As long as I have known Gerry Adams I have known him as a private, deeply family orientated man.

When I spoke to him on Monday I could sense that strength in family was still very much at the heart of his latest response to the news that both his father and brother have been named as child sex offenders.

It cannot be easy for a moment to deal with such realities, but Adams can draw on great personal support from within his family.

It is rare to see photographs of Adams’ wife Collette, or of his son Gerry Junior. There are good security reasons for that, but even taking that into account Adams has created a zone of privacy around himself that allowed him to have a personal life.

He is rare among politicians who insist on that. By all accounts Collette Adams has been a tower of strength for her husband during the very difficult years, but unlike, say, Pat Hume, who has performed similar Trojan work for her husband John, Collette has stayed very much in the background.

Occasionally there are glimpses. I ran into Adams with his son and grandchild in Croke Park in Dublin at this year’s All-Ireland football final. Father, son and grandchild were having a wonderful time together. It was a rare glimpse into the private Adams.

Thus the news this week that Adams’ father had abused children in his family and that his son, Gerry’s brother Liam, is now accused of a similar crime must come as a very tough blow indeed.

I’m sure going public with his father’s misdeeds was very difficult for Adams, who revealed some of his inner torment in his public statement.

"In the late 1990s we discovered that our father had been sexually, emotionally and physically abusing members of our family," said Adams.

"This abuse happened over many years. This discovery and the abuse which preceded it have had a devastating impact on our entire family. We are still struggling to come to terms with what happened. We live with the consequences every single day.

"Abuse of any kind is horrendous but sexual abuse, particularly of a child, is indescribably wounding and heartbreaking.

"Victims of abuse in our family are still, years later, recovering from the trauma inflicted on us.”

A close friend told me that making the statement was one of the most difficult times of Adams life. That is really saying something given the extraordinary pressures Adams has faced as he and Martin McGuinness led the Republican movement to the negotiating table and into government in Northern Ireland.

Along the way he was shot and almost killed, threatened, reviled, and painted as the anti-Christ. Through it all he retained his equanimity and kept his eye on the prize.

But these revelations about his brother and father are something different.

We don’t pick our family, of course, and Adams is no more responsible for the sins of the father or brother than anyone else.

But the enormity of the issue when family misdeeds become catapulted in the media and are forced into the open in such a painful way makes it a very difficult time indeed for Adams.

Typically, though, when I spoke with him he seemed to feel a sense of relief that it was all out in the open at last, and that it might help others in the same situation.