SF apology for smearing murdered prison officer was not genuine, says son

A young Austin Stack with his late father Brian, a senior Irish prison officer, who was shot by the IRA in 1983
A young Austin Stack with his late father Brian, a senior Irish prison officer, who was shot by the IRA in 1983

The son of an Irish prison officer murdered by the IRA says an apology from a Sinn Fein senator who smeared his memory was clearly not genuine.

On March 19 Sinn Fein formally suspended Maire Devine for three months after she retweeted a message referring to murdered prison officer Brian Stack as a “sadist prison officer”.

Mr Stack was the chief prison officer in Portlaoise Prison – the top security prison that housed IRA inmates – where he regularly reviewed security to prevent terrorist jailbreaks.

He was 48 when he was shot leaving a boxing match in 1983 and died 18 months later.

On March 27 Ms Devine delivered an apology in the Irish senate, a week after her party issued an apology statement from her and suspended her.

She told the senate: “I retweeted what I thought to be a genuine tweet without having read the full content of that tweet.”

Ms Devine said that a number of follow-up Twitter posts she made were “wholly inappropriate” and added: “I deeply regret that.

“I want to again apologise for any and all offence and hurt that was caused by my Twitter activity.

“It was never my intention to cause more hurt to those already in deep distress.

“I want to put on the record my most sincere apologies to the family of the late Brian Stack,” she added.

However Mr Stack’s son, Austin, said her apology was not genuine.

“Senator Devine has not been in touch with me or my family,” he said.

“Obviously a genuine apology from our point of view would be if the senator contacted us directly and if she stopped trying to justify retweeting the message.”

The account which had initially smeared his father, he said, was a fake Irish government account and the senator said she thought it was a genuine account and did not see the offensive part of the message.

“However, I don’t believe her because I engaged with her for several tweets to challenge her at the time. So she knew exactly was in that tweet. In fact she told me to stop being so sensitive.

“I asked her if she had no shame and she said she had not.

“So you can see she knew exactly what she had retweeted at the time she did it. Her apology in the senate was a PR exercise.

“That weekend was the 35th anniversary of my father’s passing so it was a particularly stressful time for my mother who has been particularly upset by this whole matter.”

In 2013 then Irish justice minister Alan Shatter unveiled a bronze bust of Brian Stack in the Irish Prison Service Training Centre, which was renamed Brian Stack House.

Three months later – 30 years after the murder – the IRA admitted carrying out the shooting.

Sinn Fein have not offered any comment.