DUBLIN (AP) — The leader of the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein testified Monday in a Belfast court against his own brother, who faces criminal charges of raping his daughter — an alleged crime that Adams himself admitted he'd kept secret within the family.
Gerry Adams, a reputed longtime commander of the outlawed Irish Republican Army and party leader for 30 years, insisted under cross-examination that he didn't delay telling police to preserve his own political career atop Irish republicanism.
He also denied threatening to hit his younger brother Liam with a hammer during the first key family meeting on the matter. That confrontation in 1987 involved Aine Adams, the daughter of Liam Adams, who accused her father of molesting her from 1977 to 1983 when she was just 4 to 9 years old. Aine's mother, also present at the meeting, testified last week that Gerry Adams did make the threat.
The long-delayed criminal case has raised awkward questions for Adams' Irish nationalist party, which is the major Catholic-backed part of Northern Ireland's unity government. Adams testified that he had known for many years about the rape allegations but didn't tell police what he knew until 2009, shortly before Aine Adams went public with her accusations on Northern Ireland television. She accused Sinn Fein of wanting her to stay silent for the party's image.
For decades, Sinn Fein encouraged the Irish Catholic minority in Northern Ireland to boycott contact with the police and to support the IRA, which killed nearly 300 police officers during a failed 1970-1997 campaign to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. But since entering a power-sharing government alongside British Protestants in 2007, Sinn Fein has encouraged its side of the community to accept law and order as part of a reform process involving increased Catholic recruitment into the police force.
Adams, 64, said his brother confessed he had molested his daughter when the two walked on a beach in the rain in the Republic of Ireland in 2000. "He said it only happened the once," Adams told Belfast Crown Court.
His brother's attorney Eilis McDermott repeatedly accused Gerry Adams of lying under oath about his motives. The lawyer said Adams made his 2009 statement to police "to save your political skin," with Sinn Fein about to be accused of hiding rapists within its movement.
Adams countered that had he wanted to protect himself politically, he wouldn't have gotten involved at all.
"I tried to fulfill my responsibility as an uncle to a young woman I am very fond of," Adams said. "This is above politics, and saving my political skin had no consideration in any of these matters."
Liam Adams, 57, denies 10 counts of rape, indecent assault and gross indecency against his daughter. He fled to the Republic of Ireland in 2009 but was extradited back to the British territory of Northern Ireland in 2011. He previously was a youth worker in Catholic west Belfast, his brother's power base.
Gerry Adams was elected to British Parliament in 1983-1992 and 1997-2011, though he refused to take part in London debates. Since then he has represented the border county of Louth in the Irish parliament, Dail Eireann, in Dublin. He did not play a role in the Northern Ireland government, where Martin McGuinness holds the No. 2 position for Sinn Fein.
All credible histories of the Sinn Fein-IRA movement identify Adams as an IRA member since 1966 and a commander for decades. Adams insists he never was a member.