials.

They should admit, directly and collectively to their role in the cover up of abuse in many cases, and the abhorrent treatment meted out to victims.  Then they should ensure that this never, ever happens again.

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