Martial Politicians And The Problems They Bring

Courtesy of The Transcripts: Drivetime programme Host Mary Wilson (MW) speaks to former Republican prisoner and blanketman now historian, writer and political analyst Anthony McIntyre (AM) about the latest developments in the raging controversy over the clash between Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and Austin Stack
RTÉ Radio One
8 December 2016
Audio Player

MW: Brian Stack was a senior officer at Portlaoise Prison which held many Republicans at the height of The Troubles. Mr. Stack was shot in the back of the neck on the twenty-fifth of March 1983 as he left a boxing match in Dublin. From the RTÉ Radio archives here’s Seán O’Rourke reporting news of that shooting.

Audio: Portion of Seán O’Rourke’s news report from 1983 is played.

MW: Brian Stack died from his injuries the following year. In the Summer of 2013 the IRA admitted to his murder. When that admission finally came Brian Stack’s son, Austin, along with the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams, spoke to me here on Drivetime and Austin Stack told me about the role Gerry Adams played in securing that admission.

Audio: Portion of Wilson's 2013 interview with Austin Stack is played and is transcribed below.

Austin: We met Gerry Adams. We had an open and frank discussion with him. We laid it on the line for him. We told him that he could trust us, myself and Oliver. And…

MW: …What did you want to know?

Austin: We wanted, what we wanted was an acceptance, we wanted the responsibility – we wanted the IRA to admit responsibility – that is key for us. I told Gerry Adams that I did have private information, that I had information that would lead me to believe the IRA were responsible and that I had information that I would maybe know the individuals that were responsible.

MW: Was he open to what you were asking of him?

Austin: He was. He told us that, initially he told us that what he would do was – there would be no promises – and he said I’ll go away and see what I can do. He said I will try and help you. (2013 interview audio ends)

MW: With Gerry Adams’ help Austin and his brother were taken to meet a senior IRA figure known to them only as ‘John’. (2013 interview audio resumes and is transcribed below.)

Austin: Essentially they told us that it was a group of IRA members had carried out the attack acting on the orders from their commanding officer. The IRA expressed regret for what had happened to my father. They also put in context the reasons why an attack on my father would have happened. They did also say it that it hadn’t been sanctioned by the leadership and that when the leadership of the IRA became aware that it was their members that carried out the attack that they disciplined the individual who issued the instruction.

MW Did you ask what happened to the Volunteer?

No, to be honest I didn’t ask what happened to the Volunteer. I preferred maybe to stay away from that. (2013 interview audio ends)

MW: That was Austin Stack speaking to me in August of 2013. Now the story did not go away. Two weeks ago the Irish Independent revealed that days before the general election in February Gerry Adams contacted the Garda Commissioner and gave her the names of four people who, according to Deputy Adams, were given to him by Austin Stack. Mr. Stack’s murder became an election issue after Austin Stack claimed to have information that senior members of Sinn Féin were connected to his father’s murder. Austin Stack denies that he gave these names to Gerry Adams so last night Deputy Adams made a statement to the Dáil.

Audio: Portion of Gerry Adams addressing the Dáil on the evening of 7 December 2016 is played and is transcribed below.

Adams: In 2013 Austin gave me the names of four people whom he believed might have information on the case. He told me that he had been given these names by journalistic and Garda sources. Now Austin denies giving me names. Why on earth would I say I received the names from him if I didn’t? In February of this year Austin Stack also claimed that he gave the names to the Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin. So if Austin Stack was prepared to give names to Mr. Martin why would he not have given them to me? I was, after all, the person he was asking to arrange a meeting. At Austin’s request I contacted those that I could from the names he gave me. They denied having any information about the killing of Brian Stack. I told Austin Stack this. (audio ends)

MW: In response and under Dáil privilege Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell named two Sinn Féin TDs in connection with this matter.

Audio: Portion of Alan Farrell addressing Dáil on the evening of 7 December 2016 is played and is transcribed below. (The voice of the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, is also heard.)

Farrell: Ceann Comhairle, I think it entirely appropriate, given Deputy Adams has been afforded the opportunity to explain to the house his involvement and or his discussions with individuals relating to this case, that the two other individuals, who are members of this house, who he himself has named…

Ó Fearghail: …No…

…and which are already in the public domain…

Ó Fearghail: …No, no, that’s not a point of order. That’s not a point of order.

Farrell: …that Deputies Ellis and Ferris…

Ó Fearghaíl: …Deputy Farrell…

Farrell: …be given the opportunity to address this house.

Ó Fearghaíl: …would you, would you resume your seat? (audio ends)

MW: Both Martin Ferris and Dessie Ellis deny any knowledge of or connection to Brian Stack’s killing. Again today Austin Stack criticised Gerry Adams and now wants Mr. Adams to give Gardaí the name of his IRA contact.

Audio: Portion of interview with Austin Stack on today’s RTÉ News at One is played and is transcribed below.

Austin: Gerry Adams had the name of an individual who he tasked with investigating a murder, the murder of a senior state official. Gerry Adams took myself and my brother to meet that individual. That individual told us that he spoke to the individuals concerned that perpetrated my father’s murder. Gerry Adams needs to go to An Garda Siochána and give that information. (audio ends)

MW: That was Austin Stack speaking to Conor Brophy on today’s News at One. I’m joined now by academic and Republican commentator Anthony McIntyre who has in the past been a sharp critic of Gerry Adams. And Anthony McIntyre, there’s a clear conflict now between Austin Stack’s assertion that he didn’t give Gerry Adams any names and Gerry Adams’ claims that he did. What do you make of this and who do you believe?

