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IRA's 'Surgeon' Sean Hughes asked to mend Sinn Fein split

By Niall O'Connor

Published 10/08/2016

Intervention: Sean Hughes. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire
Intervention: Sean Hughes. Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

A former IRA commander from Northern Ireland has been asked to intervene in a bitter dispute among Sinn Fein councillors.

Sean Hughes, who was nicknamed 'The Surgeon' by security forces, is part of a panel of senior party figures asked to resolve the row in Wicklow.

Mr Hughes, a close associate of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, was named in Westminster under Parliamentary privilege in November 2007 as having authorised the murder of Paul Quinn in south Armagh.

Mr Hughes has denied the claims and has never faced charges in relation to the murder of Mr Quinn, whose parents Breege and Stephen continue to seek justice to this day.

Three of Sinn Fein's six councillors based there are understood to be considering their positions over the decision to put forward a recently-co-opted colleague as group leader.

The individual in question, Bray-based councillor Michael O'Connor, replaced John Brady on the council after he was elected to the Dail in February.

But the decision by party bosses to put Mr O'Connor forward for the position of Cathaoirleach of the council, as well as Sinn Fein group leader in Wicklow, infuriated some of his colleagues.

Now it's emerged that an internal panel of senior Sinn Fein figures has been asked to intervene in a bid to prevent defections. The group is made up of Mr Brady, the party's '26 county' director Ken O'Connell, the party's Ireland South director and constituency manager for Kerry TD Martin Ferris, Conor Foley, and Mr Hughes.

The group has met with members of the council on two occasions in recent weeks and is expected to make a decision in relation to the dispute shortly. A party spokesperson said: "We are working with the party group to ensure implementation of party policies and priorities in Wicklow County Council and on the ground that will make a difference in the lives of ordinary people."

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