You really couldn’t make this one up.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I have, from time to time, commented on the inevitable difficulties, both in perception and practice, of having appointed as Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland, a lawyer who, before taking up his post, was the attorney for a figure who was both the political leader of, and main strategist for the paramilitary group at the centre of the conflict in NI, and a man around whom controversy swirls on an almost daily basis.
I was, of course, referring to Barra McGrory who, prior to becoming DPP, was lawyer to Gerry Adams and to quite a few of his republican colleagues and this while the war between the IRA and the British, while not quite raging, was far from at an end. Put it this way, he was Gerry’s lawyer while Gerry was still on the Army Council and the IRA was less than united on the idea of embracing peace as the way forward; i.e. from 1994 onwards, after his father, the esteemed Paddy McGrory died.
I have lost count or track of the number of cases that Barra McGrory has had to recuse himself from, due to the fact that this or that player in the case was a former republican client, or was close to a former republican client, since his elevation to the DPP’s office in 2011.
One of those cases centred around Liam Adams, the brother of his client Gerry Adams (and for all I know maybe Liam had been on his books at some time as well), who was charged with raping his daughter Aine when she was an infant.
Gerry Adams ended up giving evidence for the prosecution in Liam Adams’ first trial (but strangely and inexplicably, not the second trial) and now we learn, courtesy of NI Attorney-General, John Larkin’s report on the PPS’s handling of Gerry Adams’ possible culpability in the whole affair, that Barra himself might have ended up in the witness box, giving evidence for Liam against Gerry.
Imagine that! The North’s Public Prosecution Service, headed by DPP Barra McGrory (although suitably recused), charges Liam Adams with raping his daughter and the DPP may have been obliged to testify on his behalf at the trial and be quizzed by a barrister briefed and paid for by Barra McGrory’s PPS!
As I said, you couldn’t make it up!
The story is told in three succinct but telling paragraphs, 4.49 to 4.51 in John Larkin’s report.
I will try and summarise what he had to say thus and then reproduce those paragraphs below.
Essentially, it all arises from the fact that in 2007 Gerry Adams sought advice from his lawyer Barra McGrory prior to going to the PSNI, which Sinn Fein had just recognised, to tell them of what he knew about his brother Liam’s sexual misconduct with his daughter Aine.
Gerry first heard, allegedly, about the allegations of abuse by his brother at a family conference in Buncrana, Co Donegal in 1987, attended by himself, Aine and Liam’s ex-wife Sarah. Aine told him, according to her own words, that Liam had raped her, or as she put it, he had, “put his thing inside her”.
Liam Adams’ lawyers raised this matter first on the grounds they had reason to suspect, “the credibility, reliability and truthfulness” of the statement that Gerry gave to the PSNI; or to put it another way, if what Gerry had told Barra in 2007 did not accord with what Gerry told the PSNI not long afterwards, then something was really wrong and Barra should be interviewed by the PSNI and then could be called by Liam’s legal team to rebut Gerry’s evidence for the prosecution! Whew!
Alternatively, if what Gerry told Barra was the same as what Gerry told the PSNI, then Barra could be called as a rebuttal witness by the prosecution, i.e. by Barra’s own PPS, if Gerry’s truthfulness was questioned by Liam’s counsel.
Either way Barra could have been a key witness in a criminal trial which his own PPS had instigated.
It all ended up with Barra making a statement to the PSNI, as Liam’s lawyers had suggested, which is passed on to his own PPS and then made available to Liam Adams’ lawyers. Barra refuses, however, to have a face-to-face with Liam’s lawyers, saying “….there was nothing which the DPP could usefully add to the statement which he had made to the police…..”
As things turned out, none of these possibilities came to pass. Barra was never called as a witness for one side or another. But the point is that he could have been called; and some, doubtless, think he should have been called. We don’t know why Barra never appeared in a witness box but there is little doubt that if he had, his stature as the DPP would never have been the same.
I think I once wrote that appointing Barra to the DPP’s post probably fell into the category of: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Let me withdraw that. It was never a good idea. And he, of all people, should have known that.
Here are the relevant extracts from John Larkin’s report: