From The Transcripts Kerry Today programme host Jerry O’Sullivan (JO) speaks to Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris (MF) via telephone about being named in the Dáil last night in relation to the Brian Stack murder case.
8 December 2016
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JO: Now with me on the line is Martin Ferris, Sinn Féin Deputy for Kerry, in relation to those remarkable scenes in the Dáil yesterday evening when Fine Gael Deputy Alan Farrell named both him and Deputy Dessie Ellis in connection to the Brian Stack murder. Deputy Ferris, Good Morning to you.
MF: Good Morning, Jerry.
JO: You were very, very angry in the Dáil yesterday.
MF: Yes. I was, I think it was – You know I knew going in to the Dáil yesterday before Gerry’s speech that Fine Gael had been briefing journalists they were going to name me and name Dessie Ellis. Even I understood, understand, that Alan Farrell said this morning that it was a spontaneous thing for him in the Dáil yet we knew going in somebody was going to name us. I think it was the fact that I had no problem with anybody naming me because I have a clear conscience in that regard. I had already been interviewed by the Gardaí I think it was either late 2012 or early 2013 regarding the Brian Stack killing. I went voluntarily. They requested that I meet with them. I agreed. No problem. We met at an agreed location which was a hotel in Dublin. I was accompanied by my PA, Matt Treasaigh, and there was two detectives there and I had a three hour interview with them regarding Brian Stack’s killing. So it – I had nothing to hide. I’ve a totally and absolutely clear conscience regarding that so to stand up and name me inside the Dáil yesterday was a bit of a publicity stunt for him but in particular for Dessie Ellis. Dessie Ellis was in prison at the time and I detected that he didn’t know it and neither did any of the other TDs on his benches didn’t know that Dessie Ellis had been in prison and I think they were taken back by it. But you know, he could have named me outside. I have no problem – I was already named in the papers anyway.
JO: But then, like when it comes to where it goes where what Gerry Adams said yesterday – do you accept his explanation in relation to his interaction with the Stack Family in relation to this? And what do you make of the fact that Austin Stack feels that Gerry Adams is lying? He called him a liar again yesterday after his statement.
MF: Well when Gerry Adams sent an email to the Garda Commissioner Gerry Adams told me then that my name was given by Austin Stack and that I was not named as a suspect but just a name that was given. I had no problem with it whatsoever in the world and neither had, as far as I know, had anybody else that was on that list. So why would Gerry do that? You know what I mean? Why would he name a TD if he hadn’t been given that information from Mr. Stack? But you know it’s – I think the one thing that came out of that statement from Gerry yesterday was the amount of confidentiality that he has adhered to right down through the years in order to bring about a peace process and to deliver on a peace process and the total violation of his commitment by himself and others to try and bring about a resolution to the conflict in Ireland and he has always acted on the aspect of confidentiality because without it he could have achieve nothing.
JO: Okay. Martin, why were you named on that list if you were not named as a suspect? You and Dessie Ellis – were you named as that there was a suspicion there that you knew something about what had happened to Brian Stack?
MF: My memory of that period, the 2012 and 13 period, is that a number of people all over the country were interviewed by the Gardaí. And obviously somewhere along the line my name was given, along with Dessie Ellis and others, was given to Mr. Stack and that name in turn was passed onto Gerry Adams. And it’s only when John Flanagan in 2000 – I think it was in February of this year – said that Gerry Adams had been given names and he hadn’t pass them onto the Gardaí – given names of suspects. But he was not given names of suspects he was given my name and Dessie Ellis’ name and all he done was oblige by saying: Okay, if you think they’re suspects – if you think I am reneging on my responsibility – he passed those on. And that’s what happened.
MF: But it’s a – I think Alan Farrell let himself down as a solicitor yesterday. I think the very fact you know that it was already out there in the public domain. He was using the house of the Oireachtas for his own publicity, really. And this whole debacle is, you know my name has been – I had absolutely nothing, and know nothing about, who was responsible for killing Brian Stack. I didn’t even know the IRA had anything to do with the killing of Brian Stack until such time as it became public in the last two years.
JO: And on that can you understand people’s reservations, I’ll put it that way, about the way Gerry Adams has dealt with all of this: Going in a blacked-out van to meet with a former IRA leader who confirmed that it was the IRA who murdered Brian Stack, that he hadn’t been sanctioned by senior members of the IRA and that the person who did give the instruction had been disciplined. That was happening at the same time as a live Garda investigation and the central thing that if your party wants to be part of the democratic process and wants to be part of the peace process now you can’t be running a tandem investigation on your own separate to a Garda investigation, separate to the laws of the land.
