In the Dáil.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, under Standing Order 46 (1), made a personal explanation to the Dáil in relation to the shooting of Brian Stack.
Father-of-three Mr Stack was aged 48 and the chief prison officer in Portlaoise prison when he was shot in the neck on March 25th, 1983, after attending a boxing match in the National Stadium.
He died 18 months after the shooting which left him paralysed and with severe brain damage.
During this address in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Adams said:
“For the record, I will again set out the sequence of events and my efforts to assist the family of Brian Stack. Austin Stack approached me in 2013 seeking acknowledgment for what happened to his father.
I met Austin on a number of occasions over the course of the following months, mostly on my own. Austin and his brother Oliver made it clear to me, personally and said publicly, that they were not looking for people to go to jail. They wanted acknowledgement and they wanted closure.
There is a note of that initial meeting, and I am releasing that today.
The computer stamp shows that this note was typed into the computer on 16 May, seven days after the first meeting with the family. Austin Stack speaks of his commitment to restorative justice processes. I believe him.
I told the Stack brothers that I could help only on the basis of confidentiality. This was the same basis on which I have tried to help other families. Both Austin and Oliver agreed to respect the confidential nature of the process we were going to try to put in place.
Without that commitment, I could never have pursued the meeting they were seeking, which took place later that summer.
The brothers were given a statement at that meeting by a former IRA leader. That statement was made available publicly by the Stack family. The statement acknowledged that the IRA was responsible for their father’s death, that it regretted it took so long to clarify this for them, that the shooting of Brian Stack was not authorised by the IRA leadership, and that the person who gave the instruction was disciplined.
The statement expressed sorrow for the pain and hurt the Stack family suffered.
Following the meeting, the family acknowledged that the process “has provided us with some answers that three separate Garda investigations failed to deliver. We would like to thank Deputy Adams for the role he has played in facilitating this outcome”.
Since then, the position of Austin Stack has changed.
In 2013, Austin gave me the names of four people whom he believed might have information on the case. He told me that he had been given these names by journalistic and Garda sources.
Austin denies giving me names. Why on earth would I say that I received the names from him if I did not?
In February of this year, Austin Stack also claimed that he gave the names to the Fianna Fáil leader, Deputy Micheál Martin. If Austin Stack was prepared to give names to Deputy Martin, why would he not have given them to me? I was, after all, the person he was asking to arrange a meeting.
At Austin’s request, I contacted those I could among the names he gave me. They denied having any information about the killing of Brian Stack. I told Austin Stack this.
During the election campaign earlier this year, the Fianna Fáil leader and others repeated a lot of what was said in 2013. It was obviously part of an election strategy against Sinn Féin.
However, in addition, allegations were made that I was holding and withholding information from An Garda. It was in this context, and to remove any uncertainty or ambiguity, that I e-mailed the Garda Commissioner the names that Austin Stack had given me and which he said had come from Garda and journalistic sources.
I have never at any time described those named as “suspects”. I made it clear to the Garda Commissioner that I have no information on the death of Brian Stack. The e-mail was sent only after I had spoken to three of the four. There is a live Garda investigation. I am prepared to co-operate with this.
The position of the Fianna Fáil leader, who was a Minister in successive Fianna Fáil Governments during the peace process, and of the Taoiseach during the period in question and on this issue is hypocritical, inconsistent and disappointing. I have never sought publicity on these issues.
Any public comments I have made have been in response to others – first, when Austin Stack publicly asked to meet me and during the processes we established in 2013, and second, when Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil sought to exploit this issue as part of their election campaign of 2016.
Today I make this statement in the Dáil following an e-mail that I wrote to the Garda Commissioner being put inappropriately, in my opinion, into the public realm and then raised here in the Dáil twice by the Fianna Fáil leader.
I say “inappropriately” because there is a live investigation into the murder of Brian Stack and we in this Chamber should be mindful not to say anything that might prejudice this or any future court proceedings. The Fianna Fáil leader and the Taoiseach seem to be unconcerned about this.
Deputy Micheál Martin says I named four people whom I say I understand to be suspects in the murder of Mr. Stack. Teachta Martin has misled the Dáil. I never made such a statement. I have never described those named as “suspects”.
He says that I said I took a note of the meeting between Austin and Oliver Stack and a former IRA leader. I never said this. I took no note of that meeting. He says I took Austin and Oliver Stack to that meeting in a blacked-out van.
The Taoiseach even went so far as to say I drove the van. That is not true. I travelled with the Stack brothers in my own car to a pre-arranged place on the Border and then we were taken in a van to the meeting in the North, as had been pre-arranged.
The Fianna Fáil leader and the Taoiseach should correct the Dáil record on these matters.”
After Mr Adams made his explanation, Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell interrupted to say something.
This is what he said:
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl: “We will now return to the motion re: pension equality and fairness.”
Alan Farrell: “I am sorry to interrupt, but I wish to raise a point of order. Deputy Adams—–”
Ó Fearghaíl: “There is no point of order at this point.”
Pat Buckley: “No.”
Farrell: “The Ceann Comhairle has not heard what I have to say.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Very briefly.”
Farrell: “I thank the Ceann Comhairle. It is entirely appropriate, given the fact that Deputy Adams has been afforded the opportunity to explain to the House his involvement and-or discussions with individuals relating to this case, that the two other individuals who are Members of this House who he himself has named…”
Ó Fearghaíl: “No.”
Fiona O’Loughlin: “Three.”
Farrell: “…and whose names are already in the public domain…”
Ó Fearghaíl: “That is not a point of order.”
