Belfast Telegraph

Son of murdered prison officer Stack urges SF to expel senator Devine

By Rebecca Black

The son of a murdered Irish prison officer insulted on Twitter by a Sinn Fein senator has demanded that she be expelled from the party.

There was revulsion at the weekend when Senator Maire Devine retweeted a message describing Brian Stack as a "sadist".

Sinn Fein yesterday morning suspended Ms Devine for three months over the retweet, describing it as "unacceptable behaviour".

But Mr Stack's son Austin said she should be expelled.

He said his 73-year-old mother was left distraught by the incident and has contacted Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald to demand a face to face meeting with her.

"Sinn Fein has not actually apologised for what the behaviour of one of their representatives has done to myself and my family," he said.

"They haven't gone far enough - this woman will be welcomed back into the party with open arms in little under 12 weeks' time. In my view Sinn Fein welcoming her back into the parliamentary party is a sign that they support [her] and they clearly have no issues with what she has said.

"Mary Lou McDonald said when she became leader of Sinn Fein that she was bringing a new pair of shoes to the organisation and that there would be change, but to me very little has changed.

"She now has to show her leadership and she clearly has to expel Senator Devine from the organisation."

Brian Stack, who was the chief prison officer at Portlaoise Prison, was shot in the neck by the Provisional IRA in 1983. He died following 18 months in hospital.

The row erupted on Twitter on Sunday evening when Ms Devine initially stood over her retweet.

Sinn Fein did not respond to the outrage until yesterday morning when it issued a statement saying the party would investigate the matter.

The party later announced it was suspending Ms Devine for three months over what it described as "unacceptable Twitter activity".

Speaking yesterday after making a report to the Sinn Fein Ard Chomhairle, National chairperson Declan Kearney said the party "strongly disapproved" of what had happened.

"The Ard Chomhairle has suspended, with immediate effect, Senator Devine from party membership and all party activities for a period of three months," he said.

"The whip has been removed and Senator Devine will be outside of the Leinster House team for that period.

"Sinn Fein strongly disapproves of what has happened. There can be no excuse for the hurt and offence which has been caused to the Stack family."

The party also issued an apology on behalf of Ms Devine, which spoke of "deep regret" at what happened, adding that she wished to "profusely apologise to the family of the late Brian Stack".

But Austin Stack questioned how genuine the apology was.

"My family are not accepting that apology. We feel it is not genuine," he said.

"She was offered umpteen opportunities on Twitter to apologise and to retract the tweet which she refused to do. She stood over it in several of the tweets she put out afterwards.

"An apology from her when she has not had the decency to contact me directly as far as I am concerned is not sincere."

Another Sinn Fein activist, Rosie Ni Laoghaire, also issued an apology after she too retweeted the offensive tweet on Sunday.

The row comes just weeks after former Sinn Fein MP Barry McElduff resigned over a tweet which included an image of him standing in a shop with a loaf of Kingsmill bread on his head on the anniversary of the Kingsmill massacre, during which the IRA shot dead 10 Protestant workmen on January 5, 1976.

Sinn Fein initially suspended Mr McElduff for three months. He later resigned as MP.

Party delays decision on its abortion policy

Sinn Fein will not seek to change its party policy on allowing abortion up to 12 weeks until after the referendum in the Republic.

The party is moving its Ard Fheis forward from November to June in order to reassess its abortion stance — but the Irish government has set a target date of May 25 for the vote.

The decision means that none of the Republic’s three main parties have a definite position on what legislation should replace the Eighth Amendment — which protects both the life of the mother and the unborn child equally — if it is repealed.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has denied the move to hold the party conference after polling day is a political fudge.

“For the next two months the party will campaign passionately for the removal of the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution and then at our Ard Fheis in June our party members will debate and decide on our policy,” she said.

The Ard Fheis will go ahead in June even if the referendum is lost.

Belfast Telegraph

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