DUBLIN (AP) — The brother of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was convicted Tuesday of raping his daughter in a case that highlighted how the Irish nationalist political party long discouraged the reporting of crimes within its own circles.
In an 11-1 vote, a Belfast jury found Liam Adams guilty on 10 counts of raping and sexually assaulting his daughter Aine from 1977 to 1983, when she was 4 to 9 years old. Adams, 58, was sent back to jail pending his sentencing later this month.
“I do not see this verdict as a victory, nor a celebration, as it has taken its toll and has caused hurt, heartache and anguish to all those involved,” Aine Adams said in a prepared statement read by a police officer outside the Belfast courthouse. “I can now begin my life at 40 and lay to rest the memory of the 5-year-old girl who was abused.”
During his two-week trial, Liam Adams denied ever molesting his daughter. His second wife and a daughter from that marriage testified in his defense.
But Aine Adams testified she had told her mother about the abuse in 1987, and together they went to police. She said they withdrew their statement after facing pressure from Sinn Fein not to cooperate with police, and because those police appeared more interested in getting intelligence information on Gerry Adams, then reputed to be the most senior Irish Republican Army commander in Belfast.
In his testimony, Gerry Adams said he had known the allegations against his brother since 1987 and confronted him privately about them. He denied helping to get his brother a job as a youth worker in the 1990s in Catholic west Belfast, Adams’ power base.
Aine Adams returned to police to report the crimes again in 2007, the same year that Sinn Fein ended decades of boycotting the British forces of law and order in Northern Ireland. Accepting police authority opened the way for Sinn Fein to enter a power-sharing government for Northern Ireland in fulfillment of the territory’s Good Friday peace accord.
Aine Adams waived her legal right to anonymity in December 2009 on a Northern Ireland news program, during which she accused Sinn Fein of seeking to protect the party’s image by silencing her.
Liam Adams shortly thereafter fled Belfast, saying he could not receive a fair trial. He was extradited from the Republic of Ireland in 2011.
Sinn Fein long was the public face of the Irish Republican Army, an outlawed group that killed nearly 300 police officers as part of its failed 1970-1997 campaign to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. In Catholic west Belfast, people seeking punishment of crimes were warned not to tell police and instead report them to Sinn Fein. IRA “punishment” squads typically would shoot the offenders in the arms or legs, or issue death threats requiring them to flee Northern Ireland.
The dominant IRA faction, the Provisionals, stopped conducting such attacks in 2005 when it renounced violence and disarmed. Today Sinn Fein officials sit on a cross-community panel that oversees the Northern Ireland police.
Gerry Adams offered no comment Tuesday on his brother’s conviction. By coincidence, at the time of the verdict he was speaking in the Irish parliament in Dublin on the need for other victims of child rape to receive immediate state protection and swift access to justice.
Adams, 64, has led Sinn Fein since 1983 and built it into the largest Irish nationalist party in Northern Ireland. He held the British parliamentary seat for west Belfast until 2011, when he won a seat in Dail Eireann, the parliament of the Republic of Ireland. British and Irish government and security officials say he was a Provisional IRA leader from the early 1970s to 2005, but Adams denies this.