I am honoured to be present here today at this Memorial ceremony in honour of the late Chief Officer Brian Stack. I am pleased to welcome his wife Sheila and his three sons Austin, Kieran and Oliver to this important event. I am very aware that although three decades have passed since Brian’s death, his loss continues to be acutely felt by all of you each day.
The purpose of today’s event is to give formal recognition to Chief Officer Stack and to honour his memory.
Brian joined the Prison Service in August 1959 and was posted, as all staff were at that time, to Mountjoy Prison. Brian served this State with distinction, as a Prison Officer, for over 20 years. During this time he served in Limerick Prison and in Cork Prison, where he was promoted to Assistant Chief Officer in 1973. Brian returned to Portlaoise Prison in 1977, where he was promoted to Chief Officer. He served in Portlaoise during some of the most difficult years of the Troubles.
I am pleased to see, here today, many staff members of the Irish Prison Service, both past and present. Some of you are currently serving or have previously served in Portlaoise Prison where Brian served with great distinction until his untimely death in 1984.
Our prison staff are well respected by the Irish people and deservedly so. I have seen, at first hand, during visits I have undertaken to a number of our prisons since my appointment as Minister the professional, dedicated and honest hard work that you carry out on a daily basis. I too have the greatest of respect for prison staff and management. You perform a difficult job on behalf of the State and you perform it well, coping with the unique challenges that the job entails. I thank you for the effort and dedication you bring to this important role in the criminal justice system.
I would also like to welcome the extended members of the Stack family who have joined us here today. Memorial ceremonies can be solemn occasions but I know that Brian’s family would like today to be a day, not for sadness, but for reflection and for celebration of Brian’s life and work. I am delighted that the Irish Prison Service has, in organising this ceremony, given us an opportunity to honour Brian and to ensure that his name and his memory will be associated with honour and bravery for members of the Prison Service in the years ahead.
It gives me great pleasure to announce that the Prison Service has, as part of the introduction of a new Merit Award Scheme for staff, decided to introduce "The Stack Medal", which is now the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a member of staff of the Irish Prison Service. The Stack Medal will be awarded by the serving Minister for Justice and Equality in recognition of an act of exceptional personal bravery by the recipient.
It is fitting that the first award of this medal is it’s posthumous award to Chief Officer Brian Stack and I will, shortly, call on Sheila Stack to accept the medal on his behalf.
In paying tribute to Brian the Irish Prison Service has decided to make a number of additional dedications in his honour.
Firstly, the Irish Prison Service College will be renamed "Brian Stack House". You will see, as you leave the Prison Service College today, that new signs have been installed at the exterior of the College bearing it’s new name. It is a fitting tribute to Brian’s memory that all who pass by Brian Stack House and every new recruit or existing staff member who comes here for training will be reminded of his bravery and that he gave up his life in the service of the State.
Secondly, I will shortly unveil a bronze bust of Chief Officer Brian Stack, which has been specially commissioned by the Irish Prison Service; created by artist, Jackie McKenna; and installed outside the main building here in the Prison Service College. More than simply a work of art, it will allow those who pass by to pause for reflection on Brian’s sacrifice and his contribution to this State.
Today, while we honour Chief Officer Stack, I will also plant a tree in honour of all prison staff who have served in Portlaoise Prison as the Government’s acknowledgement of the committed and often very difficult and challenging service you have given to your country, most especially during the years of the Troubles and which you continue to give to the present day.
At this time, I am also mindful of our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Prison Service who very recently and tragically lost a colleague when Maghaberry Prison Officer David Black was murdered in November last year and members of An Gardaí Síochána following the brutal and callous murder of their colleague Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe in January this year.
Today is an important day for both the Stack family and the Irish Prison Service. We pay tribute to a fallen colleague who has made the "ultimate sacrifice" in losing his life in the service of the State. Brian Stack was not only a dedicated and committed servant of the Irish State but a loyal husband and father. Brian’s son Austin, who we shall hear from shortly, also chose to serve in the Irish Prison Service and is now Assistant Governor in Wheatfield Prison.
Today, we stand with Sheila and all the Stack family to honour Brian’s memory. But also, as we gather together, you have an opportunity to look back; remember all of your former colleagues and friends; recall old stories and tales of times past and events that happened both here in Portlaoise and in all of our prisons throughout the State.
Finally, I would like to thank the Irish Prison Service for organising this Memorial Ceremony, especially Chaplain Fr. Tom Sinnott and the members of the Midlands Prison Choir for their contribution to the beautiful service.
Now, I would like to invite Sheila to join us on the stage where Michael Donnellan, Director General of the Irish Prison Service, will present her with Brian’s 21 Year Service Medal and I will present her with The Stack Medal which I have posthumously awarded to him in recognition of his loyal service to the State.