Uproar in Dail as Fine Gael's Farrell uses parliamentary privilege to target Sinn Fein TDs
Sinn Fein is in turmoil after two of Gerry Adams's most senior politicians were publicly linked to the murder of Irish prison officer Brian Stack.
Former IRA gunrunner Martin Ferris and Provo bomb-maker Dessie Ellis were named in an email sent by their party leader to the Garda Commissioner as people who may have information about the killing.
Mr Adams attempted to put the controversy to bed yesterday by making an unprecedented statement to the Dail in which he rejected suggestions of improper behaviour in relation to the Stack family's attempts to establish the truth about their father's murder in March 1983.
However, the Dail was left shellshocked when Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell then named Mr Ferris and Mr Ellis using the protection of parliamentary privilege.
He said the two TDs should also make statements - since they were two of the four people named in the email sent by Mr Adams to Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan on February 23.
It resulted in a chaotic exchange as both TDs furiously denied any knowledge of the killing.
Mr Ellis insisted he was in jail in Portlaoise at the time of the gun attack and challenged Mr Farrell to make accusations outside of the Chamber.
"I challenge you to name me outside. Do it. Put your money where your mouth is," he said.
Mr Ferris, meanwhile, revealed that he voluntarily spoke with Garda about the Stack case in 2013.
"I co-operated fully with them and I have nothing to answer for. It is a disgrace that you have come in here," he said.
Mr Stack's sons Austin and Oliver observed the row from the Dail's visitor gallery. "Sinn Fein TDs have chosen to back a liar over a victim. Gerry Adams has told untruth after untruth. His colleagues should hang their heads in shame," Austin Stack said.
Afterwards the pair met Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin.
As the Stack brothers were heading towards Mr Martin's office at the other side of Leinster House they encountered Mr Adams, who was on the phone at the time.
After Mr Adams offered to shake the Stack brothers' hands, Austin refused - calling Mr Adams a "liar".
His brother Oliver reiterated the claim and also refused to shake the hand of the Sinn Fein president.
Earlier in his statement Mr Adams failed to address the glaring questions facing him in relation to the Stack case.
He did not say whether he had given the name of the senior IRA figure who the Stack brothers met in August 2013 to Garda.
Last night Austin said this remained the key outstanding issue.
"Gerry Adams knows who this man is - he must inform gardai as a matter of urgency," Mr Stack said.
In a bid to dampen the controversy last night, Mr Adams released a copy of what he said was a note of a meeting with the Stacks in 2013. But Austin claimed at no point were notes taken - expressing fresh concern that the meeting was recorded without his knowledge.
In the Dail Mr Adams said he had spoken to three of the four people named in the email and made it clear in the email that he had no information on the killing.
"There is a live Garda investigation," Mr Adams said.
"I am prepared to co-operate with this."
Aside from Mr Ellis and Mr Ferris, one of the other individuals is also a senior Sinn Fein politician.
The fourth is a senior former leader of the IRA in the Republic, who is before the courts on unrelated charges.
"It was a grievous loss for his family and should never have happened," Mr Adams said on the killing of Mr Stack.
He also defended the anonymity granted to former IRA members who supported the work of the peace process and those who worked to recover the bodies of the IRA's Disappeared victims.
Mr Stack was shot in the back of the neck on March 25, 1983, after leaving a boxing contest at Dublin's National Stadium.
His sons had several meetings with Mr Adams in 2013 and in August that year they travelled in a blacked-out van to an undisclosed location along the border where a former Provo chief admitted the terror group was responsible for the murder.
The IRA said the killing was not sanctioned by the leadership of the organisation, but carried out by a renegade.