I have been getting some queries about an intriguing piece I wrote back in early 2010 about what was then the emerging pedophile scandal embroiling Liam Adams and his much better known older brother Gerry. It concerned a mysterious trip to the United States by Liam in 1984, clearly under circumstances where he was effectively on the run and in hiding.
Liam was sheltered in New York by the Limerick-born, Melkite priest Fr. Pat Moloney whose hostel for wayward children in lower Manhattan was also used as a waypoint on what can only be described as the IRA’s version of the old slave ‘underground railroad’, which facilitated the flight of Black fugitives from the slave states south of the Mason-Dixon line, and occasionally north of it as well. Except in the IRA’s case Fr. Moloney sheltered those fleeing the security forces in both parts of Ireland and had given refuge to many an IRA activist on the run and helped them further on their journey.
What we don’t know to this day, and neither did Fr. Moloney back in 1984, is why Liam Adams took refuge in America with his girlfriend Bronagh, why he was so anxious to get away from Ireland. Was his flight connected to the abuse of Aine or to some other difficulty in his life? We don’t know but I have a feeling that if this question is ever answered the Liam Adams affair, and its impact on and importance for his much more famous brother, will become so much clearer.
Anyway, I initially wrote the article for a Dublin magazine which sadly developed cold feet and spiked it. I then submitted it to The Sunday Times’s Irish edition and a truncated version eventually appeared. I thought that those following the Liam Adams’ story might be interested in reading the full, unpublished version.
I also am able to publish a cartoon by John Kennedy which has never been seen before. It deals with another key and perhaps related issue: Gerry Adams’ knowledge of the affair. The cartoon is at the bottom of this piece. Thanks John.
In the tangled and disconcerting story of Liam Adams, there has been one feature that has provided an uncomfortable and even damning parallel between his alleged paedophilia and that of some Catholic priests in Ireland, as highlighted in last November’s Murphy report. That was the practice of moving alleged abusers around Ireland to avoid the spotlight that inevitably would fall on them and the potentially disasterous demands for action against them that would follow.
In the case of the brother of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, it appears that in the last two decades or so, Liam Adams has made at least six moves within and outside Ireland beginning around the time that he had ceased raping his daughter, Aine right up to the moment when the scandal broke. It is these moves, along with Gerry Adams’ alleged refusal to take decisive action against his brother, that has led some to conclude that what was going on was part of a long and elaborate cover-up.
From piecing together the Liam Adams saga these were those moves, although accurate dates and places are hard to pin down:
♦ – In 1982 he moved from west Belfast to Donegal when his violent and physically abusive marriage to Sally Corrigan had ended. There he lived with his new partner, Bronagh and by 1985 they had a baby, a girl. When she discovered the existence of the child, another potential victim in her eyes, Aine decided to tell her mother about the abuse;
♦ – Then in 1987, according to an interview Gerry Adams gave to RTE’sTommy Gorman, Liam Adams ‘moved out of my life and….went abroad for a while’. This was not long after Aine and her mother had brought a complaint to the RUC and when they had involved Gerry Adams in the case, attempting, unsuccessfully, to get him to confront Liam and force him to admit what he had done. This was apparently the first time that Gerry Adams learned of his brother’s alleged paedophilia. Where Liam went to, how far ‘abroad’ it was or for how long, Gerry did not say;
♦ – Sometime around 1993 or 1994, Liam Adams moved to Dundalk where he became a community worker and Sinn Fein activist and he stayed there until 1998 when he moved back to west Belfast where he held a number of posts again in community work, some of which brought him close to children and young people. It was at this time that he became an officer in a Sinn Fein branch in Andersonstown;
♦ – In 2003, he moved back to Dundalk once more to take up a youth and community work post, this one for a project funded by the European Commission’s peace fund for Ireland. Again the work brought him into contact with young people. Whether he stayed there or moved back North is not known but when he attempted to give himself up to the authorities in the wake of last December’s UTV ‘Insight’ documentary it was to the Garda station in Sligo town that he went.
