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Gerry Adams is a most unlikely victim

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Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.

IT WAS an extraordinary Dail debate by any standards. The Taoiseach levelled the most serious allegations against the leader of an opposition party, which is in government north of the border, and wants to hold similar office in the south sooner rather than later.

Mr Kenny accused the IRA and Sinn Fein of covering up child sexual abuse, and moving those accused of offences from Northern Ireland to the Republic. In extremely direct language, he said republicans had "honoured" this republic with their rapists and child abusers.

The Taoiseach challenged Mr Adams and Sinn Fein to tell the gardai what they know of these people's whereabouts and current activities. He said this was a fundamental action to allow full protection of all citizens.

There were strong challenges from all other speakers from all of the main parties and from deputies from smaller groups and the independent ranks. Taken overall, it was a rare show of unanimity which left Sinn Fein looking strangely alone.

Beyond Leinster House, it is likely that few beyond Sinn Fein's diehard supporters will buy into Mr Adams's central response that all bar him and his colleagues were "playing politics", and the main parties had more than one eye on the next General Election. The response of a major movement to allegations of child abuse, and the failures to deliver redress to an abuse victim, is far beyond usual day-to-day political jousting.

The issues here are about fundamental justice and human rights.

Incredibly, the only time Mr Adams displayed a scintilla of emotion was in his reference to his own family being mistreated. This eloquently summed up the abiding impression he left that this was more about Mr Adams than anybody else.

The myriad calls by leading Sinn Fein politicians all down the years for the leaders of the Catholic Church to respond appropriately to child abuse cases now apply to Sinn Fein themselves.

As with many other controversies, Sinn Fein's response in this matter has been partial and varied as events unfolded. In it, Sinn Fein lacks credibility and Mr Adams is a most unlikely victim.

Teachers must put the good of students first

The last thing that students need - especially those facing into exams - is to lose valuable tuition time in the classroom. Yet that is what we are now facing as two teachers' unions meet to consider industrial action over a failure to agree much-needed reform to the Junior Cycles.

Efforts by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan to reach a compromise - a State Certificate, with exams accounting for 60pc of the marks and the remaining 40pc to be awarded for classroom work and assessed by teachers - have been welcomed by parents, students and even Fianna Fail. However, the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland and the Teachers Union of Ireland are now considering industrial action.

It is a very disappointing outcome for the minister, who believed that by retaining a Junior Cert she was meeting a key demand of the teachers. But it is also extremely disappointing for parents. We can only hope the dispute does not come to strike action and that the teachers and department can get back to talks to finally sort out something that has been trundling on for the last 20 years.

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