Whilst I share Suzanne Breen’s analysis that the mainstream media have been ignoring the myriad questions arising from her investigation of Liam Adams, I don’t necessarily share her righteous indignation about the switch of focus over the holiday period from Mr Adams (and his political brother), to the domestic misfortunes of the First Minister. There are many good reasons for that switch, not least the possibility of rudely taking down an unpopular (amongst the press at least) First Minister.
And we should not forget that Sinn Fein’s own whispering campaign against Robinson managed to bounce Robbo into his confessional interview, which consequently bumped Spotlight programme back from its scheduled spot next Tuesday to a fortnight earlier. At the time, it was a very convenient transposition which transferred the possibility of extreme political damage from themselves to the DUP.
Yet the dimensions of the Liam Adams story are much more serious and far reaching in social terms than anything yet uncovered in the Robinson affair. For me, the issue here is not the 24 charges of rape outstanding against Liam Adams. What’s more disturbing is what we don’t actually know. The source of that disquiet is a report in the Irish Independent of Saturday 11th July 1998:
Youth Community leader Liam Adams says there is a strong local involvement in what he described as a “very well-organised arrangement” which may also have links in Donegal. We have names of well-known business people who we are 100pc sure are involved.” But he says that the authorities should be doing more to investigate the situation based on the evidence which has emerged so far.
Registration numbers gathered by social workers who have conducted their own surveillence on activities based around Dundalk during the last two years have been handed over to the gardai for further investigation.
First it is important to note that the link with Donegal also matches precisely with Liam Adams own biography. Also note that he claims at the time that he was 100% sure of the identities of the names of these well-known business men. At the time of publication, the general reader could only presume this was a concerned youth worker expressing his frustration with the authorities over its inaction.
Readers local to Dundalk may also have noted his local prominence within local Sinn Fein at the time and presumed that he’d gleaned some ‘intelligence’ from the IRA who keep tabs on such matters.
However today, knowing about the child rape charges and his own brother’s suspicions, this statement from 1998 raises some pretty important questions about just how Liam Adams was 100% sure about the names of those businessmen. We also need to know whether he handed such information over to the Gardai. And, if he did, whether the Guards acted upon such information. And if he didn’t, why didn’t he?
This is not about, as Mr Adams’ brother was careful to point out to Tommie Gorman in his interview for RTE, a single historic case. It is about the proper investigation what exactly Liam Adams knew in 1998 about child sex rings then, and possibly thereafter.
This is not either a strictly political story nor an exclusively Northern Irish one. Nor is it an academic question of ‘historic cases’. It is about child safety right now and whether the state and/or public interest journalism on either side of the border has the will to investigate a mess that touches the darkest part of the human soul.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty