Who was Brian Stack and why is his killing back in the news again?

Gerry Adams at odds with Stack family about names

Who was Brian Stack and why was he killed?

Brian Stack (48) was the chief prison officer in Portlaoise prison in the 1980s . At the time, the Troubles were raging and the high-security prison in Co Laois housed some of the State's most dangerous inmates, including Republican paramilitary prisoners.

On March 25th, 1983, Stack was shot in the neck as he left an amateur boxing contest in the National Stadium in Dublin. The father of three was left paralysed and brain-damaged but lived for 18 months after the attack.

Austin Stack was 14 at the time of the attack on his father, his brother Kieran was 13 and his other brother Oliver was 12.

“As we grew up, 1983 was a very tough time for all of us,” Austin Stack told reporters in 2013. “As a 14-year-old, you’re shaving your father and he starts to cry. Those sort of things will remain with us for a long, long time.”

The Irish Times front page the day after the gun attack on Brian Stack in 1983

Who was responsible for the attack?

The IRA had always denied it was behind the killing. However, in 2013 the group acknowledged in a statement to the Stack family that it had in fact been responsible for the murder, which it said was not sanctioned by the leadership.

“In Portlaoise a brutal prison regime saw prisoners and their families suffer greatly. This is the context in which IRA volunteers shot your father,” the statement said. The group said the member who ordered the killing had been disciplined but did not specify the nature of the sanction.

Did the Stack family hold meetings with Republicans?

Yes the Stacks have had several meetings with Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in an effort to get closure on their father's killing. It was Adams who facilitated a meeting between the Stacks and an IRA figure in 2013. The 2013 IRA statement, said to have been typed on a sheet of paper using an old typewriter, was given to Mr Stack's sons Austin and Oliver during the meeting with the former senior IRA leader and Adams. The meeting was in a bungalow but the Stacks did not know where, having been taken there in a blacked-out van from a meeting place off the motorway near Dundalk, Co Louth.

The ex-IRA leader read the statement to them over a table in the house, before asking them to transcribe it for themselves. Austin Stack said the meeting, over tea and biscuits, followed a series of talks between the family and Adams.

Adams stated at the time that he knew no more about the circumstances of the 1983 killing than what was contained in the IRA statement to the Stack family. Adams also said that, at the meeting Austin Stack had assured the man of confidentiality “even if the guards came to them”.

Why is the issue back in the news?

The issue of the Stack murder surfaced again in 2016. Adams told the Dáil last week (December 7th) that he had received the names of four individuals who may have been involved in the murder from the Stack family in 2013. He said he forwarded this information to gardaí in February this year after Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin made allegations during the general election campaign that Adams was withholding information from the Garda.

Adams said he did not list the four people as suspects but added in the Dáil on Wednesday (December 7th): “ It was in this context, and to remove any uncertainty or ambiguity, I emailed the Garda Commissioner the names that Austin Stack had given me and which he said had come from Garda and journalistic sources.”

Why are Adams and the Stacks at odds?

Austin Stack has directly contradicted Adams's account. He has told The Irish Times that he was "absolutely categoric" that he never mentioned any names to Adams in the course of "five or six" meetings between the two men.

“Gerry Adams asked me on the first occasion if I would be prepared to discuss names. I did tell him what I knew about how the operation was sanctioned and the details of it. But we never gave him any names,” Stack said.

In a radio interview Stack added: “He said he gave the names to the Garda Commissioner in an email on 22nd February 2016 ‘in the immediate aftermath’ of a meeting with me and my brother”, Stack said. “This is not possible as the last time we met with Gerry Adams was in November 2013”.

A spokesman for Adams said that he "has made it clear that he had received these allegations from Austin Stack. Mr Adams subsequently passed on Mr Stack's allegations to the Garda. Any investigation is a matter for the Garda Síochána. "

Stack has claimed Adams had set out to mislead an investigation into the murder of his father, and that gardaí needed to look into that and that he had given a statement to the gardaí about this matter.

What happened in the Dáil last week?

Under pressure form Taoiseach End Kenny, Adams made a statement on the issue in the Dáil on Wednesday (December 7th) during which he outlined how he had passed names to the Garda Commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan.

Reacting to Adams's speech, Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell used Dáil privilege to say Dublin North-West TD Dessie Ellis and Kerry TD Martin Ferris had information in connection with the killing. Both Sinn Féin TDs named by Farrell denied they had any role in relation to the murder. Ellis said he was in prison at the time. Ferris said he met gardaí in 2013 and had nothing to answer for in relation to the killing.

Ferris was twice jailed for membership of the IRA and served 10 years for importing arms and ammunition on the fishing vessel Marita Ann in 1984. Ellis served eight years in prison after gardaí found explosives and bomb-making equipment under his bed in 1981.

On Thursday Austin Stack confronted Adams during a Sinn Féin press conference, where he accused the Sinn Féin president of telling untruths during his Dáil statement.