Victims like Austin Stack deserve truth
To paraphrase Gerry Adams himself, the past hasn't gone away, you know. That is thanks to courageous men like Austin Stack, whose prison officer father Brian was killed by the IRA in Dublin in 1983 and who branded the Sinn Fein leader a liar in an angry exchange yesterday.
The row followed the revelation that Mr Adams brought Mr Stack and his brother in the back of a blacked-out van to meet a senior republican who confirmed that the Provisional IRA had indeed murdered Brian Stack.
Even by the often surreal standards of politics on this island, it is astonishing that the leader of a major party would engage in such a cloak and dagger exercise to meet a leader of an outlawed terrorist organisation and then refuse to give any information about that person to Irish police, even though it is evident that person knows who killed Mr Stack.
Mr Adams must believe he lives in a parallel universe where the normal moral or even legal codes don't apply. But Austin Stack is determined to bring him back to reality, and once again the Sinn Fein leader finds himself embroiled in a controversy of his own making. There must be some within his party who are wondering if the sure-footedness that previously marked his long reign is now deserting him.
Austin Stack, like Ann Travers, whose sister Mary was murdered by the IRA, and Raymond McCord and John Allen, whose sons were killed by the UVF, have no intention of going quietly into the night. They challenge the revisionist narratives of people like Gerry Adams or loyalist leaders, and show up the Troubles as the sordid sectarian conflict that it really was.
They care not whether their quest for the truth rocks the comfortable 'don't mention the war' attitude that pervades the peace process, and in their individual cases they may well be more successful than most relatives who lost loved ones during the conflict.
What all the relatives want is the truth about why their loved ones died, but the promised institutions on truth recovery are still mired down in squabbles over funding and whether anyone is really prepared to tell the truth. Even State agencies continue to stall over handing over legally required documents to allow legacy inquests to be held.
Perhaps the best tribute that all of us can pay people like Austin Stack is to press the politicians to get on with the job of really aiding victims.