RTÉ Radio One
Presenter Mary Wilson gives us Philip Boucher-Hayes’ report detailing that award-winning journalist, author and historian, Ed Moloney, has first-hand information that contradicts claims recently made by Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, that Sinn Féin has no information about the 1991 murder of Co. Louth farmer, Tom Oliver.
Mary: Now the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, courted controversy last week when he said sending the killers of innocent Louth farmer, Tom Oliver, to jail would be ‘absolutely counter-productive’. Gardaí in Ardee have re-opened the investigation into the murder of the forty-two year old father of seven in 1991. Adams said neither he nor Sinn Féin had any information that would help Gardaí with their investigation. But as Philip Boucher-Hayes reports, that position has been contradicted in the last twenty-four hours. Some may find the descriptions in this report upsetting.
Ed: I made contact with Sinn Féin, and it’s important that I say that, because the person I initially had contact with was a Sinn Féin figure in Doire.
Philip: In the Summer of 1991, the then Northern Editor of the Sunday Tribune, Ed Moloney, says he was tricked by Sinn Féin and the IRA.
Ed: Eventually I heard back from Sinn Féin’s Press Office in Belfast and again it’s important that we say that it is Sinn Féin in this case, it was not IRA.
Philip: He was investigating the murder by the IRA of an IRA bomb maker. He wanted to hear his confession tape. So a Sinn Féin publicity officer drove with him to South Armagh to meet the IRA.
Ed: We arrived at Cullyhanna and at Cullyhanna I was told to get into this other car. I got into the back seat, told to lie down and a hood was put over my head and we then drove off. Where we drove to I have absolutely no idea because I couldn’t see a thing.
Philip: In a disused cottage Moloney met two men in military fatigues. But he had been brought there, he says, on false pretenses.
Ed: I very quickly realised that I had been tricked. This was not about Patrick Flood. This was now all about Tom Oliver. And it was their attempt to justify the killing of Tom Oliver.
Philip: The murder of Oliver had backfired spectacularly for the IRA. Many on the Cooley Peninsula were questioning their competence after guns had been discovered on Tom Oliver’s property.
Unidentified Man 1: Well the police did turn up some stuff on Tom Oliver’s ground and it was left there for a couple of days and the IRA knew it was found. They knew it was found. And the truth of it is they come and take it away. But like all the rest of the Irish they were too bloody lazy to get up in the morning and do the job. But then having made utter fools of themselves in the eyes of the locality, they had to get some scapegoat. So the scapegoat, of course, was Oliver.
Philip: But it was the brutality of Tom Oliver’s death and the consequences for his family that turned many Republican sympathisers against the IRA.
Unidentified Man 2: Like that is beyond belief! That, that they can hold a man down – he’s pinned down – he has no resistance in him at this stage. The man is like a baby at this stage. And yet those that have him have him tied or chained or holding him down and then point a gun at his head, at his human being’s head, and six bullets which left six holes in his head – that a person could actually point that gun, fire the first shot, then come along fire the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth and have no feelings is beyond my knowledge.
Philip: On the back foot, the IRA and Sinn Féin launched a publicity offensive trying to tarnish Tom Oliver’s reputation.
Unidentified Man 3: Then the day Mrs. Oliver died, his own mother, they released a tape. And they’re supposed to have taken a confession tape from him when they had him up in South Armagh and no way was the voice on that tape Tom Oliver’s voice. It was a fake. But it showed, I mean, what squalid types they were, even to fake a tape.
Philip: Which is where Ed Moloney comes into the picture again. The IRA men he says he met who had either murdered Oliver themselves or were very familiar with the operation wanted him to write a story claiming Oliver was an informant who had made a confession under torture. Moloney was furious he had been used in this fashion.
Ed: But I had been, certainly been, tricked into this whole expedition.
Philip: Did the Sinn Féin press officer that you traveled with know that you were going there to hear representations from the IRA about Tom Oliver or had they, themselves, been duped as well?
Ed: Oh, yes. Oh, absolutely!
Philip: They did know? They absolutely knew?
Ed: Absolutely knew. The whole thing had been clearly arranged and organised carefully.
Philip: So at that time in 1991, according to Ed Moloney, senior people in Sinn Féin facilitated this meeting with the men who had probably murdered Tom Oliver or at the very least were accomplices after the fact of that murder. This is in stark contrast to what Gerry Adams said to LMFM presenter, Michael Reade, on Thursday of last week.
Audio: Portion of the LMFM interview is played. (The transcript of that interview is here.)
Gerry Adams: Well first of all the IRA have gone. That’s Number One. Second of all Sinn Féin have no information on any of this.
Philip: Mr. Adams appeared very clear on this: Neither he nor Sinn Féin had any information which could help the Gardaí. He made that point two more times.
Audio: Another portion of the LMFM interview is played.
Gerry Adams: I have no information whatsoever on any of those matters. My information on this is limited to what I read about at the time and what was, generally speaking, in the public arena at the time.
Philip: Ed Moloney’s experience has called this into question. He says he was contacted by Sinn Féin’s then-Director of Publicity, Danny Morrison, to apologise so at least he, in the senior ranks of Sinn Féin, knew about Tom Oliver. And the Sinn Féin press officer who had traveled with Moloney to meet the IRA? Moloney had seen him before.
Ed: I had seen him once in the Sinn Féin office on the Falls Road delivering documents to Gerry Adams. And Gerry Adams was angry with him for some reason and there was a very embarrassing row between Adams and this guy but it was clear from that exchange that this guy took his orders from, instructions from and worked for Gerry Adams.
Audio: Another portion of the LMFM interview is played.
Gerry Adams: Sinn Féin have no information on any of this.
Philip: And was there any indication, to your mind, that the Sinn Féin publicist who had brought you there knew who these men were?
Ed: Oh, I’m sure he knew who they were. Absolutely. I mean you know, he brought me into their company, this had all been prearranged – yes, I would have no doubt that he would know who they were.
Philip: These are two versions of the same events that cannot both be true at the same time. If Ed Moloney’s meeting with Tom Oliver’s murderers was arranged by Sinn Féin officers then some past or present members of Sinn Féin have information which could assist the Gardaí in that re-opened investigation. And at a time when the succession race within Sinn Féin is being discussed more openly than ever Tom Oliver’s murder is a reminder that the past just will not go away for the current leadership. (ends)
Updates added 19 September 2017 from Ed Moloney’s blog:
From 10 September: Who Is The Top Provo Secretly Named As Ordering The Tom Oliver Killing?
From 17 September: The Tom Oliver Killing – Transcript Of Drew Harris’ Testimony To Smithwick Tribunal