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Friday 9 December 2016

'Deeply distressing' Oregon school killer was 'influenced by IRA images' - Justice Minister

Published 02/10/2015 | 13:05

Chris Harper Mercer who has been identified by US media as the gunman in Oregon shooting in which at least nine people died and dozens more were wounded
Chris Harper Mercer who has been identified by US media as the gunman in Oregon shooting in which at least nine people died and dozens more were wounded
Kristen Sterner, left, and Carrissa Welding, students of Umpqua Community College, embrace each other during a vigil for those killed at the college (AP)
A woman is comforted after a shooting at Umpqua Community College (AP)
Friends and family wait for students at the local fairgrounds after the deadly shooting at Umpqua Community College (AP)
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the shooting, in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House (AP)

It is 'desperately distressing' that Chris Harper-Mercer, who killed at least 10 people at a US college, was seemingly influenced by certain IRA related images, said Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

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English born Harper-Mercer, who opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Oregon yesterday, had an ‘Ireland Freedom Fighters’ album on his MySpace page.

Among his social media profiles was other content linked to the IRA.

Speaking this morning, Minister Fitzgerald said "radical groups" will always attract followers.

"This is why we have to crack down hard. When you have a culture of violence in any country, it can be used as an excuse. It radicalises people.

"It means we have to continually work for peace."

The gunman who shot dead at least nine people dead in the latest shooting massacre in the US was identified as Chris Harper Mercer (26) shortly after the shooting spree.

A number of media outlets in the US have reported that Mercer has shown apparent support for the IRA in the past, and had a morbid interest in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.

People take part in candle light vigil following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola
People take part in candle light vigil following a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

Mercer died in the shoot-out with police.

There is no known motive as to why Mercer carried out the shooting. The incident occurred at Umpqua Community college in the small rural town of Roseburg, about 180 miles south of Portland, Oregon.

Umpqua Community College interim president Rita Cavin speaks to the media after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola
Umpqua Community College interim president Rita Cavin speaks to the media after a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

The shooting left dozens of people seriously wounded.

Mercer also appeared to be prolific user of file-sharing system Bittorrent.

According to The Guardian, an email address 'ironcross45@gmail.com' was found to be associated with Mercer via a public records search, and is linked to an account that bears the username 'Lithium_Love'.

The final video uploaded by this user to the site, just three days ago, was a BBC documentary called 'Surviving Sandy Hook' about the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

After news of the shooting emerged, President Barack Obama angrily said America had made a "political choice" to allow mass shootings like the one in Oregon to occur and blasted the National Rifle Association (NRA)lobby group for blocking reform of US gun laws.

Appearing in the White House briefing room with a grim expression and a frustrated tone, Obama challenged US voters of all political stripes to hold their leaders accountable if they wanted to prevent such tragedies from happening again.

"This is a political choice that we make, to allow this to happen every few months in America," Obama told reporters after the latest shooting at a community college in an Oregon town in which nine people were killed before police fatally shot the gunman.

"We collectively are answerable to those families who lose their loved ones because of our inaction," he said.

Today, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald also revealed criminal groups still represent a "severe threat" to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

But she insisted huge strides have been made to tackle paramilitary involvement in organised crime.

Following a meeting with the Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan this week, she said a "number of enquiries are going on" north and south of the border.

"What we do know is that there is still a severe threat in the North.

"We do face a threat to the peace process in an ongoing way from dissident groups.

"We also have people involved in criminal activity, who were previously members of the Provisional  IRA.

"So we have serious issues, but be clear about one thing, no blind eye is being turned on anyone. We have ongoing prosecutions in relation to cross-border crime.

"There has also been quiet a number of successes in joint operations between the PSNI and An Garda Siochana."

Referring to domestic politics, she played down suggestions of a snap election in November - but conceded the coalition parties are firmly in election mode.

"It's fair to say both parties have been making preparations and are well advanced. As the Taoiseach has consistently stated the election will be next year, "she said.

The Minister was speaking this morning at the Government's launch of a new 'six point plan' to create more jobs for those with disabilities.

One of the key aims of the ten-year plan is to double the number of people in this group working in the public service within a three year period.

The "comprehensive employment strategy" was launched in Farmleigh House by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

People with disabilities are only half as likely to be in employment as others of working age.

The Taoiseach said this strategy will ensure this section of the population will not be left behind as the economy recovers.

Up to 600,000 people in Ireland are affected by some level of disability.

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