Alban Maginness: Sinn Fein says it is committed to truth and justice, so why doesn't it hand over Paul Quinn's killers?
It defies belief that the Provisional IRA was not behind the 21-year-old's brutal murder, writes Alban Maginness
On October 20, 2007, Paul Quinn, a 21-year-old man from Cullyhanna in south Armagh, was abducted and taken to a barn across the border near Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, where he was systematically beaten by a gang of men armed with iron bars and nail-studded cudgels.
In the course of this barbaric beating, the young man suffered fractures to every bone in his body.
Given his catastrophic injuries, even the highly experienced emergency medical staff at Dundalk Hospital were unable to save his life. As his mother, Breege Quinn, said recently on the RTE Prime Time programme, his hands were so badly smashed up that she could not even put rosary beads on them as he reposed in his coffin.
The immensely courageous Quinn family know who Paul's killers are and, worse still, see them frequently in their area. They have identified his attackers as members of the local Provisional IRA in south Armagh.
The Quinns have absolutely no doubt that it was the Provos who abducted Paul and mercilessly beat him, thereby causing his death.
They are certain that he had been targeted by them because he had a disagreement with some of their members.
Such audacity was not to be tolerated and they responded with his abduction and beating.
They probably did not intend to kill the young man, but rather teach him a severe lesson and to hold him up as an example to the community of what to expect if you dared to cross them in their home territory.
In effect, he had the audacity to challenge their authority to lord it over the community.
Remarkably, the local Sinn Fein MLA, Conor Murphy (who was also the Minister for Regional Development in the then newly formed power-sharing Executive), in the aftermath of this murder, issued a statement claiming that he had spoken to the Provisional IRA and was satisfied that they were not involved.
He linked the murder to a feud among criminals. By implication, Conor Murphy was suggesting that Paul Quinn was a criminal.
The Quinn family demanded that Murphy withdraw this scandalous slur about their son, but he has consistently refused to do so over the past 10 years.
It is unbelievable that a minister in our government in 2007 could meet with the Provisional IRA and then confidently declare in public that he was satisfied that the IRA were not involved in the killing.
The outrageousness of this Sinn Fein assertion is still hard to take - even 10 years after all it happened.
In no other democracy in the world would such action by a senior politician have been tolerated.
All of this, despite the fact that the Garda are certain that the local IRA were the perpetrators of this well-planned and forensically executed abduction, assault and murder of this courageous young man.
The police estimate that there were 12 to 15 men involved in this crime. The forensic clean-up of the crime scene is reminiscent of the clean-up of Magenniss' bar in the Markets area of Belfast after the murder of Robert McCartney by the Provisional IRA in 2005.
So much, then, for the notion that this was the result of some local criminal feud. It is simply not credible to suggest that the murder was not carried out by a well-trained, well-organised paramilitary organisation.
Despite the best efforts of the Garda and their colleagues in the PSNI, to date no one has been brought to justice in relation to this despicable crime.
The police say that the murder is still an active investigation.
They say that there have been 23 arrests over the past 10 years and that 700 statements have been obtained. The case is now being reviewed by the Garda serious crime review team.
But those in the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein who have key evidence remain silent. Even the plea by Paul's mother for them to give evidence has gone unheeded. She said recently, to emphasise the point, that: "The pain over the past 10 years has been unbearable."
Perhaps they are oblivious to such a heart-rending plea, or perhaps they have much more to hide about this and other crimes - not least the murders of Robert McCartney in 2005 and Kevin McGuigan in 2015.
These are not legacy cases, but contemporary crimes that should be regarded as live cases. A historic investigation process, or truth-recovery unit, is not required to bring their perpetrators to justice.
Sinn Fein claim that they are committed to truth and justice. If they are sincere about that, why don't they bring those responsible for these crimes to justice?