Liam Adams, Gerry Adams' brother, arrives at the High Court in Dublin, Ireland, on March 10, 2010, for an extradition hearing. Picture Credit: PETER MULHY/AFP via Getty Images

Sinn Féin’s shame

The Irish republican movement’s dark history of sexual abuse and cover-up

Artillery Row

Many people believe that politics is saturated with hypocrisy and false sanctimony. Whether that view is unfair or wholly justified, no political organisation on the British Isles displays these vices with less shame or self-consciousness than Sinn Féin. 

The party is now, according to the polls, the biggest political force on the island of Ireland, but it remains an inseparable part of a movement linked to gangsterism, abuse and murder. Its history is a litany of shame and immorality, spanning every form of cruelty that a man (or woman) could inflict upon another human being.

A code of silence was imposed

Despite this background, the party’s representatives consistently adopt a tone of moral outrage, self-righteousness and self-pity, when they engage with their opponents. The most shocking thing is that so many liberals, on both sides of the Irish Sea, seem entirely relaxed about this attitude. Certainly, they are rarely among the “Shinners” most strident critics.

Recently, Sinn Féin has been showing its Janus-faced approach to violence against women. 

First, the murder of the 23-year-old teacher, Ashling Murphy, in Tullamore in the Republic of Ireland caused shock and revulsion across these islands. Politicians north and south of the Irish border condemned the killing, which took place while the young woman was running.

TULLAMORE, IRELAND – JANUARY 18, 2022: People line the street as the hearse leaves St. Brigid’s Church, County Offaly after the funeral service for Ashling Murphy. Picture Credit: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, and Sinn Féin’s northern leader, Michelle O’Neill, was particularly vocal, saying “Enough is enough. Male violence against women and girls needs to stop now.” Its southern supremo, Mary-Lou McDonald, announced that she would table a private member’s bill in the Republic’s parliament, lecturing the Dublin government about what it must do “to eliminate violence against women and girls.”  

These were arguably run-of-the-mill politicians’ responses to a horrific crime. But they also ignored the IRA’s appalling record of violence against female victims, which Sinn Féin has never acknowledged. 

To take one prominent example, the politician and media commentator, Máiría Cahill, alleged that an IRA member sexually abused her over the course of a year, when she was sixteen to seventeen. The terrorist organisation responded by conducting “internal investigations” into her ordeal. 

A murderous movement that covered up its members’ sex crimes

On Cahill’s website, the proceedings are described as a “kangaroo court”. “Senior republicans, including the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, were aware of her abuse and the IRA investigation, yet a code of silence was imposed as they closed ranks and protected themselves.”

Adams’ brother Liam was a convicted paedophile, who died while serving a 16-year sentence for raping and abusing his own daughter. The victim, Aine Adams, claimed that when she told her Uncle Gerry about these experiences, he described the allegations as “like trying to prove who stole apples from a cart”. 

It later emerged that, in 2000, Liam Adams confessed openly to his brother that he had raped and abused Aine. Liam would go on to work with youth groups in the Sinn Féin President’s West Belfast constituency, while Gerry finally told the police about the confession in 2009.

Máiría Cahill talks to the gathered media as she arrives for her meeting with Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson at Stormont on October 20, 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Picture Credit: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

You will remember, as well, that Gerry Adams was questioned about the infamous murder of Jean McConville, though he denied being involved. 

The mother of ten children was abducted by the IRA and buried secretly in County Louth in 1972, where her body was finally found in 2003. An official investigation by the police ombudsman dismissed suggestions she was an informer, but neighbours saw her helping an injured soldier before her disappearance, which may explain why she was treated so brutally.

Republicans inflicted many equally appalling attacks on women and girls throughout “the Troubles”. 

Joanne Mathers, a part-time census taker, was shot dead by an IRA gunman as she helped a householder fill in his forms in Londonderry in 1981. Nivruti Mahesh Islania, a six-month old girl whose father was in the RAF, was being nursed by her mother when she was killed by the terrorist group. The distraught woman refused to give up her baby’s dead body when police and paramedics arrived.

Heidi Hazell was a German citizen who became a target after marrying a British soldier. She was shot dead in her family car in 1986. After the deaths of Hazell and Islania, among others, Adams would say, “I don’t want to see anyone killed… but there is a conflict. There is a war going on. People join armies to fight.”

All this horror was perpetrated by a movement that now likes to style itself a champion of human rights and a “progressive” force for women’s advancement. Not that you must examine the bloody record of the IRA to uncover the party’s blatant opportunism and duplicity on these issues.

We all know who Sinn Féin are and what they have done

Only this week, the party slammed the Ulster Unionist leader, Doug Beattie, for a series of “unacceptable” and “regressive” tweets about women, posted mainly in 2012. “For those in political leadership that engage in everyday sexism and think it’s a joke,” O’Neill lectured the former army captain, “that’s just disgusting in itself.”

Less than forty-eight hours later, Sinn Féin was embroiled in its own “tweet-storm”, after the BBC’s Nolan Show revealed that its representatives had posted dozens of messages that were sexist or sectarian. Of course, that behaviour is barely worth a footnote in any indictment of a murderous movement that covered up its members’ sex crimes, but it is another example of its constant effrontery. 

We expect little more from Sinn Féin, but in recent years the southern Irish electorate has become susceptible to its populist messages. Many members of the Dublin establishment are increasingly reluctant to speak out against its hypocrisy, treating it as if it were a normal party, or occasionally offering tacit support. 

Fintan O’Toole, a journalist feted enthusiastically by Irish liberals and Guardian readers, called for its inclusion in the Irish government at the start of 2020, on the basis that it was a party of “radical change”. This was a man who had spent four years accusing British voters of stupidity and extremism, demanding that a political faction directed by a terrorist army council should run his own country.    

For unionists, the paradox is that Sinn Féin’s success and acceptance in the Republic strengthens their place in the United Kingdom. There is little prospect of a majority of voters in Northern Ireland demanding an all-Ireland state with the party at the heart of its political life, or a “new Ireland” designed to accommodate the demands of violent republicans. 

We all know who Sinn Féin are and what they have done. We know that they have never shown contrition and continue to celebrate their bloody deeds. It’s unlikely they will ever change. 

It’s the people in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland who routinely overlook Sinn Féin’s hypocrisy, ignore its history and allow the party to become normalised who really need to answer for their complacency.

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover