Belfast Telegraph

McDonald will be a puppet and won't change the party, says IRA murder victim's son

By Cormac McQuinn

THE son of IRA murder victim Brian Stack has said he doesn't think Sinn Fein will change under Mary Lou McDonald's leadership.

Austin Stack also said he believes she will be a "puppet" for party figures in Belfast.

And he said that for Sinn Fein to change it needs to take responsibility for all the harm that was done by the party and the Provisional IRA during the Troubles "without any excuses".

He said they should say "we are holding our hands up" and apologise to victims, saying: "It shouldn't have happened."

Brian Stack was chief prison officer in Portlaoise prison when he was shot in the neck in 1983.

The father-of-three died 18 months after the attack.

His son said he'd like Ms McDonald to get her party to stop running former paramilitary prisoners as election candidates and using them as backroom political staff.

He said: "Seeing those individuals in prominent positions causes the hurt to be revisited."

Mr Stack said taking those steps would indicate to IRA victims' families that the party has changed.

Sinn Fein last night said the party is an "equal opportunities employer and does not discriminate against former political prisoners".

It said the electorate decides who takes public office.

Ms McDonald yesterday denied she is "anybody's puppet" when it was suggested to her during one of her broadcast interviews that Mr Adams would still control the party behind the scenes.

Asked by Sky News if she still considers Sinn Fein to be the political wing of the Provisional IRA she insisted the party is "independent" and: "The IRA has gone away."

Meanwhile, prominent Sinn Fein critic Mairia Cahill - who alleges she was raped by an IRA member as a teenager - said she doesn't think the party will change "without properly finding a way to atone for the past".

Ms Cahill criticised Ms McDonald for attending IRA commemorations.

She said Sinn Fein need to "put a lid on it" in terms of those kinds of events but added: "I'm not quite sure they're going to do it with Mary Lou McDonald".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said such commemorations glorify IRA violence.

He has rejected the prospect of a Fine Gael coalition with Sinn Fein.

Ms McDonald faced criticism after attending a wreath-laying ceremony in Castlewellan, Co Down, last month. The event commemorated Peter McNulty, an IRA member who died in 1972 when a device he was planting at a police station exploded.

Sinn Fein last night noted that Ms McDonald's ard fheis speech outlined how the right of all sides to respect their dead must be respected.

A statement said she recognises "the need for reconciliation and healing of the past, whilst respecting others' experience".

Belfast Telegraph

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