Sunday 18 February 2018

'Post-Troubles' Sinn Féin TD backs Gerry Adams on Tom Oliver murder

Prison sentences would not help: TD Eoin Ó Broin. Picture: Collins
Prison sentences would not help: TD Eoin Ó Broin. Picture: Collins

John Downing and Ian Begley

One of Sinn Féin's leading TDs of the "post-Troubles generation" has backed Gerry Adams's insistence that IRA killers must not be tried and jailed for past murders.

Dublin Mid-West TD Eoin Ó Broin has said he appreciates the need for victims of violence, such as the family of murdered Louth farmer Tom Oliver, to get justice. But he backs his party leader's view that investigations into thousands of unresolved crimes from the Troubles should not involve courts appearances and jail sentences for those identified with these past crimes.

"I believe Gerry Adams's view has been twisted. We all acknowledge that victims on all sides must pursue justice and some kind of resolution for what happened. But I don't think the peace process benefits from the prosecution of former combatants, be they Loyalists, security forces or Republicans," Mr Ó Broin said.

But despite the strong suggestion from Sinn Féin of some kind of "amnesty" as part of a "resolution process", Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said that no such thing can happen. He pointed to the 1991 killing of Mr Oliver.

"My message to Gerry Adams is that there have been no amnesties and there will be no amnesties. This was a brutal murder and I welcome the fact that the Garda Síochána is reviewing the files and I expect that if new evidence is received, it will be acted upon in the normal course," the Justice Minister said.

Read More: Fresh hopes for power-sharing as O'Neill reveals talks with DUP

Gardaí have reopened investigations into the brutal murder of Mr Oliver, which convulsed a Border community in the Cooley Peninsula in Louth - and the crime's divisive legacy continues. But Mr Adams has insisted that it will not benefit the longer-term peace to have charges and prison sentences result from this.

Critics in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil regularly point to how younger Sinn Féin TDs consistently back their leader's pronouncements on the IRA's violent past, even though their arrival at Leinster House came long after the de facto end of hostilities in the mid-1990s.

But Mr Ó Broin, who was first elected to Dáil Éireann in 2016, said he has been in Sinn Féin for 22 years. He also argues that, while he originally comes from Dublin, he lived for 11 years in north Belfast, and was a Belfast city councillor for three years.

He has written about the Basque conflict and studied other similar strife situations across the globe. "The broad consensus is that prosecution and jailing of former combatants does not help the longer-term resolution of the deep-seated divisions. But that does not mean that people who have suffered cannot have a voice," he added.

But Fianna Fáil's Willie O'Dea said the lack of divergence by younger Sinn Féin TDs showed that there was no difference involved in leadership change.

"We never hear any of the Sinn Féin TDs, even younger ones considered to be of a post-Troubles generation, criticising Mr Adams," the Limerick City TD said.

Irish Independent

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