Wednesday 18 July 2018

Shadowy keyboard warriors are out to blacken the Stack name

New Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald at a party conference in February. Photo: APF
New Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald at a party conference in February. Photo: APF
SF Senator Máire Devine
Murdered prison officer Brian Stack
Widow Sheila Stack with the bronze bust of him at the Prison Service College, Portlaoise
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Tomorrow will mark 35 years since Brian Stack was shot in the neck leaving a boxing match at the National Stadium in Dublin.

In theory, his killers should by now by free men, having served 'life' sentences in jail for a heinous attack on a servant of the State.

Instead they have roamed free for the past three decades, protected by men and women who believe Mr Stack was collateral damage in a war.

The father of three spent 18 months paralysed and brain-damaged before finally slipping away. His three sons were in their formative years at the time: Austin (14), Kieran (13) and Oliver (12).

Their almost impossible fight against the Provisional IRA has been made all the more difficult by a battle to preserve their father's good name.

He was the chief prison officer in Portlaoise prison at a time when the Troubles were raging in the North. The high-security prison housed some of the State's most dangerous characters.

Mr Stack's tough management stance was met with disdain that eventually led to him becoming a target.

But he wasn't part of any war. He was merely doing the job that was expected of him by right-minded taxpayers.

Attempts to paint him as a victim of 'the conflict' were brought fully into the open when Sinn Féin's Martin Ferris revealed the logic for his murder.

The Provos wanted their own command structure to control the prison. But the prison governor and his senior officers, led by Mr Stack, battled to maintain control for the State.

"Stack was a particularly vindictive individual. He would never forget a previous incident, and if he took a dislike to a certain prisoner, he would wait until a suitable opportunity arose to punish the man in some way or other," Ferris, who served time for gun-running, said in his 2005 biography.

He went further last year on Radio Kerry, backing a claim that "if Hitler was looking for SS men he need look no further than prison management in Portlaoise Prison".

For a long time, the IRA denied any connection to the murder, but in 2013 Gerry Adams helped Austin and Oliver Stack meet an IRA leader who had details about their father's murder. They travelled to a secret location in a blacked-out van.

Adams clearly thought that would be enough to make the Stacks go away - but they caused him no end of trouble during the 2016 election campaign. At one point, Austin interrupted a press conference in an attempt to question Adams about his father's killers. And all the while in the background was a narrative that Mr Stack 'had it coming'.

"I would say over the last two years it has been fairly constant. My view is that it's an orchestrated campaign to blacken my father," Austin told the Irish Independent.

The family say a tweet sent by a bogus account last weekend was just one of countless attacks.

When Senator Máire Devine retweeted the 'sadist' post, it seemed to back-up their theory that many of these trolls are being driven by Sinn Féin/Provisional sympathisers.

"If you examine their accounts, they have a lot of followers who are Sinn Féin public representatives. A lot of what they put out is liked by Sinn Féin public representatives. All part of the one movement," said Austin.

Despite the publicity, the anonymous commentary has continued this week. 'Frontier Psychiatrist' posted: "Brian Stack... yawn. Still digging that one up. Move on, it was old 40 years ago."

'Smiffy' tweeted that "if you beat a man in jail… watch your back outside". And there are other examples.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the Provo movement "has sought to undermine the memory and reputation of Brian Stack over an extended period".

"Mary Lou McDonald's attempt to glide over his murder using the well-worn 'we were all in a conflict' theme doesn't wash either."

But that is what the Stack family are up against - simultaneously fighting shadowy men and keyboard warriors.

Irish Independent

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