Responding to allegations of sexual abuse by IRA members, members then moved south of the border to escape any prospect of due process, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams declared in the Dail chamber, “But these actions were of their time and reflected not only a community at war but also an attitude within Ireland which did not then understand or know as we now do, how deeply embedded abuse is in our society.” Mr Adams, that is nonsense, either that or the IRA was filled with ignoramuses who knew less about life than working-class boys in England.
There was a boy at our school in the West of England called Kevin. Kevin was born in 1961, or, maybe, 1962. A year junior to our class, he left school in 1978 and was killed in a motorcycle accident in the spring of the following year. While most of us listened to the BBC Top 30, watched Top of the Pops, and bought 7 inch vinyl singles, Kevin was one of a small group who preferred listening to albums. Either Kevin, or one of those with whom he listened to records, had The Who’s 1969 album, ‘Tommy’. ‘Tommy’ was a rock opera, its songs are part of a narrative. On the first track of side three, ‘Do You Think It’s Alright?’, Tommy’s parents wonder if it is safe to leave him in the care of his uncle. The lyrics of ‘Fiddle about’, the track that followed the parents’ question, were lines that Kevin would sing with a sneer and an air of viciousness.
I’m your wicked Uncle Ernie
I’m glad you won’t see or hear me
As I fiddle about
Your mother left me here to mind you
Now I’m doing what I want to
Down with the bedclothes
Up with your nightshirt!
In 1969, child abuse was a subject sufficiently well known for a leading rock band to feature it on an album that went on to sell twenty million copies around the world. In the mid-1970s, paedophiles were recognized by our group of teenage, English working class boys as devious and manipulative opportunists who caused permanent emotional scars to their victims.
Gerry Adams pretends that the IRA simply did not understand the nature of child abuse, “these actions were of their time and reflected . . . an attitude within Ireland which did not then understand or know as we now do, how deeply embedded abuse is in our society”. It is a lie. Perhaps someone should send him a copy of “Tommy” to remind him how much we all understood.