Family of IRA victim criticise SF award for gang driver
THE family of a young civil servant who was murdered by the IRA during a bank robbery over three decades ago has criticised Sinn Fein for giving an award to the gang's getaway driver.
Eamon Ryan (32) was shot dead in front of his three-year-old son in an AIB branch in Waterford in 1979.
Two IRA men, Eamonn Nolan and Aaron O'Connell, were given life sentences for his murder. And local IRA man Bill Hayes served nine years for his role as a getaway driver.
But Mr Ryan's widow, Bernadette, and grown-up children, Peter and Dorothy, have criticised the fact that Mr Hayes has been given a special award by Sinn Fein.
"We note also the Le Cheile award given to Bill Hayes for 'outstanding service to the cause of Irish freedom' at the 2011 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis," they said.
It was a rare comment by the family, more than 30 years after Mr Ryan's death.
It was sparked off by a sequence of events, which began with the murder of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe in Louth in January.
That prompted Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to apologise in the Dail for the first time for the IRA's murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in 1996.
Fine Gael Waterford TD Paudie Coffey then called on him to deliver a similar apology to the family of Mr Ryan.
Mr Adams issued a statement to the Waterford-based 'Munster Express' newspaper last month expressing his "deep regret" about what had happened.
Mr Ryan's family told the Irish Independent that they noted the expression of regret by Mr Adams "about Eamon's murder" – and revealed the damage it had caused to them.
"Thirty-four years on from his murder, Eamon's loss is felt every day by his friends and family," they said.
And the sister of Mr Ryan has criticised Mr Adams for claiming that she had given a "positive response" to the IRA's previous apology for killing civilians back in 2002.
Mairead Bolger said this was "absolutely rubbish".
"It was a very general apology, if you weren't watching the television or reading the right papers, you didn't even hear about it. I certainly wasn't asked for a response to it," she said.
She said Mr Adams's expression of "deep regret" would not bring her brother back. "There's no way back. That's the thing about murder," she said.
Mr Adams could not be contacted for comment about why he had claimed to the 'Munster Express' that Ms Bolger had given a "positive response" to the IRA apology.
At the time of the IRA raid in 1979, Mr Ryan was in Tramore visiting his mother. While his wife Bernadette went shopping, he went to the bank on Strand Street. He was about to leave the AIB branch when he was accosted by the IRA gang. He was gunned down in cold blood by a hooded man as he lay prone on the ground.
After being released from prison in 1988, getaway driver Hayes went on to stand for Sinn Fein in Waterford in the 2009 local elections without success.
In the run-up to the election, he told 'The Waterford News and Star': "I regret it (the robbery) to this day and so do my colleagues.''
But he went on to say: "There was a struggle on and it had to be financed. One of the ways to do that was to rob banks.''