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Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy won't be asked to stand down over Paul Quinn criminal slur, says Mary Lou McDonald

Why did it take 13 years? Breege Quinn says Sinn Fein minister should step down and apologise on national television

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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at Sinn Fein headquarters in Dublin. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at Sinn Fein headquarters in Dublin. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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Stephen and Breege Quinn holding a photo of their murdered son Paul

Stephen and Breege Quinn holding a photo of their murdered son Paul

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Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy on Spotlight

Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy on Spotlight

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald at Sinn Fein headquarters in Dublin. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has said she will not ask Northern Ireland's Finance Minister Conor Murphy to step down or remove him from his position after he alleged that murder victim Paul Quinn was involved in criminality.

"Absolutely not," she said.

On Wednesday Ms McDonald said that she believes that anyone who has information about the "barbaric" murder of Mr Quinn should contact authorities.

"Conor has clarified the fact that he is withdrawing his statement, comments he made over a decade ago and he has apologised for them," Ms McDonald added.

"That's the right thing to do, it's the decent thing to do.

"I know that he will be hoping to meet with the Quinn family to talk to them.

"That family have been through a horrible ordeal, I mean I can't even imagine, to lose their son in such a brutal way."

She added that Mr Murphy had spoken with authorities at the time of the murder but has not done so since and she believes that Mr Murphy will be in contact with the Quinn family in the coming days to pass on his apologies for the remarks.

Family ask why it took 13 years for Sinn Fein climbdown

Paul Quinn was branded a smuggler and criminal by Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy. His mother Breege Quinn welcomed Mary Lou McDonald's remarks on RTE on Tuesday that Mr Murphy would apologise and withdraw his remarks. However, she said he must do it on national television and step down as a government minister.

Breege Quinn said she will not meet Conor Murphy until he apologises publicly for branding her son a criminal.

She had called on Sinn Fein to remove Mr Murphy from his government position saying he "wasn't fit for the job".

"Why did it take 13 years," she told the BBC.

She said she went to bed "happy" on hearing Mary Lou McDonald's comments stating her son was not a criminal.

She added: "Conor Murphy still has to do his part, he has to come out publicly and apologise to us - and I mean publicly, on national television - because that is where he put the slur on our son and for 13 years we have endured and cried and fought for justice to get the truth.

"We have got the half truth and I thank Mary Lou for her part last night, and Conor Murphy, we are waiting for him to publicly apologise and go to the gardai and PSNI and give the names of the IRA people he said he spoke to in Cullyhanna."

She continued: "We could have justice tonight if Conor Murphy decided to give it to us.

"If he doesn't do that, I will not be meeting him.

"He got assurances from the IRA. Who were the IRA? He didn't go to Cork to speak to them, he spoke to them in Cullyhanna."

Mrs Quinn said Mary Lou McDonald's remarks had provided some comfort to the family.

"The fact she said Paul was not a criminal, I could go to bed last night and sleep, that gave me comfort - of course it did," she said.

"We knew Paul wasn't a criminal. Criminals are very wealthy people, poor Paul didn't have 10 pence."

BBC Spotlight footage shows Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy labelled IRA murder victim Paul Quinn a criminal

Conor Murphy had previously insisted claims he described Paul Quinn in such derogatory terms were "totally without foundation".

When asked about the issue in an election interview with RTE's Bryan Dobson on Monday, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said: "I've spoken to Conor Murphy about this issue before.

"He is very clear that he never said that. That that is not his view."

But the Belfast Telegraph has uncovered footage from a BBC Spotlight documentary a month after the 21-year-old south Armagh man's murder.

In an interview that was broadcast on November 13, 2007, 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."

He has denied saying something that he is recorded on tape as saying. It is bad enough that he blackened Paul's name. But then for him to insist he never did so is despicable Breege Quinn

The DUP welcomed Sinn Fein's change in position.

MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the family deserved justice.

"Last St Patrick’s Day, Arlene Foster met with Breege and took their case to Capitol Hill to ask people like the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee Richie Neale to use their influence with republicans," he said.

"We welcome the words from Mary-Lou but that apology should be made publicly by Conor Murphy just as the original allegations were. All information should also be given to the police so the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

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Stephen and Breege Quinn holding a photo of their murdered son Paul

Stephen and Breege Quinn holding a photo of their murdered son Paul

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Stephen and Breege Quinn holding a photo of their murdered son Paul

"The Quinn family have had additional hurt visited on them by the constant denials about remarks that were made about their son."

The matter was also raised in the House of Commons by DUP MP Paul Girvan who said - to "ensure stable government in NI" and community confidence - if Mr Murphy had information about the murder he should make it known to the PSNI and An Garda Siochana.

Secretary of State Julian Smith condemned the "horrendous" murder and urged anyone with information to contact police.

Paul Quinn was beaten to death by an IRA gang in a farmhouse in Oram, Co Monaghan.

Every major bone below his neck was broken in the brutal attack.

He had previously clashed with a local IRA commander's son.

His mother Breege has repeatedly asked Mr Murphy to withdraw his "slur" against her son.

Mr Murphy has denied that he ever branded Paul a criminal.

He told The Irish News on October 19, 2017, that claims he did so were "totally without foundation".

Mrs Quinn last night said: "Since my son was murdered, Sinn Fein has behaved terribly. Far from comforting my family, they have added to our pain and suffering.

"Conor Murphy is a senior Executive minister in Northern Ireland.

"He has denied saying something that he is recorded on tape as saying. It is bad enough that he blackened Paul's name. But then for him to insist he never did so is despicable.

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Finance Minister Conor Murphy (Liam McBurney/PA)

Finance Minister Conor Murphy (Liam McBurney/PA)

Finance Minister Conor Murphy (Liam McBurney/PA)

"We didn't make it up that Conor branded Paul a criminal. We are not liars. Those words came from his mouth.

"He should have retracted his words long ago and issued an apology."

Ms McDonald last night said that Mr Murphy would withdraw his remarks and say sorry to the Quinn family.

When his quotes were read out to her by interviewer Miriam O'Callaghan during RTE's Prime Time leaders' debate, the Sinn Fein president described them as "wrong".

She said: "Those things should not have been said. Conor withdraws them and apologises."

Mrs Quinn said that Mr Murphy must make a public apology to her family. "He blackened Paul's name in public, and he must apologise the same way. A private phone call or chat won't do," she added.

TUV leader Jim Allister also called on Conor Murphy to resign. He commended the Quinn family for their "fearless resolve".

He has tabled an urgent question in the Assembly asking why the minister "continues to hold office in light of developments relating to his stance on the murder of Paul Quinn?"

The SDLP Policing Board member Dolores Kelly said that while she did not want to make politically point score from the matter, "it was clear Conor Murphy should contact the police".

Asked if her party would continue to sit in the Executive with Mr Murphy, she said: "Let's wait and see what Mr Murphy does today."

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