Gerry Adams and Child Sexual Abuse.
Did I ever think I’d find myself writing a title like that?
It encapsulates everything that has turned Ireland inside out in recent years.
You’ll probably know, if you’ve been a regular reader, that I’m not a big fan of Sinn Féin, but I can’t turn away from the questions arising out of recent revelations. As Gerry Adams choreographed the negotiations that would ultimately lead to an end of the current conflict in the North, he became aware that his own father had sexually abused his siblings and that his own brother had sexually abused his daughter. What was the right thing to do?
This is a very difficult question.
Should he go to the peelers? Should he deal with it internally? Should he stay quiet about everything and see if he could conclude a political process that might bring peace to the island of Ireland, or in his own analysis, strengthen the republican position?
If this isn’t a dilemma, I don’t know what is.
Now, don’t for a second think that I’m an adherent of Gerry Adams. This is my atttempt to look at the thing in a kinematic way.
I’m not blind to the injustices and inequalities that gave rise to the resurgent IRA, but since I consider nationalism of all hues to be the greatest curse that ever afflicted Europe, I was never likely to be much of an apostle for the IRA message. Of course, that isn’t to say that I find the moronic, bigoted loyalist side particularly appealing either, but who takes Johnny Adair seriously? By the same token, I was never a fan of the triumphalist policies of the Unionist state, or of the condescending nature of the British government’s attitudes to the Irish over the years.
Who could be?
At the end of it all, I’m not fond of pre-packaged TV-dinner political policies of any shade.
If you’ve been any sort of regular visitor here, you’ll know that I think we’ve failed to make a success of partial independence, not to mind having a completely sovereign, united Ireland. In my opinion, independence could only have worked if we were a mature society, but Ireland has been subject to two empires: London’s and Rome’s, and while the Brits withdrew from a large section of the island, the foreign agents of the Vatican only tightened their grip, like a face-hugger flexing its tail.
There was a strange dynamic at work in the North, propelling the most unlikely people into the conflict. On an intellectual level, for fairly obvious reasons, the Provos had the pick of the crop. Those who would normally have entered the professions in a healthy society, instead entered the conflict and the prisons. These were the Men of Violence in Thatcher’s terminology.
Why? Because the North was a most distorted, unequal society.
Because those of a unionist inclination had many outlets. The police. The army. The UDR. And only the lowest orders entered the loyalist paramilitaries.
Many of a Catholic Irish nationalist inclination gravitated towards Sinn Féin or the SDLP and therefore the republican paramilitary wing ended up with many people who might ordinarily have expected to enter a university or some other third-level institution and go on to become professionals of one sort or another, in law, technology, medicine or wherever their talents directed them.
However, this isn’t to say that the Republican movement didn’t attract many thugs and criminals. It certainly did, and even after the formal conflict ended we still see how their thuggery continues in cases like the murder of Robert McCartney and in the constant criminality that makes some of them wealthy.
There was another reason I didn’t think much of the republican movement, and that was its association with Catholicism. If you’re a regular visitor, you’ll know what I think of the Roman Catholic clergy, a view held in common with an increasing number of Irish people these days.
Gerry Adams came from a fervent RC background, perhaps made all the more fervent in counterpoint to the Protestant fundamentalism that created such injustice in the society where he grew up. And I imagine he absorbed all the certainties that a fervent Roman Catholic upbringing imposes on people, including the sexual insecurities projected onto the laity by a frustrated, emotionally-stunted clergy.
In the same way that loyalist iconography confers a quasi-saintly status on their heroes, we saw the same process take place among republican figures, including Gerry Adams’s own father, who was buried with full republican honours, which we now discover was against his son’s wishes.
Did this debunk the mystique of the republican hero for Gerry Adams? What did he think as he watched a child-abuser buried in a Tricolour?
I remember those discussions and debates. I remember the times leading up to the Good Friday agreement and I remember Gerry Adams touring the country, persuading his people to come on board. Looking at the timeline, and knowing what we do now, Gerry Adams went through some sort of a transformation at about the same time that he discovered what his brother and his father had been up to. Is it too fanciful to imagine that these discoveries might have had some kind of transformative effect on him, and might perhaps have been catalysts in the process of making peace?