Adams must help heal the wounds caused by his Republican associates
Published 23/04/2016 | 02:30
When Gerry Adams takes to the stage to deliver his keynote speech in the Convention Centre this evening, one television set in a small Co Armagh home will be quickly switched off.
For in this home, located over 100km from the bright surroundings of the Dublin docklands, the mood is sombre and at times dark.
The sole occupants are Stephen and Breege Quinn - a warm, gentle couple who continue to ask the question 'Why?' Why was their son Paul brutally murdered by the IRA in October 2007 - long after the terror group told us their campaign of violence had come to an end?
And why did the gang of armed men resort to such barbarity by luring the 21-year-old to a shed in Co Monaghan before beating him to death with steel bars and truncheons studded with nails?
Of course, Stephen and Breege know they will never receive the answers to these questions.
But they do believe one of the country's most senior political leaders has the contacts and the capacity to at least help them to get some closure following their loved one's murder.
"Gerry Adams has to know something or somebody," Stephen told the Irish Independent last night.
"But he doesn't seem to care about what happened to our son. He has never even picked up the phone to us," he added.
The Quinn family, the McConville children, Austin Stack and Mairia Cahill all believe Adams knows more about some unsolved crimes and atrocities than he lets on.
It is therefore extraordinary that a politician carrying so much baggage could remain so comfortably at the helm of the Sinn Féin party for as long as he wishes.
But to explain why Adams possesses a cult-leader status in the republican movement requires a deep understanding of the current Sinn Féin psyche.
Internally, the appetite for a new leader is virtually non-existent.
In fact, there is a deep-rooted fear that life after Adams could drive the party into a period of stagnation, or worse, a crisis.
Adams is the only southern figurehead deemed capable of dealing with a rise of IRA activity, if one occurs.
He is treated like a celebrity in the US - which is vital for the party's massive fundraising drive.
And with many political challenges still facing Stormont, Sinn Féin figures believe the time for Adams's departure has not yet arrived.
But if, as we believe, an exit strategy is being put in place, perhaps now is the time for Adams to show courage and step up to the plate.
The deep wounds that were caused by his Republican associates remain as raw today as ever. The story of Paul Quinn is just one of a catalogue of examples.