The police’s handling of allegations that Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams withheld information on his sex abuser brother should be examined by Northern Ireland’s Police Ombudsman, a Stormont minister said yesterday.
DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots stressed the need for the probe a day after a separate review was launched into the role of prosecutors who decided not to bring charges against the republican leader.
PSNI officers made a recommendation to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) that no prosecution be taken against the Sinn Fein veteran.
Mr Adams has been facing mounting criticism over what he told police about his paedophile brother Liam and when.
The paedophile will be sentenced on November 5 in Belfast for six years of rape attacks on his daughter Aine in the 1970s.
But yesterday the Sinn Fein leader insisted that he had committed no offence and accused rivals, including the DUP, of using his family for political ends.
During a first trial earlier this year, which ultimately collapsed, the Sinn Fein leader, now a TD in the Republic, claimed he first heard of the sex abuse claims in 1987 and, 13 years later, his younger brother confessed to him.
The Sinn Fein leader has been criticised for not informing the police at the time of the revelations, with his statements to detectives not coming until 2007 and 2009.
Last week, DUP leader Peter Robinson said he did not want to “make politics out of a very sad situation”.
Yesterday, Mr Poots told the Assembly that the Police Ombudsman should examine the PSNI’s role in the case.
“Aine Adams was let down by the RUC, she was let down by her uncle Gerry Adams and she has been let down to some extent by the PSNI,” he said.
“I welcome the fact that there was a conviction in that case and the good work that was carried out by the PSNI and the Public Prosecution Service in bringing Liam Adams to justice but I do think that when it comes to the other issue of the cover-up of the crime, that the PSNI have questions to answer and they need to have those questions answered in a very public way.
“That’s why I believe the ombudsman needs to look at the work of the PSNI to date.
“It is a very, very unusual set of circumstances and I think the PSNI should be asking for the ombudsman to look at their work, and, if they don’t, I will. And I will be looking for independence to be applied in this case so that no-one, and I mean no-one in the public, has any sense that anybody is above the law.”
But Mr Adams accused his political rivals of attempting to score political points over the case: “I do take exception to the quite despicable lobbying that’s going on.
“I learned that the DUP, at least some of the DUP, and indeed some in Fianna Fail, are coming at this in a political way. So I totally and absolutely reject that. But I try to be measured in how I deal with all of this, to be sensible and reasonable.”
He said the DPP ordered the inquiry because of the public interest, and added: “So if we find that the DUP are lobbying the Chief Constable, could the DUP be lobbying the Director of Public Prosecutions as well? I don’t know the answer to that question. But it’s a matter for the Attorney General and we’ll let him get on with it.”
Mr Adams first heard in 1987 that his brother had abused his niece. He was a witness in the first trial which collapsed.
He told that court he first confronted his brother when they met in Buncrana in 1987 and that Liam Adams had denied the abuse.
He then revealed that his brother later confessed while they were out walking together in Dundalk in 2000.
It is understood he spoke to police about the issue in 2007 and again in 2009.
Aine initially reported the abuse to police in 1987 but did not pursue a prosecution as she believed detectives were more concerned in gathering information on Gerry Adams and the family.
Mr Adams has also been under pressure after it emerged that his brother Liam worked with young people in west Belfast and in Co Louth after the allegations of abuse had been made against him.
A PSNI spokesman confirmed that the Chief Constable had met Mr Poots yesterday: “During the course of that meeting the Health Minister raised the Liam Adams case along with other issues.”
He said the PSNI would now “review the evidence and examine any further investigative opportunities” and confirmed that the PSNI had previously recommended to the PPS that there should be “no prosecution in relation to Gerry Adams”.