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DUP MP calls for Conor Murphy to quit or be sacked over Paul Quinn remarks

Sammy Wilson’s remarks appear at odds with the DUP leadership, which has stopped short of calling for Conor Murphy’s removal as finance minister.

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Stephen and Breege Quinn at the graveside of their son Paul Quinn (Liam McBurney/PA)

Stephen and Breege Quinn at the graveside of their son Paul Quinn (Liam McBurney/PA)

Stephen and Breege Quinn at the graveside of their son Paul Quinn (Liam McBurney/PA)

A senior DUP MP has called for a Sinn Fein Stormont minister to quit or be sacked over his controversial claims about a republican murder victim.

Sammy Wilson’s remarks appear at odds with the DUP leadership, which has stopped short of calling for Conor Murphy’s removal as finance minister.

Mr Murphy apologised on Wednesday for comments made 13 years ago in the wake of Paul Quinn’s murder when he branded the South Armagh man a smuggler and criminal.

The brutal killing, and Sinn Fein’s response to it, has become a major issue in the Irish General Election campaign, with rivals claiming it is proof of the party’s continued defence of IRA violence.

Mr Murphy’s apology represented a dramatic change in position as prior to that he had denied even making the comments about Mr Quinn.

Mr Quinn, a 21-year-old from Cullyhanna in south Armagh, was beaten to death by a gang of around a dozen men in a farm shed across the border near Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

His family blame members of the IRA, but Sinn Fein has long denied republican involvement.

A month after the murder, Mr Murphy, a Sinn Fein representative for Newry and Armagh, claimed Mr Quinn was involved in “smuggling and criminality”.

While Mr Quinn’s family and other political representatives have demanded his resignation, DUP leader Arlene Foster declined to add her voice to those calls when she appeared before an Assembly committee on Wednesday.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has insisted Mr Murphy will be staying in post.

She said her priority was the Quinn family.

“Any time you’re asked to deal with something that involved trauma or loss for any family, of course it’s hard, I’m a human being and I’m also a mother,” she said.

Conor Murphy
Finance Minister Conor Murphy is facing calls to quit (Liam McBurney/PA)

The controversy has also erupted weeks before the publication of a public inquiry report on the botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme – an event that is anticipated to place Mrs Foster and party advisers in an uncomfortable political position.

Mr Wilson and several party colleagues now appear to have broken ranks on the issue of Mr Murphy’s future.

On Thursday, he tweeted: “Despite SF’s continual calls for transparency, integrity and accountability, they have once again illustrated that they will always side with the terrorist and not the victim. If they have any decency, Conor Murphy should be required to resign or be sacked.”

His comments follow a similar message on Twitter from DUP MLA Paul Frew, who is chairman of Mr Murphy’s Assembly scrutiny committee.

“The Quinn family have lived through a tortuous period of grief at the tragic loss & murder of their son compounded by the slur, alienated by the Republican movement. If the Quinn family say Conor Murphy should resign, he shouldn’t have time to get his coat.”

Mr Quinn’s parents Breege and Stephen have said Mr Murphy’s apology did not go far enough and have called on him to explicitly state that their son was not a criminal.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood urged people within Sinn Fein with information on Mr Quinn’s murder to come forward.

He said: “It is astonishing that a party that wants to be in Government in the Republic of Ireland can not come out clearly and give the information they have to the police about a murder that happened in the Republic of Ireland.

“Remember, Paul Quinn was beaten to death by a gang of men who broke every single bone in his body. His mother Breege could not even put rosary beads in his hands in the coffin – that is what we are dealing with here.”

“Both Conor Murphy and Gerry Adams, and the Sinn Fein machine, slurred his name and they have destroyed any chance for his family to get truth and justice. That has to stop now.”

PA