Murder of Thomas Oliver

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Thomas Oliver was a 43-year-old Irish farmer, tortured and murdered by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in 1991 reportedly for passing information to the Garda Síochána. However, in the wake of the Stakeknife case it began to be suspected that Freddie Scappaticci – who ran the same IRA's Internal Security Unit that tortured and killed Mr Oliver – killed Thomas Oliver to conceal his identity as a double agent.


A farmer with no connections to any paramilitary group or the security forces, Oliver was a 43-year-old father of seven children,[1] and a native of Riverstown, County Louth, on the Cooley peninsula, near Dundalk. He was abducted by armed members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) near the border on 18 July and his body was found the following day near Belleek, County Armagh.[2] He had been shot several times in the head.[2]

The IRA, via An Phoblacht, claimed he had been passing information to the Garda Síochána.[2] They also claimed that Oliver had aided the IRA, providing sheds to store weapons and explosives, but that over a six-year period he had given information to the Gardaí, leading to several arrests.[1] His body showed clear evidence of massive pre-mortem trauma, indicating extensive torture.[1] A family member stated:

Whoever they were, they thumped him and thumped him to get him to say what they wanted him to say. After the post-mortem a priest said it looked liked they'd dropped concrete blocks on every bone in his body.

Thomas Oliver was survived by his wife, six daughters and a son. His mother, Annie, died in September 1991, reportedly from the shock and strain of her son's death. The Irish Times of 24 November 1991, reported:[3]

The men who delivered him to his executioners are known in the locality. To a large extent they have been ostracised, told in some pubs that their custom is not wanted and that their company is not welcome. In some cases their own families have disowned them. Tom Oliver has become a symbol of every family on this island whose lives have been shattered by the men of violence.


In the wake of the Stakeknife case, where a highly placed member of the IRA was revealed to be a British double-agent, it began to be suspected that Freddie Scappaticci – who ran the same IRA's Internal Security Unit that tortured and killed Mr Oliver – killed Thomas Oliver to conceal his identity.[2][4]

It emerged that, in 1989, Oliver, in the course of drainage work on his farm, unwittingly uncovered a barrel. He reported the discovery to the Gardaí but was unaware of its contents.[2] The barrel contained IRA guns hidden on Oliver's land but without his knowledge. Two of those questioned about the arms in 1989 were County Louth natives Michael Christopher McDonald and Declan John Rafferty. Both men were at the time members of the IRA and later went on to join the Real IRA.[5] In 2002, along with Fintan Paul O'Farrell, also a native of County Louth, were sentenced to 30 years imprisonment for arms smuggling.[6]

An Phoblacht ("War News" section) on the 25th of July 1991 was headlined IRA Executes Informer. The section justified Oliver's murder:

The IRA has a duty to protect its organisation, its volunteers and the back-up provided by its supporters. Tom Oliver's death was due to his willingness to act as an agent for the Dublin Government's Special Branch.

In 2002, Thomas Oliver's son Eugene (aged 13 at the time of his father's death) wrote a public letter to the Dundalk newspaper, Argus, demanding answers to a series of questions directed at Sinn Féin's election candidate, Arthur Morgan regarding his father. Argus published the letter on its front page. Sinn Féin declined to comment; a spokesman said the party had no comment to make on the Real IRA trio, stating "They have nothing to do with us". Morgan was elected as TD for the Louth constituency, serving from 2002 to 2011; he was succeeded by Gerry Adams.[7]

See also[edit]

Similar IRA murders

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Cusack, Jim (18 May 2003). "The forgotten man caught in the crossfire". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Family of IRA victim forced to revisit the past: 'Tom Oliver was an innocent farmer murdered by the IRA, but was he callously sacrificed by British intelligence to protect their agent?'",, 17 May 2003; accessed 23 September 2014.
  3. ^ Thomas Oliver murder,; accessed 23 September 2014.
  4. ^ "Secret life of Stakeknife driven by revenge". The Age. Fairfax Media. 17 May 2003. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
  5. ^ "RIRA trio go free due to flawed arrest warrants". Irish Independent. 12 September 2014.
  6. ^ "IRA bomb plot trio sentenced to 30 years", The Daily Mail,; accessed 6 July 2014.
  7. ^ "Mr Arthur Morgan". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 5 October 2009.
  • Lost Lives: The stories of the men, women and children who died as a result of the Northern Ireland Troubles, pp. 1242–43, McKittrick, Kelters, Feeney, Thompson, 1999 (2006); ISBN 1-84018-227-X.

External links[edit]