MF: Okay, yesterday in Gerry’s statement – all of this has been put out in the last number of weeks, particularly by Micheál Martin, to try for political point-scoring against Gerry Adams – it’s been put out there. And it’s a long way from the actual truth. Gerry Adams took…
JO: …Austin and Oliver, yeah…
MF: …Austin Stack and his brother in his car to a location somewhere near the border. They were picked up, all of them, in a van and Gerry Adams had nothing to do with that. They were taken to some house where there was an IRA man who gave an account of what happened to the Stack Family and who also said, in my understanding, and said in that encounter that somebody had been disciplined. It wasn’t Gerry Adams that was saying that. It was the IRA person there that was saying it. So it’s misrepresenting, in a very scurrilous way, to try and damage Gerry Adams and damage Sinn Féin. The truth of the matter is it was at their request that they wanted to go and meet the IRA. It wasn’t Gerry Adams’ request. It was their request. And I think it would be – if everybody read in detail the total account of what Gerry gave yesterday – not just in that instance about leaving Bertie Ahern in a house in Belfast and other officials and going to meet the IRA when they knew that – and coming back from the IRA back to Bertie Ahern to report the whole process.
So it’s – this is – you’re in a situation of trying to resolve outstanding issues in the conflict. Part of that is people who died in the conflict and their families have never got justice and that’s all that Gerry tried to do – tried to get some closure for the family and give the Stack Family justice and he’s done his utmost in that and he’s done it for several other people right down the years. And you know, we have been saying consistently: If we want to get to the bottom of all of this and get this whole murky world of the British intelligence involvement and so forth the government should be pushing for a truth and reconciliation….
JO: …Okay, yeah. I want to ask you about that in more detail. I’m going to ask you to hold on. We’re going to take a quick break and we’ll have more with Deputy Martin Ferris after we take these. (commercial break)
JO: We’re talking to Deputy Martin Ferris about the events of the Dáil sitting yesterday evening in the relation to him and Dessie Ellis being named by Alan Farrell and the whole controversy in relation to the murder of Brian Stack. Deputy Ferris, if I can ask you just before we talk about what needs to happen now to deal with all these legacy issues on all sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland, do you think Gerry Adams, and several people have been saying this, that he is wrong in not naming the IRA figure that allegedly knows who shot Brian Stack and not giving that name to the Gardaí?
MF: Well I think he might ask, too, as well yesterday in his statement, Gerry, if people listened to it. Do you know what I mean? His whole thing – he has to work on the premises of confidentiality. And I’m quite certain he doesn’t know, and I don’t know and I’m certain – I know nobody that knows actually who shot Brian Stack.
JO: But is not making the decision there that he knows better than the Gardaí? That he knows how to handle this better than the force which protects and enforces law and order in Ireland?
MF: I think if you look again at what – and Brian Stack and Austin Stack and his brother’s situation – Gerry only complied with their request and their wishes. They wanted some form of closure and he tried to facilitate that.
JO: That’s not what they want now, Martin. They want full disclosure. And they want all the names. And they want to find out what happened to their father.
MF: Yes, and I think there’s an awful lot – there’s three thousand six hundred people who have died in this conflict and a lot of them in very murky circumstances and I think everybody is entitled to closure and entitled to justice and whatever we have to do. And there’s a huge responsibility on both governments as well – is try to put in place a truth and reconciliation commission that we can get to the bottom of all of this. I was just listening to the radio this morning, you probably were as well, around Stakeknife and the murky world where there’s supposed to be forty-two people died as the result of that British agent. Now, I would like to get to the bottom of that and I’d like to get to the bottom of all – and give justice to everybody who lost loved ones in this conflict. And I think that’s the only way we can do this. Because we’re not going to do it by standing up in the Dáil and naming Martin Ferris and Dessie Ellis. In fact, on my way in here this morning a very senior, a very senior Fine Gael minister came to me and apologised for what happened yesterday. And he’s disgusted by what had happened and you know – there are people of all parties, of like-minds to myself and Gerry and other people – that we want closure on the whole aspect of conflict (crosstalk) (inaudible)
JO: Okay. Was the killing of Brian Stack wrong?
