Gerry Adams has faced many controversies over the years and he has survived each and every one in an unbelievably easy fashion.
But a fortnight after his brother Liam was convicted of raping and sexually abusing his daughter Aine, major doubts about the Sinn Fein president’s political future continue to haunt him.
He certainly isn’t mortally wounded, but he is very much damaged goods. It’s unlikely he’ll be forced to resign as Sinn Fein president. Unless he is taken away in handcuffs for withholding information about child abuse, party grassroots will remain loyal.
And legal sources predict the Attorney General’s review of the original decision not to prosecute Mr Adams won’t lead to any new decision. But while he may not face charges in a court of law, he is in big trouble in the court of public opinion.
Every time, he opens his mouth to question another politician or organisation north or south of the border, his right to criticise will be challenged.
One word from him chastising Orangemen, loyalists, unionist politicians, Fianna Fail or the Dublin government will lead to the retort: ‘We won’t be lectured by someone who lied about a paedophile and didn’t adequately protect children’.
This one is a slow burner. Gerry Adams’ integrity as a public figure is so undermined by what he did and didn’t do about his child rapist brother that nothing he says in future will be treated with any credibility.
He is seriously damaged goods. Brand Adams is finished. Unionists might wonder what’s so special about this issue. Why should it contaminate Gerry Adams when equally grave life-and-death matters haven’t?
How can he survive allegations he had mother of 10 Jean McConville and numerous others murdered, that he was involved in Bloody Friday and other atrocities, and yet this case is his undoing?
It’s precisely because the sexual abuse of his four-year-old niece isn’t remotely related to the Troubles that it damages him so much.
Unionists might see through Gerry Adams completely but unfortunately outsiders and many in the nationalist community view Gerry Adams’ denials about his IRA involvement as understandable.
“Sure nobody tells the truth about the Troubles,” they say. “The Brits, the cops, and the loyalists, they all lied during the war.”
But such argument doesn’t extend to the rape of a young child. Gerry Adams failed to tell police about his brother’s confession to child abuse not at the height of the conflict but for nine years from the year 2000.
Sinn Fein voted to support policing in January 2007. It was two years and seven months after this, and 15 years after the IRA ceasefire, that Mr Adams chose to relay his brother’s admission of paedophilia to detectives.
This was during a time when his party was urging dissident republicans to embrace the PSNI. His Southern critics will contend that if for some unstated reason he felt uncomfortable with police here, Mr Adams had no reason for failing to inform gardai about Liam.
In fact, he couldn’t even be bothered to contact Donegal or Dundalk social services. Gerry Adams’ portrayal of himself as a caring and compassionate person and politician has never matched the harsh reality.
But his failure to adequately protect children from sexual abuse startles even those previously sympathetic to him. Aine was his niece, his own flesh and blood, and yet he was found disgracefully lacking.
Liam worked with children in staunchly republican working-class Dundalk and west Belfast. Gerry Adams exposed the children of his own supporters to his paedophile brother.
The cult of personality in Sinn Fein and the Stalinist-like refusal to tolerate any dissent has led to Mr Adams escaping censure within the party. Those Shinners who denounced the priests and bishops over child abuse and loudly demanded their resignation are now shamefully silent.
But in the wider republican community, there is fierce criticism. IRA hunger-striker and former Sinn Fein press officer, Gerard Hodgins, urged Mr Adams to step down, saying he is worthy of neither respect nor a vote.
“Gerry Adams began his career emulating South American military dictators who had a habit of disappearing people and ended his career emulating a cardinal of the Catholic Church protecting child abusers,” he said.
They’re strong words from someone living in the heart of west Belfast. Not that long ago, Mr Hodgins would have had his house picketed or found himself dumped in an alleyway battered and bruised for daring to criticise ‘the great leader’. But times are changing and the muscle of the Provisionals isn’t what it was.
Gerry Adams turned 65 earlier this month, becoming Sinn Fein’s pensioner president. He’s been around longer than almost every other political leader on the world stage, clinging onto power for over 30 years.
Four British prime ministers, six Irish taoisig, and four US presidents have come and gone on his watch.
Only Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe has held office longer. If he chooses to stand again in the Dail elections in Louth, he’ll likely get re-elected TD.
Yet he has always had his eye on a greater prize. Any idea he could be the next Irish President was destroyed in the past fortnight. The Irish people will never allow someone who withheld information about child abuse across the door of Aras an Uachtarain.
The Sinn Fein president is keen to hang around until 2016 for the 100th anniversary of the most important event in the republican calendar, the Easter Rising.
Even if he manages this, it will be as an increasingly impotent and marginalised figure.
Of all our politicians, his eye has been fixed most keenly on the history books.
His every public word and action has been tailored accordingly. Gerry Adams wants remembered as the courageous politician who brought the IRA to a historic ceasefire and peace negotiations.
The Sinn Fein president who lied about his paedophile brother, let him rise in the party and work with republican children, isn’t an account he reckoned on.
But, whether he likes it or not, it’s one future generations are set to hear.