Tuesday 22 May 2018

Seanad hears calls for Sinn Féin senator to explain Stack tweet

Senator Máire Devine and Austin Stack. Photo: Oireacthas.ie/Frank McGrath
Senator Máire Devine and Austin Stack. Photo: Oireacthas.ie/Frank McGrath

Kevin Doyle, Group Political Editor

CALLS have been made for a Sinn Féin politician to make a statement in the Seanad explaining why she retweeted disparaging comments about murdered prison officer Brian Stack.

Mr Stack, who was shot by the IRA in 1983, was described as a “true patriot” this morning whose memory should not be denigrated.

At the weekend Senator Máire Devine’s retweeted of a fake Twitter account which referred to the father of three as “a sadist prison officer”.

She has been suspended from Sinn Féin for three months but is entitled to operate effectively as an independent senator and collect her full pay and expenses.

Mr Stack’s family want her to resign from the Seanad.

Independent senator Gerard Craughwell raised the issue at this morning’s Seanad siting, saying such Twitter posts could not go without comment.

He said Mr Stack “served this country through the Troubles” and was “murdered by thoughtless people”.

Mr Craughwell said: “It’s so easy to go after the dead because they can’t defend themselves.”

He called for Senator Devine to make a statement in the Seanad explaining her actions.

In response, Sinn Féin senator Rose Conway Walsh said her colleague made “a very, very serious error which caused much hurt to the Stack family”.

She said Mary Lou McDonald had acted “swiftly and decisively” by suspending Ms Devine.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin are united in their belief that Ms Devine should give up her Seanad seat.

Mr Martin has also attacked Sinn Féin’s new leader Mary Lou McDonald for attempting to paint the senator’s actions as an “isolated incident”.

Mr Stack (48) was the chief prison officer in Portlaoise Prison when he was shot leaving a boxing match in 1983. The father-of-three suffered brain damag and died 18 months later.

His son Austin told the Irish Independent last night that his family have been devastated by what they see as the latest attack on his memory.

He said despite an apology they will not be dropping their calls for Ms Devine to resign.

“As a humanitarian gesture we expect senator will not drag this out, particularly as next week marks the 35th anniversary of my father’s shooting.”

Mr Varadkar raised the stakes significantly for the Sinn Féin hierarchy yesterday when he said the Dublin politician’s conduct was “as bad if not even worse” than that of Barry McElduff who mocked the Kingsmill massacre in a Twitter video last January.

“Not only did she disrespect the memory of someone who was a victim of paramilitary violence, she also didn’t take it back and continued to engage in it”, he said.

Online Editors

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