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Angry exchanges in Stormont as Sinn Fein's Murphy is challenged over Paul Quinn controversy

Murphy brands Jim Allister another 'unionist with double standards'

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Conor Murphy has faced calls to resign over the controversy

Conor Murphy has faced calls to resign over the controversy

Conor Murphy has faced calls to resign over the controversy

There were angry exchanges at Stormont on Monday when Finance Minister Conor Murphy was challenged over the Paul Quinn murder controversy.

Last week, the Sinn Fein MLA apologised for comments he made in the wake of the Co Armagh man's murder in 2007 in which he branded Paul Quinn a criminal.

The apology came after Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Murphy never made the comments, only for footage to emerge proving otherwise.

While the Quinn family, who have campaigned for those responsible for the murder to be brought before the courts, accepted the apology, they said it did not go far enough and called on Mr Murphy to publicly state Paul Quinn was not a criminal.

During Minister's Questions at Stormont on Monday, Mr Murphy was asked about the funding provided under the confidence and supply agreement between the DUP and the Conservative government.

TUV leader Jim Allister questioned how anyone could have confidence in Conor Murphy as an Executive Minister, given his "cruel treatment" of the Quinn family.

"If he had any shred of integrity he would have resigned," Mr Allister added.

The minister responded: "I wont take any lectures from the member, who refused discipline his party member Trevor Collins for organising a petition calling for the release of Torrens Knight, who carried out the murders at Greysteel... this is a member who also sat alongside paramilitaries on a loyalist marching band forum."

In 2009, TUV member Trevor Collins defended his decision to started a petition calling convicted Greysteel murderer to be released, after he was returned to prison following his conviction for assaulting two sisters in Coleraine.

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Murder victim: Paul Quinn

Murder victim: Paul Quinn

PA

Murder victim: Paul Quinn

He had previously been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement after serving seven years for taking part in the Greysteel massacre in 1993, in which eight people were killed, and the murder four workmen in Castlerock the same year.

Mr Murphy added: "This demonstrates that the member is just another unionist with double standards - in other words a hypocrite."

As the Finance Minister was speaking, Mr Allister could be heard shouting from the opposite side of the chamber and was reprimanded by the Speaker, Alex Maskey.

The issue was later raised by Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler, who asked Mr Murphy if he would take the opportunity to categorically state Paul Quinn was not criminal and commit to giving a full account of what he knows about the murder to the authorities.

The Sinn Fein minister said he made a statement last week and had already spoken with Gardai in the wake of the murder.

He also said the issue had never been raised with him before by any of Mr Butler's Ulster Unionist colleagues and he was "sceptical" of Mr Butler's "belated interest" in the topic.

"I have written to the family, I made the statement last week and that is where the matter rests with me," he added.

Paul Quinn was beaten to death by an IRA gang in a farmhouse in Oram, Co Monaghan in October 2017. He had previously clashed with a local IRA commander's son.

In an interview broadcast the following month, Mr Murphy said: "Paul Quinn was involved in smuggling and criminality and I think everyone accepts that.

"As I say this is a very difficult situation because there's a family grieving here and you don't want to add to that grief by saying things about their son."

Last week he apologised for the remarks after the footage emerged, stating his comments are a "matter of regret".

Belfast Telegraph