Saturday 17 August 2019

Stack family receive apology over investigation failures

The murdered prison officer’s relatives said they had found a degree of closure.

By Cate McCurry and Aoife Moore, PA

The son of murdered prison officer Brian Stack said his family have found “some closure” after they received an apology from the Garda Commissioner over failures in the investigation.

The Stack family met with Drew Harris and senior detectives on Wednesday morning.

Mr Stack, a chief prison officer in Portlaoise, was shot in the neck by the IRA in March 1983 and died 18 months later.

His son Austin spoke with Mr Harris for over an hour along with his his mother Sheila and brothers, Ciaran and Oliver, after the commissioner received a report on the most recent investigation into the murder.

The family were told that a file is being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), but gardai are not recommending any charges be brought.

Austin Stack is now calling for Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan to appoint an independent policing expert from outside Ireland to review the case.

Speaking outside garda headquarters in Dublin, Mr Stack said: “We had a full and frank discussion with the commissioner around the errors and the mishandling of the three separate investigations that An Garda Siochana have carried out into the murder.

“The commissioner gave us a full and genuine apology. We talked about material exhibits that went missing and intelligence that was within An Garda Siochana but wasn’t passed on to the investigation team.

“We also talked about people who weren’t interviewed who should have been interviewed.

“We had been telling people that these errors existed and the investigations had been mishandled right from the beginning.

“For the gardai to publicly acknowledge that, it copper-fastens what we have been saying and it gives us a sense that we weren’t banging our heads off the wall when we were telling people this.

“It means that we have some sort of closure from that element of the case but we will be asking the Minister for Justice to appoint an independent policing expert to review the whole case and see what lessons can be learned.”

Mr Stack has also called on the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to publicly apologise.

Despite the apology from the commissioner, Mr Stack does not believe anyone will be charged for his father’s murder.

“I know who the individuals are, but it’s a case of getting hard evidence, but what’s crucial here is that they (gardai) had the evidence and it’s no longer with us,” he added.

It was not until 2013 that the IRA admitted responsibility for Mr Stack’s death, the only prison officer murdered in the Republic during the Troubles.

He was left paralysed and brain-damaged by the shooting as he crossed a road outside the National Stadium in Dublin in late March 1983.

He suffered for 18 months before dying from his injuries at the age of 47.

I offered the Stack family an apology for the failings and shortcomings in the investigation. Drew Harris

In a statement, Mr Harris said: “I met with the Stack family this morning to provide them with a briefing on the ongoing investigation into the murder of Mr Stack.

“I offered the Stack family an apology for the failings and shortcomings in the investigation. I fully acknowledge that these matters are serious and had a detrimental impact on the investigation.

“This investigation remains open and An Garda Siochana would appeal for anyone with information in relation to the murder of Mr Brian Stack to come forward.”

Mr Flanagan described the brutal murder as one of “most horrific atrocities” during the Troubles.

Asked whether he will appoint an independent expert to review the case, he said: “There is an ongoing garda investigation, no-one has been brought to trial.

“I understand there is an open file here and I would urge anybody with any information on that murder to contact gardai.

“(I am) very keen that this matter would be fully examined with a view to bringing those responsible to justice.

“There’s a live file here and I don’t wish to comment on any matters that are part of the evidence.

“I have every sympathy with the Stack family and their quest for justice, and we will assist in any way possible.”

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