Tuesday 16 July 2019

Hugh O'Connell: 'Stack case poses difficulties for Sinn Féin's new generation'

 

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Hugh O'Connell

On March 25, 1983, Brian Stack, a chief prison officer in Portlaoise, one of the most secure prisons in Europe, was shot in the back of the neck while leaving an amateur boxing match in Dublin's National Stadium. Mr Stack was left paralysed from the neck down and severely brain damaged.

Within 18 months he was dead, aged 47.

Some 30 years later, in August 2013, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams organised a clandestine meeting for Mr Stack's two sons, Austin and Oliver, north of Louth. At the meeting a former IRA leader admitted the organisation was responsible for the murder of Mr Stack, but insisted it was not sanctioned by the organisation's leadership.

Austin Stack has always maintained that he knows who shot his father, who was driving the getaway motorbike and who sanctioned the murder.

But knowing these things and proving them are two entirely different matters.

Mr Stack's killers have never been caught and three Garda investigations appear to have gone awry.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris apologised for "failings and shortcomings" in the investigation yesterday. Privately, gardaí believe the case has been very badly handled.

Mr Harris's apology definitely meant something to the Stacks, but they remain deeply frustrated that no one has been brought to justice for the murder of a husband and father.

Standing in the light summer drizzle outside Garda HQ in the Phoenix Park yesterday, Austin Stack said he did not believe there was a chance of any prosecutions despite a file being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Gardaí also share this view. Mr Harris said in a statement that their investigation remains open.

The Stack case is another of those numerous painful and unresolved crimes from the Troubles made all the more shocking by the fact that an officer of the State was murdered in south inner city Dublin.

It is also another case that creates uncomfortable questions for Sinn Féin.

Mr Adams may no longer be Sinn Féin president but he is still a TD and the party is still accountable for him.

Mr Stack continues to call on Mr Adams to reveal the identity of the IRA leader whom he and his brother met in 2013. The Louth TD is refusing to answer more questions.

This creates an uncomfortable situation for Mr Adams's successor Mary Lou McDonald and one of her most prominent TDs Eoin Ó Broin who was quizzed on the Stack case at a Leinster House press conference yesterday.

Neither carries the baggage that Mr Adams and other Sinn Féin veterans do, but given their oft-stated admiration for their former leader, they cannot stand over a situation where the outgoing TD is not prepared to answer legitimate questions the Stack family has.

Irish Independent

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