So Liam Adams moved around Ireland six times, crossing and re-crossing the Border, during the saga of his alleged sexual abuse of his young daughter and while it may be tempting to see in this shuttling around the map of Ireland, or at least the northern bit of it, the pointers to a cover up there was nothing intrinsically suspicious much less incriminating about what happened. It is arguable, for instance, that the first move to Donegal reflected a natural wish on the part of Liam Adams to get as far away as possible from an unhappy marriage and family situation in Belfast, while moving from one job to another, as he did in subsequent years, is not an unnatural consequence of working in a field, community and youth work, often dependent on finite, outside funding.
There was one other move however which has not come to light until now, one that admittedly raises more questions than it provides answers but which nonetheless demonstrates firstly, that powerful figures in the Provisional movement had compelling reasons to get Liam Adams out of Ireland for a considerable time not long after his marriage had collapsed and secondly that if the Provos felt it was necessary to move him out of trouble once, they could have done it again.
In 1984 – between the breakup of his marriage and the first documented surfacing of the paedophilia allegations – arrangements were made for Liam Adams to be smuggled into America, looked after and given a false identity until it was safe for him to return. He arrived in New York illegally and stayed in America for eight months until the reason for his exile had ceased to be a problem. Just why he was spirited away is a question that remains cloaked in mystery and speculation but the incident now brings fresh insights into the whole affair and, especially, Liam Adams’ troubled relationship with his more powerful and well known brother.
The story begins in 1961 in the East Village area of Manhattan when a Limerick-born Republican called Pat Moloney (no relation to the author) opened a house for troubled teenage boys, ‘the neediest street children’ as he called them, often runaways lured to the bright lights of New York and many of them undocumented aliens who otherwise would face deportation. Sixteen years later, in 1977, drawn by what he told the New York Times was its ‘family spirit’, Pat Moloney was ordained as a priest in the Melkite Church, one of the earliest Byzantine Catholic churches which remained faithful to Rome and his mission to help the city’s less fortunate teenagers came under the aegis of the Melkite community.
Since then, Bonitas House at 606 East Ninth Street has been a refuge for hundreds of such unfortunates with Fr. Pat Moloney’s efforts to feed, clothe and house them often the only thing standing between them and poverty, exploitation and disaster.
But ministering to the needs of New York’s homeless youngsters was only one of his acts of charity. During the worst years of the Troubles, Bonitas House also became the first port of call for many indigent and refugee IRA men, activists who were on the run from the authorities in Ireland or who wanted a break from Belfast or Derry and were in need of a fresh identity and a start in New York well away from the prying eyes of the FBI.
For Fr. Moloney that was a natural extension of his Republican views and background. His family in Limerick had been strong IRA supporters and when the Troubles erupted he gravitated towards the various support groups that sprang up in New York. In later years he would say the prayers at dinners and fund-raising events organised by the largest pro-Provo group, Irish Northern Aid (although these days he has switched allegiance to the Friends of Irish Freedom which supports Republican Sinn Fein), and he had what can only be described a colourful association with the sharper end of the IRA and more than one brush with the law.
In 1982 he, his brother John and a well known Belfast Provo called ‘Flash’ McVeigh were arrested in Ireland and charged with running guns for the IRA, an operation discovered when a crate of weapons split open at Shannon. He was acquitted and returned to America while his brother was convicted and spent three-and-a-half years in Portlaoise.
One of those for whom he had provided false papers was an Ardoyne IRA man called Sammy Millar, a former internee and convicted bomber who dreamed up and carried out an ambitious plan in 1993 to rob the Brinks Armoured Car depot in Rochester, in upstate New York of $7.5 million, a heist that made it the fifth largest in US history at the time. Aferwards speculation was rife that the IRA had a hand somewhere in the robbery but that was never established.
