There’s an eery silence from much of the mainstream media (excepting the Sunday Tribune and the Irish News, of course) over the accusations by two different women against Gerry Adams that when he was informed of their experiences at the hands of other Sinn Fein activists. That might be explained by a couple of things. One, the implications for the policing and justice talks are literally incalculable and, accordingly people are taking the ‘process’ based decision not to rock public opinion more than it needs at this time. And two, it may have something to do with the sheer scale of the political problem it gives rise to.
In meantime, Gerry Adams asserts he is not under any political pressure…Of course, it remains to be seen whether that confidence is well placed or not. The fact is that he and his party have been in trouble before and seen their way through. Sinn Fein has proven nothing if not resilient.
But these stories take the party into new territory. It is in the nature of all soldiery that it requires a thuggish character. The problem for an army fighting a war almost entirely at ‘home’, is that that thuggishness has played itself out on those nearest and dearest them.
Adams’ problem here arises from his alleged proximity to all three cases, and the consistent way, it seems, he dealt with them. In effect, he would have been treating these cases as a military commander in chief, and not as the leader of a constitutional party with a powerful democratic mandate. It is the glaring contradiction between those two roles now that will effect any ensuing political crisis.
As old soldier’s know, it is the third shot from a snipper that allows the enemy to triangulate and spot your position with accuracy. If it transpires all these women’s accusations prove true then we are not talking about a series of judgement calls so much as ‘unofficial’ party policy.
It is certainly hard to see any signs of a coup. Adams is written through the DNA of the modern party. If Dublin councillor Killian Forde’s internal memo is an accurate picture of the state of play inside the party, the official structures of the party play second fiddle to Adams’ own personal network of his own loyalists.
The party is framed so much around loyalty to the leader there is insufficient internal dissent within the party to fashion and a credibly alternative leadership to the one currently configured around Adams.
Besides, the emergence of these stories are a key factor the party has insufficient control over. Once people are seen to start talking without the world collapsing, others (and there are bound to be others after the maintenance of any private army over a forty year period) may be emboldened to speak out.
But there’s one other appalling thing about these stories: the questions it raises about the state’s part in all of this. Where were the cops? And where were social services? Some of the details of these stories are as bad anything relating to the Baby P case in Haringey.
The impression given is that large parts of Republican Belfast were abandoned by the state’s services to be run in accordance with the wishes of local paramilitary godfathers.
And whatever the political consequences of these stories emerging, these issues cannot go forward without a proper and thorough external investigation on how social services handles such cases…
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