The Tom Oliver, LMFM Radio Louth Interviews, Part Three

It was to be expected that Sinn Fein’s friends in the media, or to be more accurate Gerry Adams’ friends, would seize upon the recent libel settlement between the former SF president and LMFM Radio Louth, arising out of a series of interviews dealing with the 1991 IRA killing of Cooley farmer Tom Oliver, as ‘scotching’, once and for all, media speculation that Adams may have had a hand in the man’s brutal killing.

It will come as no surprise that leading the field was Phoenix magazine in Dublin, edited by Paddy Prendiville, with whom this writer had the experience of once sharing an office, albeit for only a short time, in the old Hibernia building in Dublin’s Beresford Place.

You can read what Phoenix recently published about the settlement below and notice that the article links this development with the impending libel suit Adams has served against the BBC in Belfast on foot of a Spotlight television programme alleging Adams had a hand in the killing of RUC Special Branch spy, Denis Donaldson.

Phoenix clearly believes that having silenced media speculation about Adams’ alleged role in the Oliver slaying – the farmer was accused of spying on the IRA in the Cooley peninsula on behalf of the Garda Special Branch – this will strengthen the former IRA Chief of Staff’s hand when he faces the BBC in a Dublin court next February.

But was Adams’ alleged role in the Oliver killing really at the centre of the settlement with the radio station? Or was there something else that was said which provoked the action?

In that regard it is well worth revisiting the short statement that LMFM radio issued when the settlement with Adams was made public. It read:

On 14 and 15 February 2019, during interviews broadcast on The Michael Reade Show, a number of false and defamatory comments were made regarding Gerry Adams TD concerning the murder of Tom Oliver. We unreservedly retract these false statements, which we acknowledge should not have been broadcast in the first place. We apologise unreservedly to Mr Adams.

Adams himself had only this to say:

I welcome LMFM’s apology and its unreserved retraction of ‘false and defamatory’ comments that were made on the Michael Reade Show in February concerning the murder of Tom Oliver.

Neither of these statements gave any clue as to what the issue was that had motivated the libel, much less that it was about the suggestion that Adams had ordered the Oliver slaying.

So, what were these alleged ‘false and defamatory’ comments?

There are two clues about this matter. One comes in a complaint that Adams lodged with the Press Ombudsman in Dublin in January 2018 arising out of an article on the Oliver killing in The Irish Independent in September the previous year.

The Indo piece ran the headline: ‘Don’t Jail IRA Murderers Of Innocent Farmer – Adams‘, and it alleged that in an interview with Radio LMFM, Adams had argued that pursuing Oliver’s killers would not “assist the wider process” and that it “would be totally and absolutely counterproductive”.

Adams denied he had said this but the Press Ombudsman rejected his complaint.

A close reading of the transcripts of the Radio LMFM interviews of 14th and 15th February, 2019 show that it was again this issue that most exercised the former Sinn Fein leader.

So much so that Adams complained in his own LMFM interview on February 15th about comments that Michael Reade had made the previous day in the interview with FG TD, Peter Fitzpatrick.

Here is that part of the Adams-Reade exchange:

Gerry:   You also said, if my transcript of your interview is correct, it says: Michael Reade: Sinn Féin don’t want this murder investigated. Gerry Adams said it would be unhelpful to have it investigated as president of Sinn Féin.

“Sinn Féin want all of these murders, all of these attacks and killings investigated in terms which the families desire. I never said what you accused me of saying.

“Michael:   Okay. Well, your transcript is correct and that is exactly what I said and I accept what you’re saying now, yes.

“Gerry:   And would you like to withdraw that, then, Michael?

“Michael:   Yes, absolutely. If you’re saying that’s not the case and you would like it investigated of course I’ll accept that.”

So, what troubled and angered Gerry Adams most about the Michael Reade exchanges, according to the transcripts of the 2019 LMFM interviews, was the suggestion that he did not want the Tom Oliver killing or any other Troubles killing investigated and the perpetrators brought to book.

He did not complain in the same way at all when he was asked if he was the IRA leader, secretly named at the Smithwick Tribunal by then PSNI Crime chief, Drew Harris, who had over-ridden local concerns and ordered the execution of Tom Oliver – and had denied so in a memorable RTE television interview with Miriam O’Callaghan (which you can watch here).

If I was a betting man, I’d stake the mortgage that the libel case against Radio LMFM was not about whether he had ordered the Oliver killing but the same issue he had brought unsuccessfully to the Press Ombudsman – that he didn’t want any Troubles deaths probed.

It is pretty clear that of the two, any half-decent lawyer would choose the latter as the easier to win. All that remained would be fudging the outcome while leaving the media guessing.

