Thursday 22 August 2019

Family to lobby Varadkar for new probe into prison officer’s murder by IRA

Ex-Sinn Féin leader Adams under pressure over the case

Austin Stack believes lessons can be learned from the inquiry. Photo: Tom Burke
Austin Stack believes lessons can be learned from the inquiry. Photo: Tom Burke
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

The family of a prison officer murdered by the IRA will lobby the Taoiseach and Justice Minister for an independent inquiry into the botched Garda investigation into the case.

Brian Stack's family have received an apology from the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, but his son Austin Stack said the family want an expert in policing from outside the State to carry out an investigation into the mishandling of the case.

Such an inquiry has not been ruled out by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, and the Irish Independent understands that the commissioner would have no objection to an outside policing expert examining the case, subject to discussions with the minister.

"We're going to be asking Charlie Flanagan to do this and we will be asking the Taoiseach to come out with a statement on behalf of the Government apologising to the family for the way the case has been handled," Mr Stack told the Irish Independent.

Last night, Labour leader Brendan Howlin echoed Mr Stack's calls for an apology on behalf of the State from the Taoiseach.

Mr Stack also called on Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald to encourage those within the wider republican movement to come forward with any information they have about his father's murder.

Murdered: Former Portlaoise chief prison officer Brian Stack. Photo: PA
Murdered: Former Portlaoise chief prison officer Brian Stack. Photo: PA

Brian Stack, chief prison officer at Portlaoise Prison, was shot by the IRA in 1983 and died 18 months later.

The IRA claimed responsibility for the murder in 2013 after former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams helped organise a meeting between Austin Stack and his brother Oliver and a former IRA leader. The organisation said the killing was not sanctioned by its leadership. The Stack family have claimed that, as part of the Garda investigations, key individuals were not interviewed, evidence went missing and critical intelligence was not acted on.

Three Garda investigations have failed to yield any charges or convictions. While gardaí acknowledge that the case was handled badly, they have declined to comment on specifics.

Mr Harris said in a statement after yesterday's meeting: "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."

Brian Stack's widow Sheila and her three sons Kieran, Austin and Oliver, met Mr Harris and senior Garda officials for more than an hour and a half at Garda HQ. The family was informed that a file has gone to the Director of Public Prosecutions but that gardaí do not believe that a prosecution is possible.

"I don't think there is a chance of a proper prosecution but I think an independent policing expert looking at the whole situation might come up with a review that will look at what went wrong, why it went wrong, what lessons can be learned from this for future families," said Austin Stack.

Mr Flanagan said he would be kept briefed on the case and urged anyone with any information to come forward.

"The issue remains under review," he said.

"It must be emphasised that the investigation remains open."

Yesterday the Irish Independent revealed that Mr Adams was interviewed as a witness by gardaí as part of their most recent investigation in relation to his role in organising a meeting between the Stacks and the former IRA leader who had knowledge of their father's murder.

Austin Stack has repeatedly called for Mr Adams to reveal who the person was they met north of Louth in August 2013.

Mr Stack said yesterday that the Louth TD "has a lot of knowledge around this that he has not brought to the table".

Sinn Féin did not respond to queries about Mr Adams or the case.

Mr Adams has said previously that he has told gardaí he has no information in relation to the murder of Brian Stack.

This newspaper previously revealed Mr Adams forwarded to gardaí the names of four people he was told may have been involved in the murder.

Mr Adams claimed he had been given the names by Austin Stack.

However, Mr Stack strenuously denied this.

Irish Independent

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