Belfast Telegraph

Calls for 'honesty' and inquiry over Troubles-related killings

The son of an Irish prison officer murdered by the IRA has claimed critical witnesses were not questioned and evidence related to the killing went missing.

Austin Stack, who has campaigned to find the gunmen who shot his prison officer father Brian Stack in 1983, said a minority of gardai and prison officers in the Irish Republic colluded with the Provos in the early 1980s.

He said botched investigations into atrocities were more than simply poor policing and called for a public inquiry.

"It's not just simply down to the poor Garda practices at the time, which is the answer we have been told," Mr Stack said.

He was one of a number of people representing victims and survivors of the Troubles who raised concerns over legacy cases and truth recovery at the Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Karen McAnerney, whose brother Terence McKeever was abducted and murdered by the IRA in South Armagh in 1986, said she has learnt that 16 items of evidence related to the killing have gone missing from Dundalk Garda Station.

She has taken her case to the Garda Ombudsman but claimed the watchdog was working "hand in hand" with the Garda.

"Ten years down the line I still don't have any answers," she said.

Ken Funston, of Innocent Victims United, said Mr McKeever's murder investigation was marked by bogus officers signing for evidence and a vehicle and a blood stained anorak and cigarette butts going missing.

He told the committee former gardai failed to cooperate with inquiries.

Mr Funston said another case in Donegal showed clear collusion by gardai.

He said members of the force handed a list of names to the IRA which led to a murder and attempted murder.

"We need to see honesty from both sides of the border, not just one side," he told the committee.

Sitting alongside David Kelly, whose father Patrick, a private in the Irish Army, was murdered in an IRA kidnap in Ballinamore, Co Leitrim in December 1983, Mr Stack he believed collusion occurred in the Republic in the early 1980s.

Mr Stack said that as part of his work with the Independent Victims and Survivors Coalition he was aware of evidence log books going missing and unsuccessful a ttempts to find original fingerprints after the flooding of a Garda archive in Santry, Dublin.

"I do believe there was a very small minority of people in An Garda Siochana and prison service who aided and abetted the IRA at the time," Mr Stack said.

"I think that we need to tease these matters out in full public inquiry."

Mr Kelly said his family got no support from the Irish state following his father's murder.

"It was all downhill. Three years later, in fact, we were living homeless on the streets of London," he said.

The Independent Victims and Survivors Coalition told the committee that proposals for a truth recovery process, agreed in late 2014 between Northern Ireland politicians and the Irish and British governments, would stop well short of getting the information relatives need.

Mr Kelly said: "The idea of truth ... it might not work in my case but if it gives anyone peace, closure or healing after these traumatic events in their families' lives then it's worth pursuing."

Mr Stack said the proposals under the Stormont House Agreement would not let victims meet or question terrorists or those giving information.

"In order for us to trust the process we need to be able to test and question the evidence. Being handed a report by a third party is not acceptable and is not truth recovery," he said.

It was not until 2013 that the IRA admitted responsibility for the murder of Brian Stack, a chief prison officer in Portlaoise in the Irish Republic where high-profile IRA members were jailed.

Austin Stack was driven with his brother Oliver to a location in Northern Ireland with Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams for a secret meeting.

But he accused Mr Adams of only giving 70% of the truth with the rest of the information about who sanctioned his father's murder.

Mr Stack also called for former justice minister Michael McDowell to be called before the committee to explain his assertions that there was a "consensus" in the Republic going back to the early 2000s that the Garda would not seek prosecutions of on-the-run terrorists for historical cases.

Kenny Donaldson, of Innocent Victims United, raised concerns about letters written to IRA on-the-runs that they would not be prosecuted for legacy killings.

He called for them to be rescinded and questioned why a victim would support proposed truth recovery or cold-case investigations without assurances that no-one is immune from prosecution.

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