But, dear readers, you can judge for yourself by reading the final Radio LMFM interview with the man himself.

Gerry Adams – The Michael Reade Show LMFM Radio 15 February 2019

The Michael Read Show

LMFM Radio 98.5

Michael Reade speaks to Gerry Adams, Louth TD and former president of Sinn Féin, about yesterday’s programme during which Independent Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick discussed the questions he asked Garda Commissioner Drew Harris at the 13 February 2019 Justice Committee meeting at Leinster House concerning the 1991 murder of Co. Louth farmer Tom Oliver.

Michael:   The Garda Commissioner, Drew Harris, says he met with the family of Cooley sheep farmer, Tom Oliver, who was executed by the IRA in 1991. In 2012 Mr. Harris gave evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal when he was Deputy Chief Constable of the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). Harris told the Tribunal that a senior member of the Provisional IRA directed that Tom Oliver would be killed. He was asked if he knew who gave the order and if he had informed the Gardaí. Harris said he had and wrote the name of the IRA man down and gave it to Judge Peter Smithwick. Tom Oliver’s family wants to know who that person is and what is being done to investigate the murder. Yesterday, Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick told this programme that Gerry Adams was in the Cooleys in 1991. He said Adams has been asked if he was involved and was in fact the court of appeal that said that Oliver should go to his death by RTÉ. And Fitzpatrick said Adams now needs to clear his name.

Audio:   Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick speaking on the programme on 14 February 2019:

…if I was Gerry Adams and – if you go back to Prime Time back in 2015, Miriam O’Callaghan, when she was interviewing Gerry Adams, first of all he wouldn’t answer any of the questions she was asking him – but he has an opportunity, now, of clearing his name because if you go back to the time Tom Oliver was murdered, in the 18th-19th July in 1991, it just happened that Gerry Adams happened to be in the Cooley area.

Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams joins us now and Good Morning! to you and thank you indeed for joining us. Do you believe the name Drew Harris gave to Peter Smithwick, the person the Garda Commissioner believes to have ordered the execution of Tom Oliver, the name he gave to a statutory tribunal was ‘Gerry Adams’?

Gerry:  No, I don’t think so. I don’t know – that’s the God’s honest truth. But that’s, let me if I may, start my remarks by saying I’m very, very conscious of the grievous loss suffered by Tom Oliver’s family. I’m very, very conscious that they want answers to questions and I think they should have those answers to questions. But the reason I’m on this programme and I haven’t been on the programme for some time because as you know I stood down as Uachtarán of Sinn Féin and Mary Lou McDonald is doing that job now and she has my full support and I’m honoured to serve the people of Louth but I will not be standing for the next election. Ruairí Ó Murchú and my friend, Amelda Munster, will be standing for our party in this constituency so I’ve been doing less interviews. So why have I come on to do this interview? I’ve come on to do this interview because Peter Fitzpatrick is selective, is cynical and he is an exploiter of some deaths that have occurred. I support all the families, all the victim’s families, whatever their particular search is – some want different outcomes, some have different views – for example you know, the Oliver Family and in terms of what they need should be given what they need so should the family of Seamus Ludlow, so should the family the two men, Huge Watters and Jack Rooney, who were killed in Kay’s Tavern – all of those families, I just mentioned some – all deserve our support and I give them my support and Sinn Féin gives them our support. But for Peter Fitzpatrick to come on and say that I should clear my name I find that absolutely shameful and cynical and opportunistic.

Michael:  Do you believe that there is reason to ask you if the name Drew Harris gave to Peter Smithwick was ‘Gerry Adams’?

Gerry:   None whatsoever. None whatsoever.

Michael:  Peter Fitzpatrick mentioned that you were in the Cooleys at the time that Tom Oliver was killed.

Gerry:  (scoffs) Oh, so that’s a crime? That’s an offence? That makes me a suspect? Look, this guy’s been – this is the man who joined Fine Gael as a career move and has now left Fine Gael…

Michael:  …He also…

Gerry:  …and he didn’t. Sorry. Let me finish. He didn’t leave Fine Gael because of the crisis in the health services, because of the crisis in homelessness, because of the various scandals that have ripped this government – he left Fine Gael because he thought he wasn’t going to get selected in the election convention. So it’s no secret I have written – people know me. My family rented a house in The Cooleys for ages. For ages. I regularly walk there – I’ll be there later today, incidentally. I’m regularly – and I’m proud to represent the people of that peninsula along with the rest of the constituency. So here were are having a discussion about a deadly serious issue, about the loss of a man’s life, and it has turned into this inquisition on the basis of Peter Fitzpatrick simply trying to grandstand at a Justice Committee meeting in Leinster House.

