This answer from Gerry Adams to a question from Radio Louth’s Michael Reade about the Brian Stack affair last week, jumped out at me:
GA: Michael, I work quite closely with An Garda Siochána. I have passed information on to them over the years about criminal activity along the border. I have given them the names of those who have been suspected of being involved. I’ve given them other information – that’s my duty as both a citizen and as a public servant.
Since the killing of Portlaoise prison warder, Brian Stack was carried out by the IRA, and since the SF president passed on to the Gardai the names of several alleged culprits and has revealed in the same interview with Michael Reade that the senior IRA figure who authorised the killing has been disciplined, some interesting questions follow.
To begin with, the claim from Gerry Adams that the gun attack on Brian Stack was not authorised by the IRA leadership should be taken with a generous pinch of salt.
Since 1948, when General Army Order No 8 was issued by the Army Council, the IRA forbad any military action against the Southern state and that, presumably, included prison officers.
The IRA issued that order so that its efforts to destabilise the Northern Ireland state, either by attacking security forces in the North or in Britain, would not be distracted by unnecessarily causing antagonism in the South, where the IRA trained and stored many arms dumps. The IRA could not fight a war on two fronts and hope to win.
That doesn’t mean that the IRA didn’t clash with members of the Irish state’s security apparatus. Since June 1972, six members of the Garda were killed by the Provisional IRA, mostly in the course of robberies, Border bombings and kidnappings.
Although some will object to this characterisation, nearly all of the police deaths at IRA hands in the South during the Troubles were not planned or deliberate operations, but rather the by-product of activity primarily directed at sustaining the IRA’s war in the North.
The killing of Brian Stack fell into a different category, however, being planned and directed to end the life of a prison warder who, presumably, had wronged the IRA in some way, mostly likely its inmates in Portlaoise jail.
Had the IRA admitted that Mr Stack had been deliberately targeted on the orders of its leadership that would have invited the toughest of responses from the then government in Dublin, headed by Garret Fitzgerald and Dick Spring.
Mr Stack was killed in March 1983 when Sinn Fein was enjoying considerable electoral success in the North – where Gerry Adams had been elected MP for West Belfast – and was gearing up to mount an electoral challenge South of the Border.
Had the IRA admitted the Stack killing it is difficult to imagine the Fitzgerald government reacting in any way other than by grasping a heaven-sent opportunity to stick the boot into Sinn Fein.
So, the Provo leadership had more than a normal incentive to lie, at least lie by silence, about killing Mr Stack. It wasn’t until August 2013, that the Provos owned up, thirty years after the deed was done.
As I wrote above, it is advisable to take the claim that the attack on the prison official was unauthorised and that the culprit was ‘disciplined’, with a large portion of sodium chloride! It falls into the category of: ‘They would say that, wouldn’t they?’
Mr Adams can move this story on quite easily by answering this question: was the IRA leader who embarked on the unauthorised operation against Mr Stack, one of the names that he passed on the Garda commissioner?
If not, how could he now possibly object to giving the authorities the name? After all, that is his duty ‘as both a citizen and as a public servant’.