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'I'm not trying to spirit away the past' - Mary Lou McDonald challenged over litany of IRA atrocities

The Sinn Fein leader was confronted with string of IRA terror atrocities that occurred since she was 16

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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks to the media during a walkabout in central Dublin, whilst on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Thursday February 6, 2020. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks to the media during a walkabout in central Dublin, whilst on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Thursday February 6, 2020. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

PA

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald speaks to the media during a walkabout in central Dublin, whilst on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Thursday February 6, 2020. Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has insisted she is "not trying to spirit the past away" as she was challenged over a litany of IRA atrocities from the Enniskillen bomb to the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe.

It comes as she remains under intense pressure over how her party treated the family of murdered Paul Quinn. Ms McDonald was confronted with a series of IRA outrages that occurred since she was 16-years-old by Newstalk's Pat Kenny.

He made the point that the polls show that Sinn Fein is gaining support among younger people who do not remember the horrific violence but that older voters do.

Mr Kenny said: "They remember – Enniskillen 1987 – you were 16 years old at the time. You weren’t a child. You remember that too. The Warrington bombing. You were 24. That’s when a three year-old child Jonathan Ball was killed and a 12-year-old boy Tim Parry was killed."

He said that Ms McDonald was 27 when the IRA killed Garda Jerry McCabe.

"A party member of yours, a TD [Martin Ferris] went to meet the killers of Jerry McCabe – a Garda killed on duty by the IRA".

Mr Kenny added: "You don’t like it but it is important to remind those who don’t have long memories what the violent history of your party’s association with the Provisional IRA is."

Ms McDonald said it's "absolutely essential that the conflict is remembered" and that it's "not glossed over or glamorised because real people suffered".

Any notion or suggestion that’s being put out there that somehow Conor Murphy is holding back information or knows who carried out these acts is entirely wrong Mary Lou McDonald

Mr Kenny said he could give many more examples and Ms McDonald replied: "This isn’t about trying to whitewash anything. What happened, happened and I feel a real sense of responsibility to put that to rights."

She said that she has met Tim Parry's father Colin and has visited Warrington.

Ms McDonald said will not be sacking Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy in the wake of his claim that murdered 21-year-old Paul Quinn was involved in criminality.

She added: "I’m not trying to spirit the past away. Far from it. The truth is that we need to look at the past in the eye and we need to deal with it."

Mr Kenny said he sees a continuum between the Enniskillen bombing and the murder of Paul Quinn in 2007 who was brutally beaten to death by a gang who were associated with the Provisional IRA.

Ms McDonald said: "those that carried out that diabolical act need to be apprehended and put behind bars."

Sinn Fein has been beset by controversy over the murder as Mr Quinn's family had been seeking an apology from the party's Finance Minister in the North Conor Murphy over his claim in 2007 that their son had been involved in criminality.

Mr Murphy finally apologised and withdrew the remark yesterday.

The Quinn family also want him to provide police with the names of IRA members he claimed he spoke to and who assured him the terror group was not involved in the murder.

Asked about this today, Ms McDonald said that Mr Murphy has previously spoken to the PSNI and the Gardai.

I think Conor Murphy should resign, if his apology was genuine he would have issued that apology to the Quinn family 13 years ago. Jim O'Callaghan

She said: "Any notion or suggestion that’s being put out there that somehow Conor Murphy is holding back information or knows who carried out these acts is entirely wrong."

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail has called on Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy to resign as Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister amid ongoing controversy over his remarks about murder victim Paul Quinn.

Jim O’Callaghan, Fianna Fail’s justice spokesman, said he did not believe Mr Murphy’s apology was genuine and that he should resign.

However, he said Fianna Fail in government would continue to deal with Mr Murphy if he remains in office at Stormont.

On Wednesday, Mr Murphy apologised and withdrew remarks made in 2007 that Mr Quinn had been involved in criminality following demands from the murder victim’s family.

The Quinn family also want him to provide police with the names of IRA members he claimed he spoke to and who assured him the terror group was not involved in the murder.

His party leader Mary McDonald has denied that Mr Murphy is withholding information and said that he has spoken with authorities.

Mr O’Callaghan said: “I think Conor Murphy should resign, if his apology was genuine he would have issued that apology to the Quinn family 13 years ago. But the apology was really designed to protect and promote the interests of Sinn Fein in the run-up to a general election.

“What it reveals is that whenever there is a conflict between the interests of a family seeking justice on the one hand and the interests of the Provisional IRA or people involved in crime on the other hand Sinn Fein will always opt for the latter.”

Mr O’Callaghan also attacked what he claimed was Sinn Fein’s opposition to the Special Criminal Court.

While Sinn Fein has previously called for the abolition of the non-jury court its current manifesto calls for a review of the court and in recent days Ms McDonald has indicated she does not want it abolished.

Mr O’Callaghan said he appreciated the concerns of human rights bodies such as the Irish Council for Civil Liberties but said the Constitution allows such courts to be established and “the people voted in favor of it”.

He said: “I'm waiting to hear a member of Sinn Fein identify for me or anyone else a miscarriage of justice that occurred in the special criminal court. I've never heard them being able to identify one of them.

“And notwithstanding that they still continue with their ambivalent view, their absolutely opposed view to Special Criminal Court because there's a vote every year in respect of this.

“Let’s be clear as to why the leader of Sinn Fein says that she does not support the Special Criminal Court. The reason she can’t say she supports it is because she is not allowed to say that because the cabal in West Belfast will not allow her to come out in favour of a special criminal court because if she does they know it undermines their revisionist view of what happened in this country for 30-40 years during the Troubles.”

SDLP Leader and Colm Eastwood MP has called on Conor Murphy and Gerry Adams to give names of IRA men to police. Mr Eastwood was on the campaign trail in Dublin with Fianna Fail candidate Jim O'Callaghan.

In the party’s final press conference at Fianna Fail campaign headquarters in Dublin, Mr O’Callaghan and Fianna Fail housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien took aim at Fine Gael.

Mr O’Brien said that the government party had run “the most negative election campaign in modern history”.

Mr O’Callaghan criticised Mr Varadkar’s campaign messaging about having the best team to govern the country. "To listen to Leo Varadkar talk about the Fine Gael A-Team, you’d swear he was Jurgen Klopp managing Liverpool and that Heather Humphreys and Eoghan Murphy and Simon Harris are like Mane, Salah and Firmino. Like, give me a break,” he said.

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