GERARD HOWLIN: Sinn Féin allegations: There can be no justice while Adams is a law unto himself

MÁIRIA Cahill’s case is not primarily about sexual abuse. It is about abuse, and abuse is about power. 

Gerry Adams as Teflon terrorist, and Sinn Féin on his behalf, must sink this matter without trace into the ‘sediment’ underneath our society. Sexual abuse, a society in conflict, the absence of an accountable policing service, are all wastelands into which this, like dead bodies, can be buried, never to be found again. But this is a ‘body’ that cannot be buried.

The potency of Ms Cahill’s allegation is not what she did or did not tell Adams. It is less about what Adams says is “our” society’s “extremely bad” form in facing up to issues of sexual abuse. Sinn Féin, having dismissed the pleadings of Church men, who, if only they knew then what they know now would have acted differently, allows us reject that insincere connivance. But let’s not bother; it’s a sideshow, a hall of mirrors in a circus, intended to distort. We should not be distracted.

Ms Cahill’s allegations are about Adams’ contention that “these actions”, the “more brutal form of rough justice”, reflected “a community at war”. The issue of abuse, Cahill’s allegations aside, are as live for Sinn Féin now as ever. The continuing abuse of power in communities in Northern Ireland, in the body politic now, is the same. It is Adams’ and Sinn Féin’s arrogation to themselves of a state of exceptionalism: power without accountability.

Once in kangaroo courts, but latterly in parliamentary chambers and Cabinet rooms, are law-makers who will not submit to the same laws they make for us. The heart of Ms Cahill’s story is a truth far deeper than the veracity of the facts of her case: in Adams and Sinn Féin, there is a self-appointed, greater power, accustomed to even the power of life and death. It does not believe it is accountable to the same standards imposed on the rest of society.

In refusing to account for the past, they perpetuate, at the ballot box, what they imposed with the armalite. It is not the people who are sovereign; it is Sinn Féin. For them, politics is the continuation of war by other means. People are cannon fodder, not citizens.

Adams’ foundational political value is the rejection of accountability. It is an aggregation to himself, and his movement, of the right to wage war without the mandate to do so.

Sinn Féin’s increasing electoral mandate in the Republic is based not on what they stood for once, but on its betrayal — by them. How arrogant, how cynical would you be to wage murder for decades, based on a writ you wrote yourself, instead of a licence given democratically.

How little would rape be, if you had murdered? How less still could any lie matter if you had done either? Adams sat supreme in a Provisional movement in which murder was commonplace, rape went unaccounted, and lies were common currency.

The single blackest lie Adams weaves is that he is a republican. The second is that he is a democrat. The cause of the republic, an ideal of a united Ireland based on consent, was irretrievably damaged by the campaign of terror he configured and exculpated. The prospect of a united Ireland is further away, because of the IRA. The demand for a border poll now is a slick, cynical rhetorical ruse to camouflage in blather an ideal appallingly poisoned in blood. But more chilling than the terror is the cynicism of the peace. Years before war actually ended, its conclusion was being connived. As murder, and apparently rape, was committed, as hundreds more were committed to the grave, and some of those graves are yet unknown, an ending was being engineered that sold out on the very cause for the killing itself.

The Good Friday Agreement was a respite, and a fair settlement for the great majority of Irish people. But, in the terms for which Adams preached war, it was squalid betrayal. It is almost beyond the calculation of human cynicism that a republican so-called, who invoked Padraig Pearse and Bobby Sands as validation, then signed up for petty power in the very statelet he vowed to annihilate. The mandate Sinn Féin has now, but didn’t then, is to exercise power within the very structures it vowed to destroy. If you blithely abandon the cause you once murdered for, how little will it cost to abandon the principles on which you are elected now?

The abuse of power by Adams that Ms Cahill’s allegations illuminate is the continuing abuse of people, and principles, as commodities. It is ghoulish self-belief, which long ago crossed the line into megalomania, that allows him abandon his cause, but never his modus operandi. Adams, over decades, has created a masterfully opaque edifice. If not now, then in history, it will snap shut behind him. The clever, but gormless choir of careerists he has pulled up out of obscurity on his coattails, will, when he has passed politically, live to drink to the legacy he is determined to bequeath unanswered.

Ms Cahill’s role in turning the pages of history is yet unknown. Maybe she will unmask the manufactured myth of the Provo posing as a republican, of the thug masquerading as a soldier. She may yet crystallise the truth we have chosen to ignore. But maybe not. We processed it , chanting pieties past industrial schools and Magdalen Laundries for decades, with eyes wide open and connivingly saw nothing. Then, finally, trapped by the truth, we manufactured new myth. The Church, once revered, was reviled, once ‘us’, it was regurgitated as ‘them’. There is no anger equal to the task of assuaging wounded self-delusion. Adams, successor to Pearse and Sands, priest-like as judge and sacrificser, has successfully built a plinth so high that when he falls it will be fatal.

Adams, like all myths, is powerful, but unbelievable. Vulnerable but brave women were nearly his nemesis. Robert McCartney’s sisters and his fiancée, Bridgeen Hagans, challenged to the core of its credibility the myth of the IRA’s role in its own communities. That lore is recycled again, now, as blatant lies.

There is symmetry, however. Once mighty priests and Provos, powerful men peddling sacred myths in the exercise of squalid and petty power, were brought low by women who could not be terrorised and silenced. The moment passed, but not without profound consequence for Sinn Féin. The price they paid, under acute pressure, was to sign up to agreed policing structures in Northern Ireland. Nationalist communities could no longer be held as favelas. It may be little comfort to them, but it is a memorial to the women who buried Robert McCartney with dignity that Ms Cahill stands today on their strong shoulders.

The abuse of power by Adams... is the abuse of people, and principles, as commodities.

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