When repeatedly asked to publicly condemn the McCabe killing, the Kerry North TD adamantly refused to do so and said he concurred with remarks made by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, who said the organisation had already apologised for the killing and welcomed the men’s release.
“In a public statement some years ago the IRA members convicted in relation to Jerry McCabe’s death and the wounding of Garda Ben O’Sullivan, expressed their deep regret and apologised for the ‘hurt and grief we have caused to their families’,” Mr Adams said. The decision to keep the released prisoners away from the media glare was to prevent adding to the pain of the McCabe family, Mr Ferris said in the course of an interview with Eamon Keane on Newstalk radio.
Yesterday morning a van carrying Pearse McAuley, 42, and Kevin Walsh, 54, was driven from Castlerea Prison as photographers and reporters were kept 200 metres back.
Mr Ferris was inside the van as it drove ahead of reporters and an unmarked Garda car. After a short time the released men were transferred to another car as the transit van was used to block the pursuit.
Mr Ferris’s Dáil colleague Arthur Morgan said Sinn Féin had supported the decision to greet Det McCabe’s killers.
And he denied there was any attempt to thwart the gardaí, who could still have executed a British arrest warrant out on McAuley. It was not until later in the day that the Crown Prosecution Service said it would not follow up the warrant on McAuley or Nessan Quinlivan, who both escaped from jail in 1991.
The two killers were members of the Munster Unit of the IRA which carried out a botched raid on a Post Office van in Adare in June, 1996, in which Det McCabe was shot.
The pair – along with Michael O’Neill and Jeremiah Sheehy – had initially been charged with the murder of Det Gda McCabe, but the charge was dropped when key witnesses refused to co-operate after being intimidated by the IRA.
All four then pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
O’Neill was released in 2007, with Sheehy being freed last year.