Michael:  Well, Peter Fitzpatrick yesterday on this programme referenced the interview that you gave to Miriam O’Callaghan on Prime Time television when she asked you if you were the court of appeal that said that Tom Oliver should go to his death. You took exception being asked that but she said to you that it was widely believed by members of his family that there were questions to be asked of you. And in June of last year, Ed Moloney reported on the interaction which happened behind closed doors, I understand it, between Drew Harris as a representative of the PSNI giving evidence to the Smithwick Tribunal, and he suggests that the reason that Miriam O’Callaghan asked you those questions was because it was your name that Drew Harris gave to Judge Smithwick.

Gerry:   Well, none of that – well you know, Drew Harris now the Garda Commissioner. He’s a former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable. He’s a former senior RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) officer. I met him briefly at the First Dáil Commemoration a month or so ago and wished him well in his new role. He’s in a very unique on all these issues. He’s in a very unique, for example, in relation to the Glenanne Gang who, you may know, was responsible for the Dublin-Monaghan bombings, for the attack at Kay’s Tavern and the murder of Seamus Ludlow. Now, I want to see Peter Fitzpatrick taking the same focus on all these other killings as he does in terms of making these totally unfounded and malicious allegations against me. Drew Harris is in a unique position, a unique position, to bring the perpetrators to book…

Michael:  …Okay…

Gerry:  …to bring them to justice and secondly, he’s also in a very, very unique position to give the various inquiries that have been set up over the years, from Barron right through, and we know that the British are refusing to hand over information – well, if anybody has that information it’s Drew Harris!

Michael:  Okay, but I’m sure you’ll agree, Gerry Adams, that both Ed Moloney and Miriam O’Callaghan are very respected and credible journalists. Both of the journalists appear to be of the impression that the name Drew Harris gave to Peter Smithwick was ‘Gerry Adams’. You say that you don’t believe that to be the case. We’ve heard from the family of Tom Oliver and they have a question for you if I may put that to you because the Garda Commissioner Harris knows the name of the IRA man who ordered the murder of Tom Oliver. (At least he believes he knows the person who did it.) And the family want to ask you, Gerry Adams, if it’s not Gerry Adams do you know the name of the Army Council member that gave to go-ahead to kill Tom Oliver?

Gerry:   No, I don’t know. I don’t know anyone who’s involved in this unfortunate man’s killing or any of the events which led to it. I know it wasn’t me. I find it exceptional that you should be asking me questions based upon nothing. Based upon someone – and I don’t consider Ed Moloney to be a reputable journalist (whatever about Miriam O’Callaghan) – based on them being able to see into Drew Harris’ mind. Let’s stop playing games…

Michael:  … (crosstalk) Well, I think without playing games it’s an opportunity to give you a right to reply given that an independent TD said on this programme yesterday that this was an opportunity for you to clear your name and we are, I hope, giving you an opportunity to respond to that and to that question that I put to you from the Oliver Family. As I said, they have been in touch with us.

Gerry:   You also said, if my transcript of your interview is correct, it says: Michael Reade: Sinn Féin don’t want this murder investigated. Gerry Adams said it would be unhelpful to have it investigated as president of Sinn Féin.

Sinn Féin want all of these murders, all of these attacks and killings investigated in terms which the families desire. I never said what you accused me of saying.

Michael:   Okay. Well, your transcript is correct and that is exactly what I said and I accept what you’re saying now, yes.

Gerry:   And would you like to withdraw that, then, Michael?

Michael:   Yes, absolutely. If you’re saying that’s not the case and you would like it investigated of course I’ll accept that.

Gerry:  Yes, and we’re very, very clear about this. We signed up for a process and even though the Executive is down in The North this does not prevent the process from proceeding and that is a process which both governments were to establish for the independent scrutiny, review, investigation, of all of the killings. There was to be new bodies to be established – the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval – there was to be an implementation and reconciliation group established to find, bring people the type of closure which they desire and in the course of that, we also signed up for – if that’s what families want, for court cases or for investigation by, live investigation, by either An Garda Síochána or the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) – now that’s the Sinn Féin position, that’s my position – I was part of that process of putting that together. So it’s absolutely ridiculous and I find it deeply offensive that these type of charges can be flung around by the likes of Peter Fitzpatrick who’s only interested in trying to score points off Sinn Féin (inaudible).