Eleven months later Millar was arrested in a Manhattan apartment sublet by Fr Moloney along with $2 million in cash and a money-counting machine. Remarkably neither man was convicted of the robbery but merely for handling stolen cash, for which Millar got five years and the priest four. Millar was later deported back to Belfast where he wrote a book about the robbery called ‘On the Brinks’, while Fr. Moloney, a US citizen, returned to the East Village and his support work for homeless teenagers and IRA exiles.
The approach to Fr. Moloney asking him to take Liam Adams into his care came not long after his first brush with law in Limerick and his acquiital on gun-running charges. Now 78-years-old but still working in the East Village, he spoke on the telephone from Bonitas House about his time with Liam Adams two days before Christmas and less than a week after the broadcast of the UTV documentary about Aine’s abuse, about which he had at that point only the slightest knowledge.
‘My brother’s case was on, in or around the same time….I was dragged into the whole thing. I wasn’t even remotely involved but they arrested me and we were tried in the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. John’s case was ‘82, he was convicted in ‘83, I was acquitted, so it would have been around ‘84 that Liam came here, around ‘83-’84. John was already in Portlaoise, in jail. I believe it was 1984.’
The timing is intriguing. Liam Adams’ marriage to Sally Corrigan had effectively ended in 1982 and he had taken up with another girl, Bronagh who joined him in his New York hideout for a while and later married him in Dundalk. A photograph showing a smiling Gerry Adams at their reception would later blow a hole in his cover story that he and Liam had been estranged since 1987, when he first learned of Aine’s sexual abuse.
The approach came from Belfast Provos although Gerry Adams did not himself play any direct role in it, which is not surprising since Fr.Moloney already distrusted the Sinn Fein leader’s politics and was at daggers drawn with him. Had Adams made the approach he would likely have given him short shrift. It was also clear that Liam Adams was in some sort of trouble, although precisely what that was, Fr. Moloney never discovered, although he did have suspicions.
‘For whatever reason, my understanding at the time was that they wanted him out of circulation. Gerry had no contact with me, other Belfast people contacted me, people from the republican movement. He had been paraded around from pillar to post until he came to me. He was just a loose wire in some ways. and they were also a little bit afraid of him. How shall I put this, he was a weak link the chain, I don’t think they quite trusted him.
‘When Liam came here I said, ‘Now Liam, you are going to assume an entirely different personality while you are here. You will not in any way let anyone know who you are, what your family background is or anything else.’ I instructed him that I wanted him to be entirely anonymous.
‘I had a couple of other Belfast boys here and I told him, “Liam, if I give you instructions in a certain area I have no time to explain everything to you but I need it to be followed to the letter.” Firstly I had clothing for them so they dressed strictly in American clothing, I told them that any medications they had like ‘Aspro’ or any brand name like that you would give to me, I would have them duplicated with the American brand name.
‘He was not to use his own name. I told him it was absolutely essential that you be what you are called, which was John Burns, you’ll be Mr and Mrs Burns and I told them “Liam, I am a very hard taskmaster”. We were under constant surveillance from you know who, so we needed to be low key. I had housed quite a few down the years and some of them were so damned indiscreet that it was incredible, absurdly indiscreet. I had everyone from Nessan Quinlivan [an IRA activist who shot his way out of Brixton jail in England in 1991] to Liam Ryan [former USA commander of the IRA who was shot dead by UVF in Co. Tyrone in 1989] who was with me a lot.’
Fr. Moloney believed he had to take special care with Liam Adams. ‘One reason was I don’t think he entered the country legally, it didn’t seem that he did and the other was that it was a quasi on-the-run situation. They (the Belfast Provos) needed him out of circulation for something or other. He might have been lifted briefly or he might have been similar to the Gildernew case. Francie Gildernew (a Tyrone republican) who died recently had jumped bail, and was a weak link in the chain and he had to be out of circulation. He couldn’t be trusted and I believed that was the question with Liam. They were just afraid that Liam was not reliable…’
Understandably, Fr. Moloney assumed that it was IRA business that had caused Liam Adams to be sent out of Ireland. He had, for instance, buckshot lodged in his head and Moloney got him private medical treatment to remove it. But as they got to know each other Liam spoke freely about his troubled marriage to Sally Corrigan, revealing that he had been forced into it by his family and when he tried to get a divorce, older brother Gerry had blocked it. Relations between the two brothers had badly deteriorated.
