Gerry Adams’ claim he has a right not to name a former IRA leader – in the same way a journalist protects a source – has been branded “perverse” by Ulster Unionist Doug Beattie.
Mr Beattie was commenting after the Sinn Fein president defended his refusal to identify the man who in 2013 confirmed the IRA killed Portlaoise chief prison officer Brian Stack 30 years earlier.
Mr Stack was shot in the neck as he left a boxing match in 1983. He was left paralysed and died 18 months later.
Last Thursday the murdered prison officer’s son, Austin Stack, interrupted a Sinn Fein press conference at a Dublin hotel to confront Mr Adams.
He said: “Gerry Adams, I want you to give that information to An Garda Síochana. I am not interested in hearing any more of your lies and untruths ... because you as a public representative are an absolute disgrace if you don’t.”
Mr Adams has said he ‘rejected absolutely’ any allegations that he has been untruthful. He later told the BBC that his stance was akin to that taken by journalists.
“You’re a journalist, you protect your source, I’m about the business of making peace,” he said.
On Sunday Upper Bann MLA Mr Beattie responded, saying: “There is something inherently perverse about a political leader who says he protects the identity of a source in the same way the media protect the identity of sources.
“The only difference being of course, is that Gerry Adams is referring to a murder, is an elected representative and the leader of a political party - Sinn Fein.”
Mr Beattie added: “Adams’ hypocrisy doesn’t stop there. Not only will he not cooperate with the forces of law and order in respect to the murder of prison officer Brian Stack, but he presides over a party which is demanding the British Government make known all information about Troubles-related deaths, while he and others play peacemaker and retain information vital in a live murder investigation.
“Indeed, given the track record of the IRA during the Troubles, one could say that there is no organisation or body involved in the Troubles which contains more information than the ‘republican movement’ of which Sinn Fein was such a key part.”
Mr Beattie went on to say: “Gerry Adams and his colleagues must be held to account by rival political parties and the media, in addition to the police and the judicial system. They have no right to thwart due process of law by withholding information about murder. The crimes committed by the republican movement – including the murder of Brian Stack and many hundreds more, north and south of the border – cannot be downplayed or allowed to pass into history. These crimes and their consequences should haunt them to their graves.”