Gerry Adams, The Conservative Press And The Brian Stack Controversy

I’m sure most readers are aware of the controversy relating to the death of Brian Stack in September of 1984, a dreadful event which has unexpectedly grabbed the headlines once again. A senior guard at Port Laoise Prison, which housed dozens of individuals convicted of political offences during the 1970s, ’80s and 1990s (and arguably to the present day), Stack’s treatment of inmates gained him a poor reputation among visitors and staff. This was acknowledged by some delegates to the Irish Prison Officers conference two years previously who had condemned the draconian conditions at the gaol in the bluntest of terms. Likewise Amnesty International had catalogued numerous instances of physical and psychological abuse during the same period at Port Laoise, some of which it characterised as torture. Unfortunately this struggle between warders and inmates led to the chief prison officer’s fatal wounding by a lone gunman in Dublin on the 25th of March 1983. The gravely ill guard, a married father of three, died some eighteen months later in hospital, in large part due to his catastrophic injuries.

In the aftermath of the initial shooting no organisation claimed responsibility for the attack, though the chief suspects were thought to be members of the (Provisional) Irish Republican Army or PIRA. This suspicion was widely held despite the insurgent force’s Standing Order No. 8 which ruled out any offensive actions against the institutions of the Irish state, a military regulation which was rarely broken throughout the thirty years of conflict in the north-east of Ireland. However in 2013, following meetings between the Stack family and the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, a statement was issued by PIRA acknowledging that several of its volunteers had carried out the fatal wounding, though without authorisation. An investigation ordered by the ruling Army Council had resulted in a senior person being disciplined. At the time of the statement the relatives of the late Brian Stack thanked Adams for his help with their queries. As most of you will know, that situation has altered considerably since then.

A prison officer accompanies soldiers into the infamous Port Laoise Prison, the 1970s
A prison officer accompanies soldiers into the infamous Port Laoise Prison, the 1970s

So, some things to note in relation to recent events in the ongoing controversy.

  • Following a request by the family of the late Brian Stack it was Gerry Adams who eventually facilitated a meeting between the prison officer’s sons, Austin and Oliver, and an anonymous representative of PIRA’s former Army Council in 2013. The gathering took place in an unknown house, the Stack bothers and Adams travelling there in a van following an initial journey in a car driven by the SF leader.
  • The meeting, in the words of the Stack family, took place over tea and biscuits, and was remarkably amicable given the emotionally-charged circumstances. During the conversations Austin Stack assured the representative of PIRA that he would abide by the organisation’s understandable desire for confidentiality, regardless of the circumstances. This matter had been agreed beforehand by the Stacks during their discussions with Gerry Adams. In return PIRA acknowledged that its volunteers had fatally injured his father in a premeditated gun-attack, and had done so without orders. Furthermore the representative of PIRA agreed that the admission, read out to the Stack brothers and transcribed by them, should be made public.
  • Some time after the meeting, and despite the prior agreement reached with Gerry Adams and PIRA, Austin Stack went to the Gardaí and informed them of the gathering and the suspected identity of the Army Council representative he had met in the house.
  • During the general election campaign of January-February 2016 the leader of Fianna Fáil, Micheál Martin, repeatedly claimed that Gerry Adams was withholding information from the Garda Síochána in relation to the Brian Stack murder case of 1983-84.
  • In response to the accusations a confidential email was sent by Adams to the Garda Commissioner, Noirín O’Sullivan, in February of 2016. This email contained the names of four individuals possibly associated with the incident three decades earlier and passed on to him by Austin Stack, the son of the murdered warder, when they met in 2013. Stack claimed that the names were given to him by members of the press and the Gardaí.
  • Gerry Adams’ email was leaked by the Gardaí to one or more journalists employed by the Independent News and Media Group (IN&M), publishers of the Irish and Sunday Independent newspapers.
  • At least one well-known journalist with IN&M approached several TDanna, including Independent deputies and members of Fine Gael, to brief them on the details of the leaked email. As part of those discussions the reporter urged the TDanna to use their Dáil privilege to make the stolen contents of the email available to the public.

That is where we now stand, though I think it is fairly obvious to most informed readers that there is a lot more to the controversy than much of the press, and the IN&M stable of newspapers in particular, are willing to discuss or report on. As always in Ireland, the desire for peace or justice falls well behind the need for political advantage.

