The family of murdered prison officer Brian Stack has received an apology from Garda Commissioner Drew Harris on behalf of the force for the “failings and shortcomings” in its investigation.
Mr Stack, who was shot outside the National Stadium in Dublin in 1983 by the IRA and died 18 months later, was the chief officer at Portlaoise prison.
In a statement issued after a 90 minute meeting with Mr Stack’s family on Wednesday, Mr Harris admitted the Garda’s mistakes had impacted on the investigation.
“Along with senior detectives, I met with the Stack family this morning to provide them with a briefing on the ongoing investigation into the murder of Mr Brian Stack,” he said.
“I offered the Stack family an apology for the failings and shortcomings in the investigation. I fully acknowledge that these matters are serious and had a detrimental impact on the investigation.
“This investigation remains open and An Garda Síochána would appeal for anyone with information in relation to the murder of Mr Brian Stack to come forward.”
Separately, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the murder was “one of the most horrendous atrocities” of the Troubles. “I certainly hope every effort will continue to be made to bring those responsible to justice,” he added.
Before the meeting at Garda Headquarters, Mr Stack’s son Austin said the family wanted answers about key material evidence and fingerprints that went missing.
He also claimed eyewitnesses were not interviewed, and that critical intelligence was passed to gardaí in 1990 but that it was not acted upon and was instead “suppressed”.
Mr Stack alleged that three separate Garda investigations have been carried out in an “uncooperative, disingenuous and disgraceful manner”. The Stack family are seeking a copy of the Serious Crime Review team report, he said.
Mr Stack’s son, Austin Stack, speaking after the meeting at Garda Headquarters in Dublin, said the apology from Mr Harris was “significant” and that the family was grateful.
However, he suggested there had been an element of “conspiracy” within the force and said he would be appealing to Mr Flanagan to appoint an independent policing expert to carry out a review of the case.
“We had a very full and frank discussion with the commissioner,” he said. “The family outlined a lot of the concerns we’ve had in relation to the errors. We outlined what we felt were the critical errors.
“The commissioner has given us a verbal apology for those errors and the handling of the investigation.
“From our perspective, we will be asking the Minister for Justice to consider asking an independent policing expert from outside the State to carry out a review of the investigation into my father’s murder.
“Tangible exhibits went missing. The commissioner was not able to explain that. He wasn’t able to explain why eyewitnesses were not interviewed.
“We want an independent person to look at this. From our perspective there was critical intelligence held within the walls of Garda Headquarters and it wasn’t passed on to the serious crime review team.
“There may have been an element initially of shoddy police work. But I also think there was some element of conspiracy in relation to individuals who should have been interviewed at the time but were not.
“I do believe there is more behind the scenes on this. I believe there are things that went on in Portlaoise Prison at the time that need to be explored more in terms of people who were collaborating with the IRA.”
Mr Stack was also critical of Gerry Adams, whom he said had more information on the murder than he has so far disclosed.
“Gerry Adams was interviewed recently but I believe it was very much a choreographed interview from what the investigation team has told me,” he said. “Gerry Adams has a lot of knowledge around this that he has not brought to the table.
“Gerry Adams described the IRA man that we met as a friend. This individual told us he met with the individuals who carried out the attack so there is a clear, direct link from Gerry Adams back to the individuals who carried out this attack.”
A file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to Mr Stack’s murder but the Garda has not issued any recommendation in relation to whether a prosecution should be brought. Mr Stack said he did not expect the DPP to prosecute.