Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Family Trauma

Jan 12th 10

Just before Christmas this Blog noted that I might deal with ‘some of the events in the life of my clan and in my own life … at some other time.’

In recent weeks some elements of the media have been critical of my handling of the issues arising from the allegations of sexual abuse against my brother Liam by his daughter Áine. Some have alleged cover-ups by me and by Sinn Féin.

Some political opponents have also very cynically sought to exploit this personal family trauma in a most offensive way.

Some have tried to compare my family’s efforts to deal with the trauma of child abuse, including the ordeal of discovering that our father was an abuser, with other issues in the political process at this time. This is disgraceful and deeply upsetting to our family.

There was no cover-up. No evasion. The fact is that it was one of my family members who, when we first became aware of the allegations, accompanied Áine and her mother to the Social Services.

A complaint was also made by Áine and her mother to the RUC.

Therefore the agencies with legal responsibility for dealing with these allegations were informed. There was no attempt to conceal or disguise or cover-up the allegations against Liam Adams.

Subsequently, I confronted Liam Adams on Áine’s accusation which he denied. I believed Áine.

After that he, and then separately Áine left the country for some considerable time.

When Liam Adams came back, although we were estranged, we were, as I made clear in a part of the Insight interview which UTV did not broadcast, in contact on a number of occasions and I continued to raise this issue with him.

When Áine came back to live in Ireland I offered to go to the police with her. I offered to go public with her and I told her I would support her in whatever action she might decide. Áine told me she wanted Liam to admit what he had done. There commenced a very long and difficult process in which I tried to create the circumstance for him to do precisely what his daughter wanted. He failed to do so.

I received professional advice during this period.

I was told by those with experience in helping victims of physical, sexual, domestic or psychological abuse that, unless the victim is a minor, it is not for anyone else to presume to take decisions for a victim or to publicly identify a victim. That the rights of the victim are vital and should be respected.

This has guided me throughout these last 20 years in dealing with the allegations against Liam Adams, and then the shock of learning that my father was an abuser.

When Áine went to the PSNI I made a statement to the police against my brother and in support of Áine’s case.

The criticism levelled against me is that Liam Adams was a member of Sinn Féin. While I was aware that he was in Dundalk - as I have said publicly I met him there –I was not aware of his membership of the party until I learned that his name was being mentioned as a possible candidate.

When I heard this I contacted him directly. His name did not go forward and as a result of my efforts he later left the party.

I want to make it clear that republicans in Dundalk and senior party colleagues were not aware of the allegations against Liam Adams. The simple fact is in my opinion he should not have been a member of Sinn Féin.

I have also acknowledged on a number of occasions publicly that I have regrets about how I dealt with aspects of this issue. I say this, with hindsight and in the context of today’s standards. However, it is important to state that for me this was first and foremost a private family matter in which all of us were reeling from the revelations around our father and some of us were trying to provide support and closure for those abused by him and for Áine. I did my best.

All of this has been and is extremely difficult and distressing and painful for me and my wider family. We decided to publicise the abuse in our family in the hope that our experience will assist other victims and survivors cope with what may have happened to them, and to demonstrate that it is possible to survive abuse.

As of now, despite the public attention, the case against Liam Adams has not proceeded. It is distressing that despite repeated assurances from the PSNI that the Gardaí had been fully informed, that a European Arrest Warrant was not ready when he handed himself into Gardaí in Sligo. It now seems that this is still several weeks away. The sooner this happens and the matter is brought before the courts the better. My niece Áine deserves justice and has my ongoing support.


sam said...

Mhaith thú Gerry.
I hope the full context of these circumstances will be taken into account by more responsible journalists, and more especially that Aine and all affected members of your family will be able to heal and move on in your personal lives.
Dia Dhuibhse go léir a chara.

Clarification said...

Dear Gerry,

We wish your family clarification, love, strength and solidarity,

The O'Connor family

Timothy Dougherty said...

You have earned better than this more than unkind treatment by the local media Gerry. You have gone above and beyond any right thinking person in this a most unjust problem for everyone concerned. I still feel that you have acted and done the right things, with you family in mind and the best interest of them.
As they do say , "walk in my shoes , and than and than you may understand" It is so true in your case now, the rights of the victim are vital and should be respected.
As a media specialist we must understand media's role as the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's real power . I hope you get the respect you and your earned as human being not just news.Sometimes the news is only dead trees with information smeared on them and forgotten images and sounds.

Anonymous said...

It must have been very difficult for you and for the other members of your family to go through this and not get adequate closure. After reading books on the RUC's interrogation and other techniques including titles by Raymond Murray and a myriad of others I understand the hesitation in approaching that organisation. Especially after the approach for information about uninvolved others made to Aine's mother as described on the 'insight' t.v. programme. I deeply wish the best outcome for Aine and hope that nothing prejudices any trial and frustrates that much needed closure. The old RUC couldn't be trusted but with the new policing dispensation and the acknowledgement that we need an accountable, transparent structure to police the community together with the Ombudsman to investigate any wrong-doing hopefully now people can report alleged crimes without fear of the information being abused. That is why the PSNI is needed.

Red_Maggie said...


although it is easy to say, just ignore the fools who think they know how somebody should act in this sort of situation. You and your family have been through a horrific ordeal, one which will hopefully come to an end soon. I think some people need to recognise this and stop making judgements about things that they don't understand. As if any of us can really understand something like this.

A few days ago you had the decency to state that Iris and Peter Robinson have the right to deal with their private issues in their own way. Despite your differences with the DUP you were good enough to make this statement. I think it's a shame that some people can't allow you the same space.