Image via @MarkMDub
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11 comments

  1. `So let me get this strait:
    A senior member of the prison staff conducted a long reign of terror and violence against inmates of the Prison, including, by no less an authority than Amnesty International, torture. The prison was being run as though it was in a central american Banana Republic. During this time, there was considerable protest about the prison conditions, and the Dublin Government knew exactly what was going on. Protests were made, the issue was public, and they did absolutely nothing about the torture and the ill-treatment, for three years. The fact that this made them criminal accessories to what amounted to crimes under international law against helpless prisoners, with full legal liability, that continues to this day, is apparently of no account. Why did they not institute strict inquiries into these crimes, and those responsible. The criminal liability goes right up to the responsible minister of prisons. Curious how silent they all are about this fact. It was not, it seems, a single lone individual, but a collective gang of violent prison officers, backed up by Irish Army troops and Garda, that did this. The smirking, sneering TD’s that used this issue for crude political capital should be utterly ashamed of themselves. All this while a full scale war was going on in the North, and all the great suffering that entailed. I would contrast the Irish government’s “Anguish” over Long Kesh, in the North, and the savage treatment of inmates there, and the subsequent International investigations and findings. Meanwhile, they had their own dirty little secret. When it became public, they simply blustered and ignored it. Utter hypocrisy. Do we know the names of the guards involved, the officials in the Dublin Government, all of whom are complicit in these crimes?…..I think we should. Was there ever any kind of real inquiry into these issues?…..(ha ha). FG and FF should be publicly challanged on this, and why their Governments were complicit. I think it is time for an independent inquiry, with full legal powers. I am curious as to why Gerry Adams and SF have not called for such an inquiry into the torture and violence against helpless prisoners that took place. Now, I think, is a good time. Gerry, if you are reading this, I think you should think about this. As for the worthless carpet-bagging careerists of FF and FG, let them be publicly challenged on this, and asked if they approve of the torture that took place. Likewise the Journalists involved. Words fail me. They really do. What a disgusting, rotten state, Irish politics have fallen into.

  2. I am damned if I can see what the fuss is about. Stack was a warden who was i/c political prisoners and P.O.W’s. Stack was slotted. Ergo – don’t be a warden at a jail housing Special Category Status prisoners.

  3. The point is that for at least three years, there was torture, beatings, solitary confinement, etc, and worse. No one was held accountable. Crimes were committed against helpless and vulnerable prisoners. Ireland is meant to be a civilised country, not a banana republic. Either you have rule of law in a country, or you have the rule of the Jungle. Choose one. I want an inquiry, names named, and those responsible punished. Stack did not act alone. there is a whole gang of officials, warders, and others, who are guilty. How about some criminal charges and some hefty jail sentences. The silence on this issue is deafening.

  4. No doubt the same outfit that wanted a fitting memorial erected for the black and tans are crying about Stack. The cunt got no more than he deserved. More’s the pity his comrades didn’t join him.

  5. All, whatever the circumstances, the man was a husband and a father, gunned down and left seriously ill for nearly two years before his death. I think we should be mindful of those facts and the terrible loss suffered by his family. Their quest for justice is not unreasonable. His killing was unlawful, even by PIRA regulations, and is rightly regarded as an act of murder. Placing it in historical or factual context should not be used to justify it.

    1. Indeed, and I do not justify it. Neither do I justify the silence, or “Omerta”, with which Irish politicians and officials conceal and justify their own crimes, in this awful business. If the violence and criminality of a handful of officials, backed up by the Government ministers who had control and responsibility for the Prisons, had been put a stop to, things would not have gone as far as they did. There are two issues of justice here, the killing of the prison officer, who should instead have been arrested, suspended, and charged with multiple violent offences. (But the Garda were too busy aiding and abetting him). The second is the massive number of crimes inflicted on the inmates. I am calling for an inquiry, even at this late stage, and the full truth to be revealed. Sunlight is a great disinfectant. There is a great danger, if this sort of thing is not stamped on, of worse happening in the future. Impunity for torturers, as Amnesty International said, is why Pinochet flourished, so well, for so many years. We cannot know what the future holds for Ireland, but given our history, I am not optimistic. Either the country is a state under rule of law, or it is a Banana Republic. But I have absolutely no doubt that the chief response of Kenny would be the hurried introduction into the Dail of legislation; “Cultivation of Bananas (Prohibition) in the Irish Republic Act”.

    2. “Placing it in historical or factual context should not be used to justify it.” There we must unfortunately disagree.

    3. I am sure the vols thought they were doing was what had to be done. And PIRA apparently didn’t punish them for it.
      As for the brutal manner of his death,Trevor King died in a similar fashion.
      War is nasty but sometimes necessary.

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