‘Liam had been forced into a teenage marriage by the family and it never worked. He had entered it only because he got the girl pregnant and he really didn’t want to marry . He was only a teenager, only 16 or thereabouts and not capable of raising a child. It was one of these love affairs and forced marriages for respectability. The girlfriend got pregnant and the family forced them to get married.’
The circumstances of the marriage may help to explain subsequent events. Liam Adams often beat his wife, Sally and afterwards woud rape Aine, according to the testimony the two gave to UTV. Is it possible that by doing so he was taking things out on the two people he blamed most for his unhappy marriage, the woman who got pregnant and the child that was born as a result?
By the time, Liam Adams was staying in Bonito House, he had a new woman in his life, as Fr. Moloney learned. ‘When he came here he was with Bronagh who is his present wife. Bronagh came from a very nice family outside of Belfast; her father was a chemist. They had met when she was a volunteer social worker in the Falls. He was a fragile young man, a nice fellow, he really was. And Bronagh was, how shall I put it, a marriage outside of his class. She was upper middle class, from a Belfast suburban family, fascinated by the [republican] cause and met up with Liam and then came here.’
Liam Adams wanted to end the marriage to Sally Corrigan so he could re-marry Bronagh but the Adams family and especially older brother Gerry stood in the way. ‘Back then he wanted to annul the original marriage and go for a divorce but the family were not in favour of it. you know back in those days it was “You make your bed and you lie in it. You don’t walk out on your wife kinda thing.”
‘He said he got no help from Gerry, he was strongly opposed [to the divorce] at the time, there’s no doubt about that. At that point in time they were not, how should I put it, on the friendliest of terms. Liam said look he should mind his own business. He would say, “I want to go ahead and lead my own life.” Gerry was refusing to help Liam. He wanted to get a divorce and he wasn’t getting help from that quarter. Gerry was concerned about the integrity of the family, that sort of stuff.
‘He saw Gerry as a political climber back then who didn’t want to sacrifice the good name of the family or harm Gerry’s well being and all that. That’s the impression I had at that time. There was definitely if not sibling rivalry then dislike. When Liam came to me he had a tremendous amount of resentment towards Gerry and he told me a lot of not very complimentary things about his brother. I do specifically remember a friend of ours, Larry McEvoy who….used to worked in the Indonesian mission at the United Nations and he took us on a special tour. We went to the delegates restaurant an into the main assembly chamber, you know, and Liam stood behind the podium where the heads of state speak and he said, “Man, if Gerry could see me now. He’d give his right eye to talk from here”.
‘At that point in time, I was telling him you’ve just got to put your foot down and tell him [Gerry] you’re going through with it with or without him so eventually he got the divorce and then also the annulment. The grounds for an annulment, the basic principle was that you were entering into this marriage totally of your own free will and fully informed of everything. So for an annulment, the presentation would be on the grounds of immaturity, lack of knowledge, lack of instruction, lack of competency to give consent.
‘I actually worked on the paperwork and showed him exactly and told him he was completely and absolutely eligible for an annulment. We began the process and to the best of my knowledge he got it. It was an open and shut case. I presented it to a tribunal and a board who said yes but the rest of it would have had to proceeded from over there [in Ireland] and I know that later on he married Bronagh.’
Liam Adams and Bronagh stayed with Fr. Moloney in the East Village for four months and later they moved to Connecticut to stay with friends of the priest and then to a farm run by the Melkites in upstate New York, north of the state capital, Albany. Fr. Moloney believes Liam moved back to Ireland, to Dundalk, at least initially, in early 1985, some eight months after they had arrived. Whatever it was that had sent Liam Adams to America had ceased to be a problem. Two years later, Aine, his daughter, would bring the first complaint against him of sexual abuse to the RUC. The rest is history.