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35 years on, killers of Brian Stack are still beyond reach of the law


Austin Stack has been relentless in his quest for justice for his father, Irish prison officer Brian,  shot in 1983

Austin Stack has been relentless in his quest for justice for his father, Irish prison officer Brian, shot in 1983

Retweet: Senator Maire Devine

Retweet: Senator Maire Devine

Brian Stack

Brian Stack


Austin Stack has been relentless in his quest for justice for his father, Irish prison officer Brian, shot in 1983

Tomorrow will mark 35 years since Brian Stack was shot in the neck leaving a boxing match at Ireland's National Stadium in Dublin.

In theory, his killers should by now be free men, having served 'life' sentences in jail for a heinous attack on a servant of the Irish State.

Instead, they have roamed free for the past three decades, protected by men and women who believe Mr Stack was collateral damage in a war.

The father-of-three spent 18 months paralysed and brain-damaged before finally slipping away. His three sons were in their formative years at the time: Austin (14), Kieran (13) and Oliver (12).

Their almost impossible fight against the Provisional IRA has been made all the more difficult by a battle to preserve their father's good name.

He was the chief prison officer in Portlaoise prison at a time when the Troubles were raging in Northern Ireland.

The high-security prison housed some of the Republic's most dangerous characters.

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Mr Stack's tough management stance was met with disdain that eventually led to him becoming a target.

But he wasn't part of any war. He was merely doing the job that was expected of him by right-minded taxpayers.

Attempts to paint him as a victim of 'the conflict' were brought fully into the open when Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris revealed the logic for his murder.

The Provos wanted their own command structure to control the prison. But the prison governor and his senior officers, led by Mr Stack, battled to maintain control for the State.

"Stack was a particularly vindictive individual. He would never forget a previous incident, and if he took a dislike to a certain prisoner, he would wait until a suitable opportunity arose to punish the man in some way or other," Ferris, who served time for gun-running, said in his 2005 biography.

He went further last year on Radio Kerry, backing a claim that "if Hitler was looking for SS men he need look no further than prison management in Portlaoise prison".

For a long time, the IRA denied any connection to the murder, but in 2013 Gerry Adams helped Austin and Oliver Stack meet an IRA leader who had details about their father's murder. They travelled to a secret location in a blacked-out van.

Adams clearly thought that would be enough to make the Stacks go away - but they caused him no end of trouble during the 2016 election campaign. At one point, Austin interrupted a press conference in an attempt to question Adams about his father's killers. And all the while in the background was a narrative that Mr Stack 'had it coming'.

"I would say over the last two years it has been fairly constant. My view is that it's an orchestrated campaign to blacken my father," Austin told the Irish Independent.

The family say a tweet sent by a bogus account last weekend was just one of countless attacks.

When Sinn Fein Senator Maire Devine retweeted the 'sadist' post in relation to Brian Stack, it seemed to back-up their theory that many of these trolls are being driven by Sinn Fein/Provisional sympathisers.

"If you examine their accounts, they have a lot of followers who are Sinn Fein public representatives. A lot of what they put out is liked by Sinn Fein public representatives. All part of the one movement," claimed Austin.

Despite the publicity, the anonymous commentary has continued this week. 'Frontier Psychiatrist' posted: "Brian Stack... yawn. Still digging that one up. Move on, it was old 40 years ago." 'Smiffy' tweeted that "if you beat a man in jail… watch your back outside". And there are other examples.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the Provo movement "has sought to undermine the memory and reputation of Brian Stack over an extended period".

"Mary Lou McDonald's attempt to glide over his murder using the well-worn 'we were all in a conflict' theme doesn't wash either," he added.

But that is what the Stack family are up against - simultaneously fighting shadowy men and keyboard warriors.

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