Belfast Telegraph

SF jail 'stunt' hurt PSNI widow: Foster

By David Young, PA

A Sinn Fein prison visit to meet one of the men convicted of the dissident murder of a PSNI officer was a publicity stunt that caused much pain, First Minister Arlene Foster said yesterday.

The DUP leader also called on her partners in government to reflect on the decision to send a delegation into Maghaberry high-security prison to meet Brendan McConville and another republican inmate.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness defended the visit, insisting parties from all traditions had a responsibility to listen to those people who lobbied them, be they in jail or not.

McConville and John Paul Wootton were found guilty in 2012 of the Continuity IRA murder of Constable Stephen Carroll in Lurgan in March 2009.

The men have been engaged in a long campaign to overturn the decision. An appeal against their convictions was lodged and then dismissed in 2014, but the pair are now hoping to have the evidence against them examined by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Mr Carroll's widow, Kate, was furious after it emerged that three Sinn Fein members of the Justice Committee - Declan Kearney, Pat Sheehan and Michaela Boyle - met McConville inside Maghaberry last week to discuss his case.

Mrs Foster said the party was entitled to question judicial issues, but she branded the visit as nothing more than a ploy aimed at shoring up support among hardline republicans.

"I think it was a Sinn Fein publicity stunt," she added. "I think that's very clear, but in their stunt they have caused a lot of pain, a lot of anguish, particularly to Kate Carroll, and they should reflect on that.

"But unfortunately they don't seem to take into consideration the pain and anguish they caused by their publicity stunt."

"They are trying to appeal to elements of their constituency, which they are clearly concerned about at the moment. That is a matter for them, but I think they should very much reflect on the fact that they have caused a lot of pain and a lot of anguish."

Mr McGuinness described Mrs Carroll as a "wonderful human being" and said he had "tremendous respect" for her. But he added politicians had a responsibility to listen to people.

"I have great time for Kate Carroll," he explained. "I think she is a wonderful human being. I met her at the time of the murder of her husband, which was a cruel and foul deed by those who would try and plunge us back to the past, so all my sympathies are with her.

"At the same time, if you look at the situation in the North of Ireland over the course of the last 20 to 30 years, politicians from all sides - both unionist, nationalist and republican - have been lobbied by people where concerns have been expressed around the quality of a conviction."

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