Gerry Adams has spoken of how his late father abused family members when they were children following an explosive family fall-out which has deeply embarrassed the Sinn Fein President.
The disclosure regarding his father, Gerry Adams snr, came after Mr Adams himself was accused by his niece of not doing enough in response to similar accusations against his brother.
The West Belfast MP said he had known for around 11 years that his father was an abuser and had argued against him having a republican funeral when he died six years ago.
Mr Adams made the shocking disclosure as he called on his younger brother Liam to hand himself in to the PSNI to face allegations of child sex abuse brought by Liam Adams’s daughter Aine Tyrell.
The MP said that in the course of trying to deal with the abuse allegations against his brother, he had found out that his father, Gerry Adams snr, was abusing members of the family.
“I was almost 50 years old,” he told Irish television.
“Up to that point I thought we were like any other family with a loving father and it was a deep shock.”
He said his father had been in denial for many years and died a lonely man in a nursing home because of his actions.
Mr Adams is one of 10 children and said that while some of his siblings had revealed they were abuse survivors, he himself had “no recollection of being abused”.
He said he had felt for a long time that the family should go public about their father’s actions but that other siblings had not felt able to do so.
A statement was issued later by the family saying they “lived with the consequences every dey” and had decided to reveal the abuse to help the victims to move on.
“l don’t want to name anybody who was abused but in the course o dealing with the issue of Aine and the injustice done to her, a family member told me that they had been abused,” Mr Adams said.
“I immediately brought all my siblings together and we tried to deal with it. Then I went and spoke to my father about it. I confronted him about it.
“Up until his death or shortly before his death I talked to him about this.
“He was in denial for quite a lot of that time.”
Mr Adams said he had faced a dilemma when his father died six years ago as to whether to give him a republican funeral.
“I didn’t want him buried with the tricolour,” he said. “I think he besmirched it.”
Mr Adams said it was a difficult time for his family and asked for privacy from the media.
“It obviously tests your faith in humanity when an iconic figure like my father engages in the psychological and emotional and physical and sexual abuse of a child, of his child,” he said.
“But with attention, with understanding, with resolve and with love we can find our way through all of this.”
Mr Adams has faced accusations that he failed to address the allegation of sexual abuse against his brother.
In a television interview on Friday night, his niece told a television documentary that her father had abused her since the age of four.
A warrant has been issued for Liam Adams’s arrest by the PSNI.
Ms Tyrell said the Sinn Fein president had known about her sex abuse claims for the past 20 years. She also said that her father had confessed to his brother that he had abused her.
The programme revealed that Liam Adams, who is in his fifties, had been able to secure work in a youth club in west Belfast. He is wanted for 23 charges of rape and abuse between 1978 and 1983.
Ms Tyrell said she had decided to go public because she felt let down by the police, social services, the Catholic Church and her uncle Gerry.
She said that she and her mother Sally Campbell had told Gerry Adams about the abuse in 1987. He drove the mother and daughter to County Donegal to confront his brother but Liam denied the allegations. Ms Tyrell criticised the Adams family for not doing more to achieve justice for her over the past two decades.
“I wrote Gerry [Adams] a letter then saying: Look. I’m stopping contact. I accept your apology. OK. you didn’t have the means to deal with child abuse then but at the end of the day I’m better than meeting in the Culturlann [west Belfast community centre] for a rushed meeting.”
A number of questions have been asked regarding the handling of the matter by the British authorities.
In particular, Aine Tyrell’s mother has said that when she to took her daughter to the RUC to make the allegations against her former husband, the RUC seemed “more interested in recruiting her as an informer than dealing with Aine’s abusing father”.
It also remains unclear how Liam Adams was able to receive police clearance to work in youth facilities between 1998 and 2003 in the face of the allegations.
Liam Adams remained heavily involved in republican circles in Dundalk and Belfast and even sought nomination as a Sinn Fein election candidate for the Louth constituency in the 1997 general election.
Speaking on Irish radio again today [Monday], Mr Adams said when he first became aware of the situation in 1987, the allegation was reported to the then RUC police.
As he and his siblings issued a public statement to disclose their struggle with their father’s abuse, the West Belfast MP repeated a call for his brother to give himself up.
“I’d want to reiterate again if Liam is listening to this programme or if anyone who knows where he is is listening to this programme that they should get him to turn himself in,” he said.
Mr Adams denied that his brother ever had his support for the nomination as a Sinn Fein election candidate. He said that as soon as he heard of the possibility his brother might be nominated, he actually moved to ensure that such a thing could not happen.
“I moved immediately both to stop that and to get him dumped out of Sinn Fein without telling people why. But I moved very, very quickly. He wasn’t a contender, there was no nomination for Liam Adams in the Dundalk area. There was no convention in which his name was put forward, there was no contest in which he was part of.”
Mr Adams said: “I wouldn’t say that I handled this perfectly. Of course I wouldn’t. But I tried to do my best by Aine and I tried to do my best by others within my family and as far as I could, we tried to ensure that no other child was at risk.
“I told everyone within Liam’s limited circle of the allegation made against him. When I discovered in the Belfast situation that he was working in a youth facility I went to those who had responsibility for that facility and told them of the allegation.
“He also had RUC or PSNI clearance to work in those facilities. I also pressed Liam to come out of it and in the second case he did what I demanded of him. I’m not suggesting that I handled this perfectly. I now know much, much more about how you handle these issues than I did at the time.”