My thoughts are with you. I hope you, Aine and the rest of the family find some peace and closure once this is all over. Remember, some of us have an idea of what you are going through and have the greatest of sympathy.

Mr Reality said...

Any fair-minded person can see that you went above and beyond that which was required of you in dealing with the issues which you outlined Gerry.
However, the gutter press will always seek ways of increasing the sales of their so-called newspapers, and in pursuit of that objective will usually leave no stone unturned in their quest for profits.
Most people, even if they have only half a brain, can see through their ham-fisted attempts.
Judging by the number of times they have tried to pull you down Gerry you must be one almighty thorn in their side.

Kate said...

Thoughts and prayers are with you and yours.
Take time to heal together.

Ta ar la anois


Anonymous said...

From Mairtin's blog --

West-of--the-Bann said...
Here's an interesting and insightful post on Slugger from the Corkman that highlights the reasons why there has been no progress on the Irish Language in the North, and thus, why no movement to do anything in west Belfast:

"A quick response to oneill’s extremely valid point (@7.44pm). If you go to iGaeilge, where this discussion was begun in Irish earlier today, you will find a link to a Church of Ireland document about the value that hierarchy sees in reclaiming Irish. Herre is the link to save you the trouble…..


I find GGN’s entreaties not to castigate political parties [ie Sinn Féin] for using the Irish language to build its poltical power while neglecting to deliver on its promises insulting. This bald propoganda reminds me of the time in 1998 when a document was leaked from the NIO in which some Irish speakers were described as ‘abrasive’ because they dared to raise their voices in protest at various measures to marginalise Irish were implemented.

Now we have to stop castigating SF because then we won’t be able to sell our ideas to them. Shucks. Now SF is part of the establishment, they have to be protected from the abrasive Gaels!

Sinn Féin, we’re told, lobbies for an Irish Language Act - but there’s no evidence that they actually do anything except deliver bellicose statements and organise pointless parades to get people out on the streets to demand an Irish Language Act which SF never intends to deliver. The whole point of SF’s involvement in a campaign for an Irish language act is not to deliver legislation but to carry on a campaign which points to a basic inequality at the heart of Northern Ireland. If that inequality was eliminated SF believes that the public would desert them in droves.

Now SF is part of the establishment, they have to be protected against awkward questions from abrasive Gaels who see through their “Irish language” charades and recognise them as the charlatans that they are.

After all, this is the party that ‘campaigns’ for Irish language signage and simultaneous translation services etc - but in the Gaeltacht in Gaoth Dobhair runs its Cumann meetings in English!

When I was editor of Lá Nua, we castigated SF for its failure to protect the Irish Language Broadcast Fund which had been aced by their Executive colleague, then Culture Minister Edwin Poots. I firmly believe that as a result of the embarrassment the party felt as a result of being called to account publicly in that way on that occasion that SF demanded the restoration of the Fund as its price for supporting the election of Peter Robinson as First Minister in May 2008.

So GGN is wrong - SF should be castigated and castigated with feervour That’s the only way to get the party to do something practical for the Irish language and, indeed, on any issue worth talking about.

Posted by Concubhar on Jan 14, 2010 @ 09:19 PM"

10:33 AM

Anonymous said...

As someone who has had to endure the knowledge of sexual abuse within his family I can only empathise with you Gerry. Do I have regrets ? Indeed I do. Do I feel inadequate and guilty ? Yes I do.
I have not supported or voted for SF for a number of years for many political reasons. This does not prevent me from having empathy for another family that has had to suffer the hurt, pain and confusion that goes hand in hand with such horid family matters.
I care little for SF but I wish you and your family well in these troubling times.

Insight said...

Concubhar Ó Liatháin really has a mission these days doesn’t he? Funny, as he was so pleasant to SF when based in West Belfast (yes, you may have believed his claim that he put them under pressure in his Lá editorials and that this is why they made sure to ‘close the paper’... zzzzz... but read the record: he was nice as pie except for maybe the odd expression of the frustration we all have felt at the slow pace of progress).
Concubhar’s claim that SF’s campaign against inequality really hopes to retain said inequality so that they can hold on to their support base really is a belter. It’s the ultimate caricature of the cynical politician: Gerry Adams and Co. are wasting all this time working simply to maintain their popularity, not to reach some sort of objective ... um, ok.
And, ha! They run their meetings in English in Gaoth Dobhair so OBVIOUSLY they aren’t sincere about the language. I know, we’ve been here before. Ad nauseam.
The ego at play here is frightening. Imagining again that his editorial castigation of SF actually, well, existed, Concubhar claims that the party felt such embarrassment over His criticism of their initial inaction after the attack on the Irish Language Broadcast Fund by “their colleague” Edwin Poots (DUP), that they raced to make amends lest they should be “called to account publicly in that way” again. Dream on, a Choncubhair.
I really like the reference to the “pointless parades” organised, not by SF, but by POBAL, an organisation strongly supported by Concubhar, to the extent that he has in the past extolled their efforts in the face of what he claims were SF attempts to undermine the organisation. It was barmy at the time, but has he now turned on these erstwhile colleagues too??

Anonymous said...

as some one who knows the damage abuse can do and have also worked with many who have endured it. i would also like to raise awareness of those in our communities that are accused of abuse by family members be it through jealous greed and sheer evilness.which happened to a family member. this person was cleared by the police there was no forensic evidence no charges and one of the children envolved admittied they were paid to lie. but it didnt end there he was hounded by social services and there was those from with in our community took the law into there own hand kangaroo court style. he may have passed away now but our memories of what was done to him have not.