Monday 9 December 2019

Niall O’Connor: The questions that refuse to go away as Adams must decide which way to turn

Sheila Stack. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Sheila Stack. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Niall O’Connor

In just a few weeks, the family of Brian Stack will perform what must now feel like somewhat of a ritual.

Brothers Austin, Oliver and Kieran - who currently lives with his wife in Chicago - will gather at the family home in Portlaoise.

The home is located just a short distance from the prison where Brian Stack served for 24 years, displaying a sense of fortitude and professionalism.

The short trip down to the graveyard is one which the three men and their mother Sheila have embarked on hundreds of times.

The grave visits made by Sheila, Brian's widow, runs into the thousands.

March 25 marks the 34th anniversary of Brian Stack's murder.

Over this period, Sheila and her sons have had to picture the moment when their dearest loved one was shot in the back of the neck as he left a boxing stadium in Dublin.

Was he scared? Was there ever a moment during the 18 months that followed - during which he lay in a coma - that Brian Stack was able to think about his family, the one he was about to leave behind?

These are some of the questions that spiralled around the minds of the Stack family over the course of the last 34 years.

But there are other questions far more pertinent that remain unanswered.

Who are the killers of Brian Stack? Are they involved in the Sinn Féin organisation? How long is Sinn Féin willing to stand by a scenario whereby their party leader Gerry Adams withholds the name of a senior IRA figure who holds the key to solving this murder case?

Above all, who is that man who entertained Austin and Oliver Stack, as well as Mr Adams and his Sinn Féin aide, at a meeting close to the Border in August 2013?

Whether these questions are answered in time for the 35th anniversary depends on the progress made in the Garda investigation during 2017.

In Harcourt Square, members of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation are stepping up their inquiries.

There are two permanent members on the team, who have been tasked firstly with establishing the identities of the IRA hit squad that murdered Brian Stack in cold blood.

But they are also now in a process of profiling the shadowy IRA figure who revealed in the 2013 meeting that the killer had been disciplined.

Gerry Adams knows this man's name.

He probably knows where he lives and is in possession of his contact details.

But he is continuing to hide behind the excuse of confidentiality.

There was a gentleman's handshake perhaps, as Mr Adams left the Border scene having accompanied the Stack brothers there in a blacked-out van.

On one hand, it is up to the public - and Sinn Féin supporters - to decide whether or not withholding information from a live Garda investigation is acceptable.

But on the other hand, gardaí must - and one expects will - ensure Mr Adams is treated in the exact same manner as others who have found themselves in a similar predicament.

Make no mistake about it, any move by Mr Adams to provide this name to the gardaí would be a significant step. But is it the right thing to do when you are dealing with a family that is seeking answers?

Is it the just thing to do when you are the leader of the third largest political party in the State?

Sheila Stack is facing up to yet another year without her husband. Austin, Oliver and Kieran are preparing for yet another graveside ritual.

Mr Adams must now decide whether protecting his IRA contact is more important than helping a family whose lives have felt empty since that dark day in 1983 when evil prevailed.

Irish Independent

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