MF: Of course it was.
JO: Do you regret what you said about him in your autobiography – that he was a particularly vindictive individual who was despised by prisoners, other prisoners and Republicans and also by prison officers – his colleagues?
MF: I think – when I was being interviewed for that book, right? I was asked a question about prison management. And what I said about prison management and in particular about Brian Stack – I wish it wasn’t in the book - let’s put it that way – but it was – but what I said about prison management was very, very consistent to what the prison officers’ conference said in 1982 and I’ll quote from it if you want to where two delegates stood up and said: If Hitler was looking for SS men he need look no further than prison management in Portlaoise Prison.
I have a very good friend – I had a very good friend – living only eight miles up the road from where you’re sitting now and that man was in Portlaoise Prison with me. A real smashing person, there was no (inaudible) with that man but he was in Portlaoise Prison. And as a consequence of what he endured in Portlaoise Prison that man died tragically on his release and he’s not the only one. So there’s an awful lot of victims here. There’s a lot of victims that spent years in solitary confinement…
JO: …And does that justify then murdering Brian Stack?
MF: I didn’t say that and I wouldn’t say that.
JO: That’s what it sounds like.
MF: No, I wouldn’t say that for one word. I think we need to find a mechanism where we can resolve all the outstanding issues of conflict. There’s an awful lot of people badly damaged as a result of that conflict right across the board and we need to find some mechanism to bring that about. And I believe, I for one and I’m quite certain the Sinn Féin people that I know would be only too willing to help in bringing that about…
JO: Do you know the name of the IRA figure who allegedly knows who shot Brian Stack?
MF: No, I don’t. No, I don’t. I don’t know anybody that knows it. Somebody knows it but I don’t know anybody that knows it.
JO: Gerry Adams knows it.
MF: No, he doesn’t. He didn’t say that.
JO: He doesn’t know it?
MF: No, he didn’t say that. He never said he knew that. It was in the – going by his statement yesterday where he said that they were told by the IRA person in their presence. I think if you get the statement and read it you will see exactly what he said and exactly what he knows.
JO: So this is – you’re talking about – so there’s walls of separation between what Gerry Adams knows – bringing the Stack Brothers in his car to a meeting to meet men who took them in van then to meet the IRA leader that Gerry Adams just doesn’t know any of the people involved?
MF: I don’t know. I don’t believe he does. But I don’t know.
JO: It stretches credulity, though, that he doesn’t know the IRA leader that they were going to meet.
MF: No, he said that he made contact with a person that he knew way back in the IRA to know if something could be found out about this and that person that he knew away back apparently that person was able to put this in place.
JO: Okay, Martin…
MF: …So I think you should read his statement to give justice to what Gerry said yesterday and…
JO: …I heard – I listened to the statement. I watched what happened in the Dáil and it left me with a lot of questions – questions as to why – and this question that I asked you to try and get some answers this morning as to why all the information isn’t being handed over. Look, I accept what you say on one level about confidentiality but on the other you’ve a family suffering here and grieving and a family who are calling the leader of your party a liar. They’re saying that didn’t happen. Austin Stack says I did not give names to Gerry Adams.
MF: Well I will refer you back to what Brian Stack said a number of years ago. He thanked Gerry Adams publicly for all his efforts, thanked him publicly, and appreciated everything that he had done to try and bring closure for them. That’s Brian Stack’s own words.
MF: Sorry, Austin Stack’s words.
JO: Explain for me how – let’s say to take the South African example – how is a truth and reconciliation effort going to work with regards to The North?
MF: Well I think you’ve got to look at good practices and good precedents around the world. There’s the South African model, there’s a new model starting up in Colombia and other areas where a conflict resolution process has been put in place and I think there are enough models out there that would – but it would take the good will of everybody involved…
JO: …Why hasn’t it happen before now?
MF: Because it’s been resisted so particularly by the British government. And you know that. The reason the British government are resisting all of this is because of (crosstalk) (inaudible)
JO: And if they were to acquiesce? Yeah, a lot of murky things went down – a lot of very dastardly things were done that’s for sure. If there was to be one would you fully contribute to it? Would the IRA fully contribute to it? And would all the cards be on the table or would we still meet this wall of confidentiality?
