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Conor Murphy challenged to issue public apology in NI Assembly chamber over Paul Quinn slur

Northern Ireland’s finance minister apologised in a statement last week for alleging that the murdered 21-year-old Co Armagh man was a criminal.

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Finance Minister Conor Murphy declined an opportunity to make a public apology in the Assembly chamber for called Paul Quinn a criminal. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Finance Minister Conor Murphy declined an opportunity to make a public apology in the Assembly chamber for called Paul Quinn a criminal. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Finance Minister Conor Murphy declined an opportunity to make a public apology in the Assembly chamber for called Paul Quinn a criminal. (Liam McBurney/PA)

Northern Ireland’s finance minister declined an opportunity to make a public apology in the Assembly chamber for describing Paul Quinn as a criminal.

Conor Murphy faced pressure last week over comments he made in 2007 following the murder of the Co Armagh man.

The issue became one of the talking points in the Irish election as Mr Quinn’s mother Breege called for the former Newry and Armagh MP to be removed from his post as a minister over the comments.

Sinn Fein faced criticism from its political rivals over its response to the killing.

Stephen and Breege Quinn hold an image of their murdered son Paul Quinn
Stephen and Breege Quinn hold an image of their murdered son Paul Quinn (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Murphy apologised for the remarks, while Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald spoke to Mrs Quinn in a telephone call.

The apology represented a dramatic change in position as prior to that he had denied even making the comments.

On Monday as Mr Murphy answered questions in the Northern Ireland Assembly chamber in his role as finance minister, he was challenged by Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler to issue a public apology for the comments about Mr Quinn.

Mr Murphy responded: “I made a statement last week and I have written to that family.”

Mr Butler pressed further, asking Mr Murphy if he has considered his position as minister.

The minister responded: “No, and can I say the incident that he refers to is some 13 years old, not two weeks ago here, your party leader welcomed my appointment as minister and pledged himself to work with me in good faith.

“I have known people in your own party, your party leader for four years, the issue was never raised with me once, I have been chair of the economy committee, he was my deputy chair, never raised the issue once, met the chair and deputy chair of the finance committee a number of weeks ago and they never raised this issue with me, they wished me well, they wanted to support me in my role as minister, and yet in this last week apparently that they have some serious considerations about my fitness for being a minister.”

Mr Murphy added: “So, you’ll understand if I am being somewhat sceptical about their belated interest in this issue. Certainly as I have said in my previous answer, I have written to the family, I have made a statement last week and that’s where the matter rests with me.”

Earlier Mrs Quinn said she is angry at claims she was manipulated as a tool against Sinn Fein.

Some have criticised the timing of the furore shortly before voters went to the polls in the Irish republic to select the next government.

It did not appear to harm Sinn Fein who are enjoying historic breakthroughs in the state which Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have dominated for decades.

Paul Quinn
Paul Quinn was beaten to death in 2007 (Family Handout/PA)

Speaking on the BBC’s Stephen Nolan Show on Monday, she said: “I am so angry that people are calling into your show to say that you manipulated Stephen (her husband) and I to go on your show just because there is an election on.

“Stephen, if you called us every day this last 14 years, we would appreciate it. Those people, why are they being so angry towards you, so disrespectful towards you. We take all calls from all stations to get justice for our son Paul.

“I could just sit down and cry.”

PA