The son of a murdered prison officer yesterday confronted Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams at a press conference and told him to co-operate with gardaí in an investigation into his father’s killing.

Austin Stack called Mr Adams a liar at the party’s event at a Dublin hotel yesterday and demanded the leader provide gardaí crucial information that may help identify his father Brian’s killers.

Mr Stack and his brother Oliver met an IRA figure in a secret meeting on the border in 2013, in which Mr Adams accompanied the two in a blacked-out van. The IRA man knew who was their father’s killer, the two sons of the deceased were told.

The latest dramatic turn in events came after Mr Adams, in the Dáil this week, called the shooting of prison officer Mr Stack in 1983 “wrong” and said he had tried to help the Stack family.

However, he questioned if giving up the names of IRA officials would help the peace process.

Two Sinn Féin TDs, Dessie Ellis and Martin Ferris, were named during the Dáil exchanges about the Stack murder. Their names were among four given to gardaí by Mr Adams earlier this year. Both strongly denied any link to the murder, after they were named in the chamber by Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell. Sinn Féin said yesterday it was considering options about complaining about Mr Farrell to Oireachtas officials.

Mr Stack, though, confronted Mr Adams and said: “Gerry Adams, you have information that is crucial to the investigation of my father’s murder. Gerry Adams, you took myself and my brother in a blacked-out van to meet with a senior IRA figure, a man you said you trusted. Gerry Adams, I want you to give that information to the gardaí. I’m not interested anymore in hearing your lies and your untruths.”

Mr Adams said he “absolutely” rejected the claims made by Austin Stack that he had lied.

However, during a press conference yesterday he also refused to elaborate on the IRA figure he had introduced to the two Stack brothers in 2013 who told them he knew who their father’s killer.

“I am quite content to cooperate with the gardaí on all these matters. I’m not going to go beyond what I said yesterday [Wednesday] at this time.”

Mr Adams refused to answers several questions from media at the Dublin hotel press conference, including how well he knew the IRA figure who met the Stack sons.

However, he confirmed Mr Ellis and Mr Ferris were considering whether to make a formal complaint to the Ceann Comhairle about their names being mentioned in the Dáil in relation the Stack killing.

Mr Stack though, speaking later on RTÉ radio, said that Mr Adams’ statement to the Dáil about his father’s murder had been a “charade” and a “pantomime”.

It was “not tenable”, he said, that Mr Adams would not co-operate with gardaí and give them the names or name of individuals who may have knowledge about the killing. Mr Stack also said there was “no amnesty” in the peace process in naming people in relation to a murder investigation. He also accused Mr Adams of trying to “wrap the peace process” around the issue.

Onus on Adams to help authorities

Juno McEnroe, Comment

With respect Gerry Adams, it is incredible, surreal, and shocking that you seem more concerned about an email than giving gardaí the name of an IRA figure who could help a live murder investigation.

A tired but brave Austin Stack yesterday confronted you at a Sinn Féin press conference in Dublin and told you to give gardaí details that would help catch the killers of his late father.

For more than 30 years, Austin, his brother Oliver and their family have tried to get justice for the brutal killing of their father, a prison officer at Portlaoise prison, shot in the back of the neck by the IRA.

You agreed to bring the two sons to a secret rendezvous on the border in 2013, where a senior IRA figure finally confessed the IRA had killed their father. But the family never got justice.

You have admitted you emailed gardaí the names of four people just before the general election this year — in case the opposition seized upon the issue.

However, the sons of Brian Stack and their family are still suffering. They know their father’s killer or killers are still out there, as the IRA figure told you. The Stacks know that in your possession is the identity of that senior IRA man you introduced to them to, and who knows who killed their father. Delivering this information to gardaí could help progress a live murder investigation and potentially give some relief to the Stack family, including Austin and his two brothers, who were all under the age of 15 when the IRA shot their father.

Mr Stack says when they met this IRA figure on the border with you he told them he knew who had arranged the shooting. The IRA man said the person had been “disciplined”. He also said he could not arrange a meeting between the sons and their father’s killer. It is this IRA man, this intermediary, who must help gardaí with their investigation.

You, as a TD, a party leader, an ordinary human being, have it in your power to deliver information to gardaí to try and give the Stack family some peace. You owe it to them. Instead, you have now said it was “a matter of impropriety” that the email you sent gardaí ended up in the public realm. You have asked how journalists obtained this.

Understandably, you say that the peace process must be protected, that names of those in the Troubles cannot be revealed, as this could unravel the good work done.

However, many people , including Austin Stack, note there is “no amnesty” for murder in the peace process.

Yesterday, you refused to answer journalists’ questions at a press conference. It is necessary then to set out some here.

  • Who was that IRA man you introduced the Stack sons to?
  • What “disciplinary” process was carried out against Brian Stack’s killer?
  • Why did you only give the names to gardaí this year?

It is not for politicians to enforce the law — that is for the gardaí. The onus Mr Adams in on you, as a member of the parliament, to help gardaí and ensure, that someone does not get away with murder.

Timeline

  • March 25, 1983: Portlaoise prison officer Brian Stack is shot in the back of the neck as he leaves a boxing stadium in Dublin. He was left paralysed and brain damaged.
  • September 1984: The father of three passes away after 18 months from his injuries. He is the first and only prison officer in the Republic killed during the Troubles.
  • May 2013: Austin Stack and brother Oliver meet Gerry Adams in a bid to solve their father’s killing. A series of meetings follow.
  • August 2013: Mr Adams brings the two Stack sons to the border area where they meet an IRA figure who confirms the IRA killed their father. The IRA expresses regret and says the killing was not sanctioned by the leadership. The IRA says the individual who arranged the killing was “disciplined”. The IRA figure says he knows who the killers are.
  • November 2013: This is the last contact that Austin Stack says he had with Mr Adams, when the two talked by phone. Mr Adams claims that, during conversations in 2013, he was given four names by Mr Stack in relation to the killing of his father.
  • February 2016: Mr Adams emails Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan with four names in relation to the killing of Brian Stack. This was to “counter” an election strategy against Sinn Féin. Mr Stack denies providing names.
  • December 6: Party leaders call on Mr Adams to make a statement to the Dáil about the Stack killing about what he knows.
  • December 7: Mr Adams says the killing was “wrong” but questions if releasing IRA names could derail the peace process. Sinn Féin TDs Dessie Ellis and Martin Ferris are named in the Dáil in exchanges as being two of the four whose names were given to gardaí. Both strongly deny being connected to the prison officer’s killing.
  • December 8: Austin Stack interrupts a Sinn Féin press conference and demands Mr Adams offer gardaí the name of the IRA figure they met. He calls him a liar, a charge the party leader denies.

— Juno McEnroe


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