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1 September 2013 Edition

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Meeting with ex-IRA figure ‘brought a huge element of closure’

Son of Portlaoise prison officer shot in 1983 tells media

Portlaoise Prison

‘Dealing with the human consequences of conflict in terms acceptable to victims and their families is very difficult but a challenge which republicans will not shy away from’ – Gerry Adams

THE family of Portlaoise Chief Prison Officer Brian Stack – shot in 1983 and who died the following year – said a meeting by sons Austin and Oliver Stack with a former senior IRA representative in August about what had happened and why “brought a huge element of closure for us”, Austin said.

The encounter came after what was described as “several productive meetings” since May between Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD and the Stack family.

Gerry Adams said after the Stack family held a press briefing on 9 August about the meeting that “dealing with the human consequences of conflict in terms acceptable to victims and their families is very difficult [but] a challenge which republicans will not shy away from”.

In the face-to-face meeting with Brian Stack’s sons, the ex-IRA figure acknowledged that IRA Volunteers did shoot the Chief Prison Officer at a time of high tension and institutional brutality towards republican prisoners in Portlaoise but it was an action not approved by the IRA leadership. The person who gave the order was subsequently disciplined, it was said.

The statement given to Brian Stack’s sons by the ex-IRA figure said:

“I want to acknowledge that the IRA was responsible for the death of your father.

“I regret that it has taken so long to clarify this matter for you.

“This was a secret guerrilla army. It kept no records of its military operations.

“During the 30 years of war, activists were killed, many thousands were imprisoned and leaderships at all levels were constantly changing.

“Reliable information is therefore not readily available and sometimes not available at all.

“The IRA did have rules and regulations, including a rule which prohibited any military action against Irish state forces. Regrettably, at times these rules were breached.

“Between the 1970s and 1980s there were prison struggles in Britain, the North  and South. The prisoners resisted these harsh regimes.

“Prison officers were killed by the IRA in the North. These killings were sanctioned by the IRA leadership but none was sanctioned in the South and none was asked for in the case of your father.

“In Portlaoise, a brutal prison regime saw prisoners and their families suffer greatly.

“This is the context in which IRA Volunteers shot your father.

“This action was not authorised by the IRA leadership and for this reason the IRA denied any involvement.

“Some years later, when the Army Council discovered that its Volunteers had shot Prison Officer Brian Stack, the Volunteer responsible for the instruction was disciplined.

“Those who carried out the attack were IRA Volunteers acting under orders.

“The IRA was responsible for your father’s death.

“This operation should not have taken place.

“While the IRA can no longer comment on this matter, let me express my sorrow for the pain and hurt your family suffered.”

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD said in a statement after the Stack family had spoken to the media about the meeting:

“At the beginning of May I met Austin and Oliver Stack whose father, Prison Officer Brian Stack, was shot in March 1983 and died the following year.

“They asked for my assistance in seeking answers and closure to questions they have surrounding the killing of their father. I told them I would try to help.

“Since then I have been working with Austin and Oliver to establish whether the IRA was involved in their father’s death.

“Recently I accompanied Austin and Oliver to a meeting with a former IRA leader who had enquired into the events of March 1983.

“The substance of this is contained in the family statement and confirms that the IRA was responsible for what occurred.

“I want to pay tribute to the Stack family – to Sheila Stack and her sons, Austin, Kieran and Oliver.

“On behalf of Sinn Féin, I extend my regret at the killing of Brian.

“I hope that these recent developments will help them achieve the closure they have sought for 30 years.”

The Sinn Féin leader added:

“Addressing complex and painful legacy issues is an enormous challenge.

“Dealing with the human consequences of conflict in terms acceptable to victims and their families is very difficult, especially in the absence of a process which provides for the voluntary participation of witnesses.

“Nonetheless, it is a challenge which republicans will not shy away from.

“This generation of republican activists who lived through and survived the war have a duty and a responsibility to do our best to help victims and families.”

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