Tuesday 21 November 2017

Farmers and families outraged over Adams call for amnesty over Tom Oliver killing

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Photo: Reuters
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams. Photo: Reuters

Louise Hogan and Niall O'Connor

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams faces a furious backlash from farmers and victims' families after suggesting the murder of innocent father Tom Oliver go unpunished.

Senior Government ministers warned Mr Adams that there will be "no amnesty" for those who committed "senseless" killings during the Troubles.

Mr Adams sparked outrage when he claimed that jailing the IRA murderers of the Co Louth farmer would be "totally and absolutely counterproductive".

In an interview on LMFM, Mr Adams described Mr Oliver's death in 1991 as a "politically motivated killing".

But farming groups rounded on Mr Adams, with many demanding justice for the family. Decades after the father-of-seven was abducted from his home in Riverstown, near Carlingford, the name Tom Oliver still stands out in farming circles.

President of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association John Comer said there could be no question of suspending or abandoning the investigation.

"We - and I think the vast majority of citizens - see the need for justice to be done for Mr Oliver's family and community and the justice system should proceed on that basis," said the Co Mayo farmer.

The current chair of the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) in Co Louth said many farmers in the area would remember the killing. "The family do deserve justice, it is going on long enough now," said Gerard Melia.

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IFA president Joe Healy added that the murder "shook farming and the young farming community to the core".

There is massive anger from many members of the farming community contacted in the Riverstown area, despite the years passing since the death.

Some of the livestock farmers recalled the terror that you might come across something that you shouldn't see, as you went about your business.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed backed the farmers' calls for justice and said Mr Adams had made an "appalling suggestion" of forgiveness.

"We have an independent judicial system, independent Office of Public Prosecution, we have a Garda force that has served us well since the foundation of the State.

"And, if all of those institutions are doing their job correctly, then if there is evidence people should be brought before the courts. And there is no place for political interference in terms of the administration of justice. The Oliver family have waited long enough for justice."

His Cabinet colleague Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also strongly criticised the remarks by Mr Adams. "The brutal murder of Tom Oliver was one of the most senseless acts of bloody murder whereby a wife and children were robbed of their husband and father," he said.

"Under no circumstance can the abduction and murder of a man be justified - for political or ideology means. I would say to Gerry Adams there can be and will be no amnesty of any sort or kind under the so-called banner of the Troubles. Garda authorities are taking this murder extremely seriously. Should new evidence emerge it will be acted upon immediately."

Austin Stack, the son of murdered chief prison officer Brian Stack, said Mr Adams was disrespectful towards victims and contemptuous of their families.

Mr Stack said: "I know the Oliver family quite well and I know the effect that these outrageous comments will have had on them."

He added that "Adams is trying to rewrite the Good Friday Agreement by suggesting there should be no prosecutions in Troubles-related cases, in fact the Good Friday Agreement specifically allows for prosecutions". He said Mr Adams "is fixated on getting amnesties for those who committed the most heinous of crimes, while at the same time leaving the victims with no answers or justice".

Irish Independent

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