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Tuesday 16 October 2018

Family of murdered Garda oppose release of killers

RITA O'REILLY

THE family of murdered Garda Frank Hand have resigned themselves to being ``pebbles on the beach'' in the Good Friday Agreement but cannot accept that his killers will be freed, his brother Michael Hand said yesterday.

THE family of murdered Garda Frank Hand have resigned themselves to being ``pebbles on the beach'' in the Good Friday Agreement but cannot accept that his killers will be freed, his brother Michael Hand said yesterday.

Speaking on the 14th anniversary of Det Garda Frank Hand's death, Mr Hand criticised the Government for failing to consult relatives despite a ministerial promise that this would not continue.

Det Garda Frank Hand was killed in an exchange of gunfire during a raid on a post office van he was escorting to Drumree, Co Meath in 1984. Patrick McPhilips, Thomas Eccles and Brian McShane were convicted and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment. Speaking to RTE Radio yesterday, Mr Hand said: ``I would accept that there has to be compromise and obviously Northern Ireland has been a very difficult problem. However, in my view the Republic of Ireland was a separate sovereign state; at the time Frank was shot the Republic of Ireland was not at war and I find it very hard to accept that Frank's killers, if you like, should be part of the agreement at all.

``It is a small comfort, but it is a comfort to know that people who were convicted were doing time,'' he said, adding that this allowed his relatives to feel ``that at least Frank's life and his work for the State had not been in vain''.

But Mr Hand said: ``We gradually have resigned ourselves to the fact that we are a pebble on the beach, so to speak. There are bigger political agendas at work and we feel that we have no way of influencing these.

``We feel that the more we push, the more grief and hardship we're bringing on our individual family members and accordingly, I suppose, we have withdrawn, and we'd like to retain our dignity and not get involved in unseemly squabbles.''

He said he found out about the potential release of his brother's killers ``by accident'' when he read the Good Friday Agreement and thought it contained ``a rather vague reference to the issue''.

Following a meeting with Justice Minister John O'Donoghue, the family had requested that some official recognition be given to relatives of victims, ``and the minister, in fairness to him, did actually subsequently set up a Victims Commission''.

``However, one of our biggest gripes was the total lack of consultation and the minister and his officials did give us a firm commitment that there would be consultation and advice from here on out. However, that has not been the case.''

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