Fresh Start proposals ‘won’t deliver any truth for victims’

Austin Stack speaking at the Senate Chamber in Stormont during European Day for Victims of Terrorism
Austin Stack speaking at the Senate Chamber in Stormont during European Day for Victims of Terrorism

An IRA victim from the Republic of Ireland has told a special event at Stormont that the proposed Fresh Start proposals will not uncover any truth from the terror group that shot his father.

Victims told their agonising stories to MLAs as part of a special event to mark European Day for Victims of Terrorism.

Irish prison officer Brian Stack, who was shot by the IRA in 1983

Irish prison officer Brian Stack, who was shot by the IRA in 1983

Austin Stack’s father was a Portlaoise prison officer who was shot in the neck by the IRA in 1983.

He spoke warmly of growing up with his father, the many football matches they attended, and looking forward to having his first pint of beer with him. He was only 16 when his father was shot.

“I was very bitter for 25 years afterwards and wasn’t sleeping,” he told MLAs.

He wrote a letter of protest about Martin McGuinness’ presidential campaign in 2012 which was published in the press.

But he received feedback that his bitterness at the Sinn Fein candidate still shone through.

“I went away and thought about that. I decided that all that time I had been carrying a monkey on my back and I decided to give it back to the IRA.

“I said to them ‘you are the ones who should not be sleeping at night, not me’.

“I don’t have bitterness or hatred now, so my campaign for justice and truth is not coming from a bitter place and I can sleep at night now.

“But in the Republic of Ireland victims’ views are not being heard, so I am setting up a dedicated group so we can get some truth and accountability.

“For me it is not just about getting someone locked up – but justice is also about getting the truth.”

He believes the truth recovery aspect of the Fresh Start deal is not going to deliver for victims.

“When I met the IRA about my father’s murder they told me IRA volunteers did it as ordered by their commander, but that it was not sanctioned by the leadership.

“I questioned them about this and also questioned Gerry Adams – all face to face.

“But under the Stormont House Agreement, or Fresh Start deal, others will not be able to do this. So it is not going to deliver truth for victims.”

Una Moffett, the sister of James Mullan, a Catholic who was murdered by the UVF in Bangor in 1972, was also due to speak but had to cancel at the last minute.

Others who spoke included Neil Tattersall, a civilian victim of the 1992 IRA bomb in Manchester, and Aileen Quinton, whose mother was killed in the 1987 IRA Poppy Day bombing in Enniskillen.

UUP MLA Robin Swann, who attended, said the event was “fantastic”.

“It really does bring home the impact of terrorism when you are hearing personal testimonies as opposed to when you simply hear statistics,” he added.