Wednesday 17 July 2019

'I did not abuse Dáil privilege' - TD who named two Sinn Féin deputies over Stack murder

Alan Farrell
Alan Farrell
Dessie Ellis
Father: Brian Stack died 18 months after being shot
Martin Ferris. Photo: Tom Burke
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

The Fine Gael TD who named two Sinn Fein TDs in association with the murder of prison office Brian Stack has stood over his decision and said he did not abuse Dail privilege.

Backbencher Alan Farrell named deputies Martin Ferris and Dessie Ellis under Dail privilege, after they were named in an email sent by Gerry Adams to the Garda Commissioner as people who may have information about the murder.

Mr Farrell said he decided to do so because of his “frustration” at the lack of justice for Mr Stack’s family.

“[Secondly] Deputy Adams had the opportunity to answer a number of unanswered questions which I believe he failed to address,” he said.

He told RTE’s Morning Ireland that it is “firm belief” he did not abuse Dail privilege, although that's not for him to determine he added.

Mr Farrell also said he did not believe he was putting the lives of Mr Ellis and Mr Ferris at risk as he had not linked them to a crime or to any wrongdoing.

It was important to “dissociate the politics of this and go back to the fact that you are talking about a man who was murdered on a Dublin street after a boxing event” he said.

He said he has verified information given to him by a “confidential trusted source”.

“I did not in any way infer that either deputy had done anything wrong, I simply wished they be given an opportunity to address the Dail in the same way as Deputy Adams did,” he said.

Who's who in the Stack bombshell

Martin Ferris

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Martin Ferris. Photo: Tom Burke

Martin Ferris is among the direct links between IRA activism and the current Sinn Féin party at Leinster House.

The 64-year-old Kerry former fisherman and farmer had been an IRA activist all through the 1970s and 1980s, serving time in prison on several occasions and for a time going on hunger-strike over jail conditions.

In 1984 he was arrested on board the Marita Ann, which was carrying a large cargo of explosives and arms, and he subsequently served 10 years in Portlaoise Prison. Soon after his release, in late 1994, he was elected to the Sinn Féin national executive and he began to focus on local political activity.

He stood for the Dáil in Kerry North without success in June 1997, but was elected to Kerry County Council in May 1999. He was elected to the Dáil in 2002, unseating former Tánaiste and Labour leader Dick Spring.

He has held his Dáil seat at three general elections since.

Martin Ferris was at the centre of controversy after the 1996 IRA killing of Garda Jerry McCabe outside a post office in Adare, Co Limerick, during a botched dole and pensions robbery.

He later went out of his way to support those convicted in connection with Garda McCabe's shooting and drove some of them home on their release from prison.

In February 2005, then-Justice Minister Michael McDowell used Dáil privilege to name Martin Ferris, among others, as a member of the IRA's ruling army council.

"We're talking about a small group of people, including a number of elected representatives, who run the whole (republican) movement. We're talking about Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams, Martin Ferris and others," Mr McDowell said. This was swiftly rejected by Mr McGuinness and Mr Ferris and Mr Adams has always insisted he was never a member of the IRA.

Alan Farrell

Alan Farrell

Alan Farrell's unprecedented decision to name two Sinn Féin TDs in connection with murder has brought the TD firmly into the spotlight.

Despite feeling hard done by at not getting a junior ministry earlier this year, the Fine Gael politician has kept his powder dry within the party.

But his 'backbench' status meant that he was one of the few Fine Gael TDs who could confidently make the calculated political risk of using Dáil privilege to name the politicians.

Had a minister done so, they would almost certainly be facing calls to resign their position for abuse of Dáil privilege.

Mr Farrell is a second-term TD, having surprised many by surviving a tough battle in Dublin-Fingal at the expense of his party colleague, former minster James Reilly.

Only a small number of Fine Gael TDs were present for Mr Adams's speech as the party had a meeting around the same time.

Many were surprised to learn of their colleague's intervention by text message.

While some were surprised, Mr Farrell is known to speak his mind at internal party meetings and was one of the TDs selected to compile a review of the February's disappointing election result.

Dessie Ellis

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Dessie Ellis

Dessie Ellis, a Sinn Féin TD for Dublin North West, was known during his long career in the IRA as an accomplished bomb-maker and explosives expert.

He was arrested in 1981 and charged with possession of explosives in Dublin. He jumped bail and fled to the US but was arrested in Buffalo, New York, months later and extradited back to Ireland.

In April 1983 he was sentenced to a ten-year jail term which he served in Portlaoise Prison. One of his fellow inmates during much of his time behind bars was Kerry TD Martin Ferris.

In 1990, amid a lengthy protest hunger strike, he was extradited to Britain to face charges of causing explosions there. He was eventually acquitted of those charges in 1991.

A native of Finglas in north Dublin, he ran his own television repair business when not in prison or on the run. He was elected to Dublin City Council in June 1999 and again in 2004 and 2009. He was unsuccessful in two Dáil elections, in 2002, and again in 2007 when he came close.

But in February 2011 he polled almost a full quota and was elected to the second of three seats in Dublin North West. Fianna Fáil's Pat Carey and Noel Ahern, both former ministers, lost out.

Mr Ellis held the seat earlier this year. He lists his hobbies as football and karate and still practises the latter at the age of 63.

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