Farrell: “…Deputies Ellis and Ferris, be given an opportunity to address this House.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Will you resume your seat? That is not a point of order. The House, the Dáil Business Committee and I have agreed that Deputy Adams could make a personal explanation in accordance with Standing Order 46(1). There is no provision for any response or any question in respect of a statement made in such circumstances.”
Dessie Ellis: “A Cheann Comhairle…”
Ó Fearghaíl: “No, please resume your seat, Deputy.”
Ellis: “No. My name has been mentioned here. I will not have people putting my name out about something that I had nothing to do with. I refute any allegation.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “There is no allegation.”
Ellis: “For the information of the House the man in question claims to be a solicitor. I was actually in jail during that period in Portlaoise and, before that, in America.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Thank you, Deputy. Resume your seat.”
Ellis: “You should check your facts.”
Farrell: “I never said you were involved.”
Ellis: “You are a disgrace.”
A Deputy: “He never mentioned they were involved.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “I thank Deputy Ellis. We are returning to the motion on pension equality. I call on Deputy O’Dea…”
Ferris: “A Cheann Comhairle, I wish to…”
Ó Fearghaíl: “No. Please, Deputy.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Please, do not make a farce of this.”
Ferris: “For the record of this House, in 2013 I met gardaí at their request regarding the killing of Brian Stack. I co-operated fully with them and I have nothing to answer for.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “I thank the Deputy.”
Ferris: “It is a disgrace that Deputy Farrell has come in here and named me today.”
Louise O’Reilly: “Hear, hear.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Will Deputy Ferris resume his seat?”
Ferris: “The Deputy should be ashamed of himself.”
Ellis: “I challenge you to name me outside. Do it.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Deputies.”
Ferris: “Do it.”
Ellis: “Put your money where your mouth is.”
Ferris: “It is disgraceful.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Deputies, please do not….”
Ferris: “No. It is disgraceful that he has named Deputy Ellis and myself.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Will the Deputy resume his seat?”
Ferris: “Come outside and do that.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Will you resume your seat?”
Ellis: “Come outside if you have the guts.”
Ó Fearghaíl: “Deputy, please resume your seat.”
Kevin Boxer Moran: “Stop it.”
Ferris: “You are a disgrace.”
On RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, the leader of Fianna Fáil Micheal Martin and former attorney general and Senator Michael McDowell spoke to Mr O’Rourke about yesterday’s events in the Dáil.
From their discussions…
Sean O’Rourke: “Picking over the scabs again, isn’t that was this is about?”
Michael Martin: “Well actually, the more you learn about murders like this, you begin to learn how sordid and seedy a lot of this was, in terms of how the IRA went about its business…a lot of it had absolutely nothing to do with freeing Ireland and liberating anybody and that, those people, involved in that kind of activity deserve to be brought to justice and shouldn’t be hidden by anything.”
O’Rourke: “Are you saying that none of this has anything to do with the intense rivalry between you and Mr Adams..”
Martin: “Again, I didn’t initiate this, Sean..”
O’Rourke: “No it just conveniently arose for you, as something, if you like, …run with the political ball..”
Martin: “A journalist in the Irish Independent got hold of the email, I don’t know how but all journalists [talk over each other]…just hear me out, and the Stack brothers, as I said earlier, the Stack brothers, like other families, who’ve been hurt by the provisional IRA just didn’t go away and that’s why this issue is where we are. It’s not because…I didn’t initiate it..”
During the interview with Mr McDowell…
Sean O’Rourke: “What did you think of what Alan Farrell did in the Dáil yesterday?”
Michael McDowell: “Well I was just reading the account of it and listening there to Michael and I agree with him, that what he actually asked was: whether the two individuals whom he named should take the opportunity to make a personal statement themselves on the implication that they were the people named in the Adams’ email. I don’t think that’s an abuse of Dail privilege to be honest with you. I think that charges across the house are normally made by means of a substantive motion but I don’t believe there was anything unlawful about it or unconstitutional about it.”
O’Rourke: “Was it politically improper?”
McDowell: “Well, I mean, what do you mean by that term: politically improper. Clearly it was a breach of the order of the house because, as I recall, the standing orders of Dail Eireann, when a deputy is making a personal statement, which I understand Gerry Adams was, he’s not entitled to be contradicted or questioned on it and other members are not entitled to make statements about it and the use of a point of order to enquire whether the two persons might avail of the opportunity to make personal statements themselves was a bit of a artifice but it isn’t, in my view, an unconstitutional abuse of privilege.”
O’Rourke: “I take the point but I’m just wondering, I mean, he succeeded and he sat down with a smirk on his face, reading Miriam Lord in The Irish Times…”
McDowell: “Well, wether he had a smirk on his face or not, the simple fact is that he did not accuse them of murder, nor did he accuse them of…”
O’Rourke: “No, but I think the word innuendo might apply here…”
Talk over each other
McDowell: “Yeah, well, it might, it might, Sean, and I noticed that the Irish Independent today say that he’s connected to the murders and The Irish Times’ text in its story says that this connected them to the murders – I don’t necessarily believe that that is the case. As I understand it, the IRA, having at some level, decided to murder Mr Stack, at a later stage decided to lie about it and, at an even later stage, finally came clean at least to the extent of saying that ‘yes, it had been done’ by their organisation and tried to kind of absolve themselves of moral guilt by saying that the person who did it had been disciplined.”
Dáil transcript via Oireachtas.ie
Listen back to Today with Sean O’Rourke in full here