Saturday 24 August 2019

It is 'horrendously difficult' to get justice for victims of The Troubles, says Ahern

Bertie Ahern has refused to put Gerry Adams under pressure. Photo: David Conachy
Bertie Ahern has refused to put Gerry Adams under pressure. Photo: David Conachy
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Former Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern has taken a diverging view from his successor on how to find justice for the family of murdered prison officer Brian Stack.

Mr Ahern has refused to take a hard line on the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams for withholding the identity of a senior IRA figure who investigated the Mr Stack's murder, saying there are "implications always about breaching some of the things from the past".

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Photo: Tom Burke
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Photo: Tom Burke

The ex-Taoiseach said he warned "16 or 17 years ago" that situations like the Stack case would emerge unless a peace and truth commission was established to help families get information on attacks linked to The Troubles.

"I floated that but the kite fell flat. There was no takers so I never pursued it again," Mr Ahern said.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Taoiseach Enda Kenny have both said that a statement given to the Dáil by Mr Adams last week was incomplete and that he needed to give over more information about the Stack case to gardaí.

Read more: 'If he feels he can, he will' - Ahern says there are 'implications' for Gerry Adams if he discloses information on Stack murder

"I'm very clear that the leader of Sinn Féin has knowledge of people who can be of great assistance to the gardaí, on this case," Mr Martin said.

"If he genuinely wants to bring people to justice for the murder of Brian Stack, well in my view he is not prepared to do that."

Only a handful of Sinn Féin's elected representatives have come out to publicly defend Mr Adams in recent days, while the party leader himself has struggled in a series of gruelling media interviews.

He is refusing to name a senior IRA figure who probed the 1983 murder and will not attempt to find out what 'sanction' was applied to the killers.

When asked about the Stack controversy, Mr Ahern spoke in a wider context, saying it is "horrendously difficult" to find answers for families.

"It's very hard to put the circumstances of now into the circumstances of then," he said.

The former Taoiseach said Mr Adams had co-operated with gardaí in relation to certain cases in recent years and "if he feels he can, he will and I suppose if he feels he can't, he won't".

However, Mr Ahern warned that there would be "thousands of these cases" into the future.

"I remember having to explain to the victims of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which took place in May '74, how the file was closed in August '74. That's what happened in those days," he said.

"Say if there was a major murder today and the file was closed in three months, there would be outrage. That was probably the biggest single terrorism incident that took place in the whole roubles in the south, equalled maybe by Omagh in the North, but the file was closed after a few months."

Mr Ahern, who was to the forefront of negotiating the Good Friday Agreement, said he had dealt with victims on all sides.

"I sat with British Army widows, RUC families, nationalists, republicans, loyalists.

"They all came to me over the years and it's very hard to say to them that we can do nothing about it. There are historical inquiry groups now examining it. But it is horrendously difficult," he said.

Irish Independent

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