Former police officer killed by IRA just months after realising his shop dream

A son has recalled how his father had just realised his childhood dream of opening a shop when he was murdered by the Provisional IRA.

John Olphert, 39, was shot dead by at the shop in Londonderry, on January 18, 1983.

Speaking ahead of the 40th anniversary of his murder, Mr Olphert’s son Mark has challenged those who support the Provisional IRA to explain to him and other bereaved families why they felt the terror campaign was worth it.

Mr Olphert described his father as being devoted to his family, and how he was determined to leave a legacy for his wife and two sons.

“Dad was a boilerman by trade but his ambition was always to open and run his own shop. This aspiration was born within him when he acted as a messenger boy for Robinson’s shop based on Clooney Terrace,” he said.

“We grew up in the Triangle Estate and were very much in the minority, we then moved to the supposed sanctuary of a strongly unionist area of Nelson Drive and yet, ironically, it was here that my Daddy was stolen away from us, he had survived three murder attempts on his life prior to that point so had understood that he was a target.

“He lived to achieve his dream of owning his own shop, it was opened close to our home in June 1982 and that summer was probably the happiest summer of my life, we were all so excited and also proud that a foundation for the future (as we saw it) was laid through the business being opened.

“At the point Daddy was murdered, he had actually resigned from the RUC, he wanted to devote his future efforts to the shop and building the business so as to leave a legacy behind for his sons.

“He also wanted to provide the community in Nelson Drive with a much needed local shop. His resignation was to be confirmed one month after he was murdered by the Provisional IRA.”

Mr Olphert added: “The Provisional IRA murdered a good man, a family man and a hardworking man, someone who was well respected across the community as was reflected following his murder when many Roman Catholic clergy spoke out against what had happened.”

He remembered his father as having taught him and his brother never to be bitter towards their neighbours, as well as treasured memories of watching their favourite TV show and holidays together.

“My Dad was literally my hero,” he said.

“Mummy was never the same after Daddy’s murder, part of her also died that day, Granda Olphert also died just 20 months later of a broken heart and a big part of me is still trapped as the 12-year-old boy who had his world turned upside down.”

Mr Olphert has challenged those who supported the Provisional IRA to give him and families of others killed by the group answers.

He also took issue with comments by Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill last year, that there had been “no alternative to IRA violence during the Troubles”.

“I want to believe in reconciliation, I really do but I don’t believe Irish Republicans are serious about it,” he said.

“Provisional Irish Republicans aren’t ready to meet with the son of an RUC GC police officer and to view me as an equal and as a human being.

“I want an answer to the question, what was it all for? Was it really worth tormenting me and so many other children and adults who have shared such lived experiences?

“The Provisional IRA, and its’ political wing of Sinn Fein, suggest that there was ‘no alternative’ to their actions. This phony position empowers and justifies loyalists to claim likewise, that they were justified in carrying out their campaign of violence – let us be clear, none of it was right, it was all wrong and unjustified and in the absence of justice ever being served in this life, let them at least stop their, pathetic, self-serving lies.

“What they did was neither noble nor courageous.”