Belfast Telegraph

Warder behind 'evil' letters to IRA victim's son wins jail appeal

By Staff Reporter

An Irish prison officer who mounted an "evil and sadistic" poison pen campaign against the son of IRA murder victim Brian Stack has won an appeal against a sentence he was given.

John Cooney (57) admitted sending anonymous letters to jail governor Austin Stack, pretending to be an IRA member and telling him his slain father Brian had deserved to suffer.

The victim was among 13 prison service staff targeted over several years in the hate mail campaign.

Cooney had been jailed for a year, but will now serve no prison time after an appeal court reduced his penalty to community service.

Cooney had been given a 20-month sentence, with the last eight suspended by Judge Cormac Dunne last February.

However, he appealed the severity of that sentence and his case was reheard by circuit court president, Judge Raymond Groarke.

After the hearing, Judge Groarke allowed Cooney's appeal and ordered him to carry out 240 hours of community service in lieu of the prison sentence.

Austin Stack's father Brian, who was chief prison officer at Portlaoise Jail, was shot by the IRA in 1983, suffered brain damage and died 18 months later.

Mr Stack had said that he felt "retraumatised" by the three abusive letters which Cooney sent.

Separately, a female prison worker was told in a letter she had got cancer through "promiscuous conduct", while an officer was sent an obscene 40th birthday card. Cooney, of Colthurst Road, Huntington Glen, Lucan, pleaded guilty to nine charges of sending indecent, obscene, offensive or menacing letters and five of harassment.

The offences happened at various locations between 2011 and 2015.

The 14 charges referred to 13 prison service employees.

Previously, governor Austin Stack told Dublin District Court he began receiving letters around the time the Garda began making headway in the investigation into his father's murder.

The first letter arrived at his workplace in Wheatfield Prison. The others followed months later.

The author pretended to be from the IRA and it became obvious that he had worked with him in St Patrick's Institution.

The letters stated that Mr Stack's father "deserved to be in pain" for the 18 months before his death.

The author wrote that it was a waste of State money for the Garda to be investigating his father's death."

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