MF: Well I can speak personally for myself here: I would absolutely and totally cooperate to deliver in a truth and reconciliation commission. I’d have no problem doing that. And if everybody I know within the – I’m a former IRA person. Everybody I know, that I worked with in the IRA, I believe would do the same. So you know, it’s – we have to find the way of doing that. The people’s going to resist this most if the British Establishment, the British government, and in particular because of the Dublin-Monaghan bombing and running agents such as Stakeknife. And they’re going to resist it. And they would have to be pressurised by the Dublin government, if the Dublin government is sincere, in trying to find a way…
JO: …If they have the will to do it.
MF: If they have the will to do it.
JO: Okay, final point for you: Is it not a bit rich of you to be getting so upset about what Alan Farrell in the Dáil yesterday given Mary Lou McDonald used Dáil privilege to name, wrongly as it turned out, names of former parties with Ansbacher accounts?
MF: Well, I had no problem with being named. I thought it was just…
JO: …You got very angry in the Dáil last night.
MF: I did because it was done for a cynical reason. I was already in the paper, Jerry. I had nothing in the world to worry about. I was already in the paper. I had already been – and I’m quite certain that the party that was responsible for naming me and Dessie Ellis knew certainly that I had already been interviewed and that I had no case to answer– and they knew that. And it’s a – in Dessie Ellis’ case Dessie Ellis was in prison and I’m quite certain, unless they’re stupid, they knew that as well. So you know they were naming somebody with an inference that they may be suspects even though they didn’t name us as suspects, an inference that we may be suspects – that they knew full well it had nothing to do with us – and you know so much so that a senior cabinet minister came to me today and apologised. And I’m not making that up.
MF: Do you know what I mean? I have lived my life as a Republican activist in the IRA and I have always respected – there are things I could say about people in other parties and I’ve kept my mouth shut and will never betray people but I’ve kept my mouth shut – that would highly embarrass Micheál Martin and his party and others if I wish to do so.
JO: Okay. What do you mean by that?
MF: Well, we’ll leave it at that because I have never betrayed anybody in my life and I’m not going to start now.
JO: You’re saying you’ve information on them that would be politically embarrassing. Is that correct?
MF: It would be more than politically embarrassing maybe. You know, I’ve been involved since 1969- 1970 I’ve been involved actively. And over those years I came into contact with an awful lot of people.
JO: People from…
MF: …I will take their confidence to my grave.
JO: To your grave – so you’re not threatening them by saying that this morning?
MF: No, I’m not. But I am just saying I have lived by the principles that I stand for and I will never betray those principles. And people can be very secure in that.
JO: And you feel the other side are betraying principles?
MF: No. I think they are – what they are doing is – maybe in denial of some of their people’s past, you know, that what they are doing is for political opportunism. You know they were well aware, in particular Fianna Fáil, were well aware of the confidentiality aspect of the entire process…
JO: …Sure, but Fianna Fáil…
MF: …Going right back to 1998…
JO: …I mean, Fianna Fáil weren’t involved in murdering people.
MF: …Going right back to 1998 Fianna Fáil were a part, were well-acquainted, the Fianna Fáil leadership were well-aware of the confidentiality necessity in order to bring about conflict resolution and we have lived to that to the letter.
JO: You’ve lived – and you feel they’re not they’re living to it now? That Micheál Martin is taking advantage of it?
MF: No, I think what they’re doing is for opportunistic reasons and for to try at political point-scoring that they are effectively playing kamikaze with everything that has been done down through the years in order to bring about conflict resolution…
JO: …Do you feel though that they’re going to destroy the peace process? Is that what you’re saying?
MF: They’ll never destroy the peace process. They have lost interest in the peace process a long time ago. There are enough of us around that will make sure that that peace process survives and continues to grow because we were – we have – if it weren’t for that peace process there’d be an awful lot more people dead and thankfully it has brought an end to military conflict in our country. It has brought an end – it has created a framework where people can address the outstanding difficulties in a democratic and in a peaceful manner. And we have done that and played our role in doing that and we have to do that every single day because we live – our people live in the zones where the conflict took place and they know how easy it could slip back and that’s why we work so hard and it’s not for any type of electoral/political gain it’s because it’s the right thing to do.
JO: Okay, alright Deputy Martin Ferris. Thanks for talking to us this morning. That’s Sinn Féin Deputy Martin Ferris with his view on all of that. What do you make of what he had to say? Get in touch with us on the programme this morning. We’ll have more after we take these.