Gerry Adams to Brian Stack sons: ‘You’re brave men to come here’
Murdered prison officer's family still seeks answers
The family of murdered prison officer Brian Stack have told in startling detail about their journey in a blacked-out van to a location on the border to obtain information about their father's death.
Austin Stack sought a meeting with Gerry Adams in 2013, on the 30th anniversary of his father's death, after their relationship with the gardaí became "quite fraught" because they seemed to be getting nowhere with their investigation.
He had obtained the names of two IRA figures from various sources and had furnished those names to the gardaí in 2013. The authorities claimed they had "never heard" of one of those individuals - though he had been arrested for another crime some months after the killing of Brian Stack.
The Stack family believe Brian was killed because he was making efforts to foil a Republican prison break from Portlaoise jail.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams yesterday claimed he has met with two party members who are alleged to have been involved in the killing.
But Mr Adams has repeatedly refused to reveal what role the individuals currently serve within Sinn Féin.
Speaking at the final party press conference before the election, the atmosphere turned awkward as the questions moved to the murder of Mr Stack.
Mr Adams told reporters that he had asked the two individuals to meet with the Stack family but they refused.
"First of all the names of the people that Mr Stack said he wanted to talk to, I spoke to them, they denied any involvement," he said.
"He told me he got the names from An Garda Síochána. An Garda Síochána have the names," Mr Adams added.
The Sinn Féin politician said he is not withholding any information from gardaí because they have the names of the Sinn Féin members.
However, in a statement last night, Austin Stack described Mr Adams's remarks as "an attempt to grossly deceive the public", saying he had never given the names of those the Stack family feel were involved.
"Adams in his statement says that he spoke to two individuals who we asked him to speak to," said Mr Stack.
"The only people we asked if it was possible to speak with were the gunman and getaway driver.
"We did this to see if a restorative meeting could be organised," said Mr Stack, who claimed: "I did not name these individuals as I felt Adams already knew their identity."
Mr Stack claims that if Mr Adams is now saying he spoke with both these individuals "it is very significant as the alleged getaway driver has been on the run for a number of years".
And he said Mr Adams now has more information than he has been suggesting and must bring it to the gardai.
Brian Stack (48), who was the chief prison officer in Portlaoise, was shot in the neck on March 25, 1983, after leaving an amateur boxing contest at the National Stadium in Dublin.
The father-of-three was left paralysed and brain-damaged and lived for 18 months after the attack.
The IRA had always denied it was behind the killing.
"We decided we weren't getting answers here so we're going to try a different method," said Austin, explaining why he had gone about seeking a meeting with Mr Adams in 2013 in order to obtain crucial information.
"I had no desire to meet Gerry Adams but we needed to do it to see, in the guise of the peace process and in Sinn Féin being seen to be coming in from the cold if we could get some answers from them," he said.
"We did it with the best of intentions because the gardai had let us down very badly," Mr Stack added.
Brian Stack's widow, Sheila, who gave an interview to the Irish Independent alongside her sons Austin and Oliver, said at the end of the day Austin had to "go grovelling" to Sinn Féin "because they weren't getting any answers".
Austin claimed Mr Adams "tried to intimidate" he and Oliver in a "subtle way" at their first meeting in May 2013.
"He went in and he threw the arm on the back of the chair like this and he leaned back and said: 'God, lads, you're awful brave men to come in here'," claimed Austin.
After that, Mr Adams said: "Look before we start, we're all victims here together."
However Austin said he had been prepared for Mr Adams to say that and told him: "You're not the victim here. Oliver's a victim, my mother across the road in a hotel is the victim."
Austin told Adams that he wanted to work with him and to trust him.
Mr Adams and Sinn Féin Press Officer Richard McAuley then went out of the room to discuss it and when they came back, they said they would work with the Stacks.
Asked what they were looking for, Austin said there were people "who sit around the parliamentary party table" with Mr Adams who were in Portlaoise at the time and who may have information about his father's murder.
Mr Adams replied that the one thing he was going to ask Austin not to do and it was to talk about those individuals in the party "because those are the people I have to go to talk with".
After several months, it was arranged that there would be a meeting at the Regency Hotel in Dublin in August 2013.
But on the day, there had been a change of plan and they were driven up the M1 with Mr Adams.
They pulled into a village in north Co Louth and had scones and coffee at a picnic table, while "discussing the merits of espresso machines".
"It was surreal because a few minutes later we were getting into a blacked-out van," said Austin.
They were eventually driven in a Transit van with a northern registration to an upmarket family bungalow with family pictures on the walls where they were handed an IRA statement admitting the organisation had to accept responsibility for their father's death.