AM: Well the balance of probability would suggest that Austin Stack is more reliable in this case. I mean Mr. Adams has a long history of dissembling and prevarication on these matters including his claim never to have been a member of the IRA which nobody believes. And I’m of the view that we really have no option other than to take Austin Stack’s word on this matter.

MW: But if you pick your way through it, why would Gerry Adams give names to Gardaí that he never received, you know? What agenda would that serve?

AM: Well it seems to me that Mr. Adams is preparing his grassroots for whatever deal is going to be struck or arranged in The North in relation to the legacy issues of the past and I think he has given the approval, in some way – given the nod of approval – to people to inform on colleagues that, former colleagues, who for one reason or another have fallen foul of the leadership and they will be blamed for the activities that the IRA carried out and the people associated with Mr. Adams and the Army Council will be exonerated. And I think it’s part of a wider game plan.

MW: Because in the past Sinn Féin has been criticised for the circling of the protective wagons when they’re faced with a crises and now you have Gerry Adams throwing four senior Republicans under the bus which is a break with form, isn’t it?

AM: Well it’s a major departure in many ways from the type of things that Republicans used to do and the Army Council, which Mr. Adams sat on, used to sentence people to death for informing. Mr. Adams himself said, in respect to the death of Charles McIlmurray, that the penalty for informing is death and Mr. McGuinness said it in respect of Frank Hegarty that the penalty for informing is death and people know this. So it’s a very serious departure but Mr. Adams and his party have basically thrown all Republican ideology and all Republican principle under the bus in pursuit of their political careers and I think this is something else that has really, to use your term, been ‘thrown under the bus’, as they try to become more respectable, more part of the Establishment. I think the whole business of bringing Austin Stack to meet with an IRA member to explain something about the killing of Brian Stack was really not about throwing any real serious light on what happened. I think it was about distancing the leadership, of which Mr. Adams was a part, from the actual killing, the authorising of the killing of Brian Stack.

MW: What about like in Leinster House Gerry Adams has a credibility issue with rival political parties but what about his standing in Republican circles? He’s now an informant having handed over names to the Garda Commissioner.

AM: Well, I mean he is guilty of what he has accused other people of. For example I mean, Danny Morrison, who has carried out a role similar to Denis Donaldson in smearing people who have disagreed with the Sinn Féin leadership, actually began calling people who were associated with the Boston College project ‘Boston College Touts’. He was labeling me ‘Anthony McIntout’ for carrying out the type of research that we were carrying out and nobody was going to law enforcement with anything there. Now what has happened is Mr. Adams in this case is guilty, in my view, of the offence of informing law enforcement about former IRA Volunteers but his own party will not view him as an informer. They will manage to con themselves or delude themselves into believing that somehow it’s a move for peace, it’s a great strategic move to out-manoeuvre Micheál Martin and Enda Kenny and I would think that Mr. Adams’ position within the party’s secure – you know, they’ve met the Queen, they’ve given up IRA weapons, they have supported consent, they’ve called for people to inform to the state so I don’t think it’s going to cause any problems in that sense but what it does do is it shows the problems that Sinn Féin face with Mr. Adams as its leader. He’s in a sort of quicksand which is too shallow to drown him but too deep to allow him to escape from it and it means that very bright talented people like Eoin Ó Broin and Pearse Doherty, who perform very well in public, are having this sort of dark shadow cast over their performances because Sinn Féin continuously gets pulled into this past, this murky, sinister past, and really because the party insists on having martial politicians as the helm of its leadership.

MW: Anthony, thank you very much for joining us. That’s Anthony McIntyre.



  1. James Quigley says

    Martial Politicians and the Problems they bring.

    A good clear overall article and I can not fault your analysis. It is typically Adams scheming, something he has done all his career, using and abusing people for political reasons. There is not one ounce of sympathy in the man and it comes out glaringly in this case. He uses the murder of Brian Stack as some type of means to an end. Shame on anyone who believes the end justifies the means. It is regrettable that it took so long in the first place for the admission of Brian Stack murder. It is even more regrettable that the family is being treated the way he and some of his followers have treated them. Everyone is getting the blame, every excuse under the sun is being used.

    Imagine if it was the case that Adams handed over the names as part of some quest for legitimisation or political gain? Imagine using it because SF party have stagnated and can't progress becaused they are burdened with the ghosts of the past? Imagine excuses and calls for 'restorative justice' now so as to get them out of a corner?

    This should have been done,like many other things, at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, 1998. But the leadership were too busy basking in glory and pyrrhic victory. Some glory, some victory! Adams is talking about justice, how come SF have given up on the Bloody Sunday victims?

    Anyway it was Adams who handed over 4 names to an Garda. Why do that? Aparently one of the named persons was in jail at the time. Another named person said in the Dail he had nothing to do with it. This begs many questions as to the reason why Adams handed over the names, one question that sticks out is why hand over innocent names?

    I see you single out a couple of SF TDs. However, they might be capable but they have hitched themselves to the crooked wagon. If they are any good let them 'say it now or forever hold thy peace'. It is long overdue.

  2. Top Sinn Fein man Dessie Ellis ‘linked to 50 deaths’