Belfast Telegraph

Family of man tortured to death by IRA still too fearful to talk about it

By Niall O'Connor and Allan Preston

More than 26 years on, family and friends of IRA murder victim Tom Oliver are terrified to speak publicly about the brutal killing for fear of retribution, it has been learned.

Some of those closest to the murdered father-of-seven have expressed outrage after Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams publicly suggested that his death was "politically motivated" and the killers should go unpunished.

"Does Gerry Adams know what he is doing to us?" a close friend of the victim asked last night. "We just want to know who killed Tom."

Mr Adams was also heavily criticised last night by Austin Stack, whose prison officer father Brian Stack was murdered by the IRA in 1983.

Mr Stack, who is believed to be gauging support within Fianna Fail about a potential run in the upcoming general or European elections, told the Belfast Telegraph last night that politicians should "never stop hounding" Mr Adams on his alleged IRA past.

"I find it astonishing that there's not public outcry over this," he said.

"Here we have an individual saying it would be counterproductive to have an investigation or prosecution into the death of Tom Oliver.

"The man was absolutely tortured, they gave him a horrible death. Tom Oliver's family deserve justice and a proper investigation.

"For Gerry Adams to say otherwise, as a public representative, it's just scandalous. In no other jurisdiction in the world would a politician get away with that."

Mr Stack added that Mr Adams "can't want investigations in one set of circumstances but not in another".

"If they're chasing prosecutions for soldiers who served in Northern Ireland, how can they not have them for what Sinn Fein would term their 'soldiers'?" he asked.

"That's double standards."

In regards to running for office, Mr Stack would only state his intention was to complete his final few years as a prison officer before looking "at all of my options at the appropriate time".

Mr Adams' extraordinary claims to his local radio station LMFM last week will overshadow Sinn Fein's annual think-in in north county Dublin today. Mr Oliver, a sheep farmer, was abducted, tortured and brutally murdered by the IRA on July 19, 1991.

A local priest who attended the post mortem remarked that "it looked like they'd dropped concrete blocks on every bone in his body".

It has emerged that Mr Adams himself was "by fluke" holidaying with family in the Cooley area of Co Louth on the day Mr Oliver was murdered.

"I was actually in, by complete fluke, I was on holidays down in Galway and came back up. I was in the Cooleys at the time Tom Oliver was killed. I was with my family in the Cooleys at that time," the Louth TD said.

In the 'Prime Time' interview in 2015, the Sinn Fin leader reacted angrily when it was suggested that he was the "court of appeal" that sanctioned the murder.

He denied this, describing the accusation as "reprehensible".

But he is under extreme pressure after telling broadcaster Michael Reade last week that jailing the IRA murderers of the farmer would be "absolutely counterproductive".

A spokesman for Sinn Fein said last night Mr Adams will make a "significant address" to the party's think-in today but sources say he will not announce plans to step aside.

A close friend of Mr Oliver said he and others are afraid to speak publicly for fear of retribution.

The friend said he believes Mr Adams and gardai "have the answers" and that he and the family want justice. "We don't know what's going on with the investigation. But we want to know the truth."

The source said Mr Adams has not reached out to the family since gardai announced a review of the murder.

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

Mr Oliver was dragged from his home in the Cooley Peninsula before being murdered by the IRA. His body was found the following day in Armagh.

The IRA claimed responsibility for the murder and made the announcement in Sinn Fein's official magazine An Phoblacht.

It claimed he was murdered because he was an informant who tipped off gardai to the whereabouts of weapons. Mr Oliver's family categorically deny he was an informer.

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