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Parents of murdered Paul Quinn slam Conor Murphy for refusing to say son wasn't a criminal

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Stephen and Breege Quinn with the letter from Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy

Stephen and Breege Quinn with the letter from Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

The letter from Conor Murphy

The letter from Conor Murphy

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Stephen and Breege Quinn with the letter from Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy

The parents of IRA murder victim Paul Quinn have blasted Sinn Fein minister Conor Murphy for continuing to refuse their request to say their son was not a criminal.

In a letter to the Quinns, Mr Murphy again side-steps the matter as he did in an RTE interview last week.

Breege and Stephen Quinn told the Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday night that they are aghast that the Finance Minister is still declining to unambiguously state that Paul wasn't a criminal.

They are calling on Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald - who may end up Taoiseach after the party's spectacular Dail election success - to intervene with her Stormont minister.

Breege Quinn said: "Our hopes that Conor Murphy was finally about to put right the wrong he did our son were raised when Mary Lou McDonald told us last week that Conor was writing to us.

"We placed huge trust in her and we thought she would convince Conor to say that Paul was not a criminal.

"We have been waiting 13 long years for him to say those words. When we opened the letter our hearts sank.

"Mary Lou has said that Paul wasn't a criminal.

"Michelle O'Neill has said that Paul wasn't a criminal. But Conor Murphy - the person we need to hear it from most - still won't say it."

Mrs Quinn said that she was again asking Ms McDonald to speak to her Finance Minister urgently.

"When Mary Lou phoned me last week, I told her I was exhausted fighting for justice for Paul but that, as his mother, I had to keep going.

"Mary Lou said that, if her son was murdered and his name blackened, she would fight for him tooth and nail. So I know that she understands our pain."

In a direct appeal to the Sinn Fein president, Mrs Quinn said: "Please, please help end this for my family.

"Paul was given back to us unrecognisable.

"That can't be changed but Conor Murphy can say those vital words. He shouldn't even have to be asked.

"Why won't he say them?"

Paul Quinn was beaten to death by the IRA in a barn in Oram, Co Monaghan, in October 2007. Speaking after the murder, Mr Murphy branded him a smuggler and a criminal.

The Sinn Fein MLA later denied even making the remarks but he admitted doing so last week after the tape was unearthed of his BBC interview.

He then retracted his controversial comments and apologised to the Quinns.

But, unlike Ms McDonald and Ms O'Neill, he did not state that Paul wasn't a criminal.

The Sinn Fein president phoned the family last week. Mrs Quinn said it was a "positive and respectful conversation" and Ms McDonald promised that Mr Murphy would write to her.

But the letter falls short of stating that Paul wasn't a criminal. In the correspondence, Mr Murphy acknowledges the "hurt and pain" the Quinns have endured since 2007.

"I wish to apologise for the remarks that I made in the immediate aftermath and acknowledge how this has added to your grief and the awful ordeal inflicted upon your family," he wrote.

"I want to unreservedly withdraw those remarks and apologise to you and your extended family."

The Finance Minister said he wished to "strongly condemn" those responsible for the murder.

He said he would "welcome the opportunity" to meet with the Quinns in person to "acknowledge the hurt caused, offer my condolences, and apologise for my remarks".

Mrs Quinn said: "We appreciate that, after 13 years, Conor has retracted his slur.

"We welcome and accept his apology. But we cannot consider meeting him until he clearly states, as his other Sinn Fein colleagues have, that Paul wasn't a criminal."

During Minister's Questions at Stormont on Monday, UUP MLA Robbie Butler, asked Mr Murphy if he would categorically state that Paul Quinn wasn't a criminal and commit to giving a full account of what he knows about the murder to the authorities.

Mr Murphy said he had already spoken with gardai in the wake of the killing.

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

But Mrs Quinn said: "This is far from the end of the matter for me and Stephen. It was never about elections for us.

"It was always about clearing Paul's name and securing justice. We hope that politicians from all parties, including Sinn Fein, don't let this go.

"We welcome the media continuing to hold Conor Murphy to account."

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