Michael:   And you understand legacy issues probably better than most people, Gerry Adams, and you understand how families are left asking questions and they would like those questions answered. You’ve said you don’t know anything about the circumstances that led to the death of Tom Oliver or about what occurred there. And I take it that will mean that you won’t be able to answer this next question, it’s the second and last question that we have from the family for you, plus I understand you won’t be able to answer it. I’d like, on behalf of the family, to say what they’ve looked for answers to – they say that the Commissioner said that several Provisional IRA members and others requested that Tom Oliver not be killed and the family would like to know why did the senior IRA member go against that and were there any any local IRA members present? Now, I’m not sure if you want to address that in any way now.

Gerry:   Well, I have no information on any of that.

Michael:   Okay. Can I ask you about the appointment of Drew Harris? Because Mr. Harris is somebody who, as the Deputy Chief Constable who ordered you arrest which could have been viewed as political policing at the time of an election, in relation to the killing of Jean McConville. Do you support his appointment?

Gerry:  Yes. You know, I’ve – my arrest was a political arrest. I took exception of that, to that, at the time. But that’s over. You know, the man has a job to do. It’s our responsibility to hold him to account. That’s what he was doing at the Justice Committee – being held to account. I want to ask him a series of questions. I’m meeting An Garda Síochána here, and I’m in Dundalk at the moment – I’m actually just across the street from Kay’s Tavern – but I meet An Garda Síochána here about current issues. We have big issues here in relation to families being intimidated by drugs gangs who are holding families to account for debts incurred by their addict relatives and that’s really a serious case – that’s ongoing with a whole range of other contemporary (inaudible) issues as well as these legacy issues. I met Pat Finucane’s family on Sunday. You’ll know that Pat was a human rights lawyer.

You’ll also know that it was revealed the other day that the PSNI had withheld information to the Police Ombudsman in The North on a whole series of very, very serious incidents including the killing of Sinn Féin member Eddie Fullerton and others. I met the family of Seamus Ludlow two weeks ago in the Dáil – and here is a case of a Co. Louth man who was killed and the Barron Commission, which was established, was in no doubt about what was involved where it said the Glenanne Gang, who I mentioned earlier, were responsible for what it described as acts of international terrorism colluded in by the British security forces and it asked for an individual public inquiry into the killing of Seamus Ludlow and the subsequent handling of his case by An Garda Síochána and the government’s refusal to give the family that though that’s the…

Michael:   …and the behaviour of the Cosgrave government at the time – I’m sure there’s many questions. But just to conclude…

Gerry:  …No, no, no but see – here’s the thing about all of this…

Michael:  …Yeah…

Gerry:   …as this interview proves, that might have been the Cosgrave government but Charlie Flanagan’s still refusing to give the Ludlow Family the type of inquiry that they’re looking for. Charlie Flanagan is refusing to lift the lid on the Crevan Mackin scandal – a man who we know killed himself, killed Garda Tony Golden, seriously wounded Siobhán Phillips and, in my belief, was at that time a paid agent of An Garda Síochána…

Michael:  …Okay..

Gerry:   …Charlie Flanagan. So these events, while they may have happened a few years ago or a lot of years ago, when the government of the day refuses to give families – we saw the same, I watched Prime Time last night with Shane O’Farrell’s mother, a wonderful woman, who has pursued justice for her son relentlessly so…

Michael:  …and a case that you pushed to the highest level and brought to the Dáil many times and forced a meeting between the family and Enda Kenny if I remember. But just in terms of this question: You’ve faced down questions of this sort many times over many years, Gerry Adams, and undoubtedly you’ll face this one down but you know the cycle of news and how this will get legs now and so on. Would it be helpful if Drew Harris was to put this to bed? He’s the only person who can put it to bed. Would you ask him to make an unequivocal statement that the name he gave to Judge Smithwick was not ‘Gerry Adams’?

Gerry:  That’s a matter for him. I’m not going to interfere with him in terms of the operation and responsibilities that he has. I know it wasn’t me so that’s – I’m content in my own skin on this issue. And this isn’t a matter of me facing down questions, Michael. At the heart of all of this, and I repeat it, in all of these cases that just become part of the news cycle are families which are grieving, families who are getting older, families who want the truth – all of us have a responsibility to give families the truth. Part of giving families the truth would be to stop telling the type of untruthful assertions that we hear from the likes of Peter Fitzpatrick.

Michael:  Okay. Thank you very much, indeed, for taking our questions this morning and for joining us for that matter. That’s Sinn Féin TD for Louth – Gerry Adams.

One response to “The Tom Oliver, LMFM Radio Louth Interviews, Part Three

  1. ‘Now all my lies are proved untrue
    And I must face the men I slew
    What tale shall serve me here among
    Mine angry and defrauded young?’

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