Irish Republican News · January 21, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
IRISH REPUBLICAN NEWS: Recriminations continue in abuse controversy
Recriminations continue in abuse controversy
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Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has voiced his support for party president Gerry Adams who is facing criticism over how he dealt with child sex abuse allegations against his brother Liam.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Tribune newspaper has strongly denied that it is attempting to smear Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams over its allegations that the party covered up accusations of child abuse.

Mr McGuinness, making his first public comments about the child abuse controversy, said that he only learned of the allegations against Liam Adams when a documentary television programme on the issue was broadcast in December.

Mr McGuinness said there was no reason why he should have been told earlier about the allegations that Liam Adams abused his daughter Aine Tyrell in the 1970s and 1980s.

Although Mr Adams and the RUC (later PSNI) police were aware of the claims from 1987, explanations have been sought as to how Liam Adams could work with youth groups in Dundalk and in Belfast since 1987, and how he remained active within Sinn Fein following his supposed expulsion from the party in 1997.

Meanwhile, a suspended Sinn Fein councillor Briege Meehan has denied separate child abuse allegations against her.

Speaking through her solicitors Mrs Meehan - the widow of veteran Belfast republican Martin Meehan - denied she abused and neglected a child who was in her care in the late 1970s.

The PSNI and Sinn Fein were made aware of the allegations against Mrs Meehan over a year ago, although no legal action was taken - crown prosecutors said this week they are still considering the case.

Sinn Fein said this week the party had suspended the Newtownabbey councillor without prejudice a year ago, pending the outcome of the PSNI investigation.

Mrs Meehan’s lawyers said she was interviewed once by police last year and denied all allegations put to her during the interview.

“If a decision is made not to prosecute our client will be pursuing all legal remedies.

“lf a decision is made to prosecute our client will be entitled to the presumption of innocence and will no doubt be considering the impact of the trial by media to date on any potential proceedings.”

The alleged victim’s family responded to Mrs Meehan’s statement.

“Social services and medical reports from the time, along with witness statements and statements from within the Ardoyne community, speak for themselves.” they said.

~We would urge the PPS to make this case a priority in order to prevent further anguish to the victim.”

Prominent republican and human rights activist Bernadette McAliskey has called for a wide-ranging public inquiry into child abuse in the north.

The former MP said Investigating crimes against children was more important than the ongoing policing and justice talks.

Ms McAliskey says the degree to which authority figures had “protected the abuser rather than the abused” must be investigated “as a matter of urgency”.

On Tuesday, the Sunday Tribune issued a statement challenging Mr Adams’s denial earlier this week that he had been informed of the abuse allegations which led to Mrs Meehan’s suspension. In regard to a second alleged abuse victim, the grand niece of Joe Cahill, the newspaper’s statement quoted her: “Sinn Fein has said it is considering suing the Sunday Tribune. If Sinn Fein is challenging the truth of my story, let them sue me. I thank the Sunday Tribune for interviewing me in a highly sensitive way - and for the support I received afterwards. To date, since my story was printed, no-one from Sinn Fein has contacted me to offer the same.”

PRESSURE ON ADAMS

Unease in republican strongholds over Sinn Fein’s handling of the abuse controversy has overlapped with dissatisfaction at the stalemate at Stormont and the party’s changed political direction in recent years. Without the same levels of community solidarity which existed during the height of the conflict, much of the pressure has been focused directly at the Sinn Fein president.

Mr Adams spoke about the controversy and the broader issue of abuse at the launch of a youth programme in west Belfast. “The allegations and accusations against me are untrue,” he said.

“I find it hugely frustrating that some of the media outlets can say whatever they want and print whatever they want without any reference at all to the truth, accuracy or the rights of the individual in all of these matters.

“I resent absolutely the false allegations that are being made against me and against the party.”

Mr Adams has warned against sections of the media treating the issue of child abuse issue in a tabloid way and thanked those who had offered their support and solidarity in recent times.

“I want to begin by thanking people for their kindness and generosity to me and my family during what has been a difficult time,” he said.

“I have been moved especially by people who have told me that they or their family are or were in exactly the same position as my clann.

“There is now more disclosure about child abuse, a taboo subject, in today’s society. That is a good thing for everyone.

“And even though the first words are hard to say, and to hear, in the long term an end to a culture of concealment will create an educated, informed society with proper and enlightened and competent protections for children, and processes for dealing with victims and persecuting perpetrators.

“The issue of child abuse effects all sectors of Irish society. No class or creed or section is immune from it. There is also a life beyond abuse.

“With proper therapeutic support, with love and understanding, victims can become survivors and go on to live happy and fulfilled lives.

“Our duty as a society is to enable and to empower them to do this. In the course of launching an initiative like this I would not normally deal with the issue of abuse. I would do so at other forums.

“Maybe that is part of the problem. These issues need to be intelligently discussed wherever it is appropriate. This requires a genuine public conversation about all the issues involved.”

© 2010 Irish Republican News