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Was a 21-year-old's life worth more than the peace process? For many the answer was no

Jim Allister


Paul Quinn

Paul Quinn


Paul Quinn

The courageous stand of Breege Quinn, not just in the last few days but over the past 13 years, as anyone who has followed her activity on social media will know, is an indictment of a political class and a compliant media who have invested so much in a process which requires victims be ignored in order for it to survive.

Where else in the world would the elderly mother of a murder victim have to go on the media because a government minister had blackened the name of her son without a scintilla of evidence?

Yet time and time again we witness innocent victims being retraumatised.

A few weeks ago all the great and the good hailed the establishment of the government in which Murphy holds ministerial office as a sign of progress.

Once again a ghost of one of Sinn Fein/IRA's many victims has cast a dark shadow over the celebrations.

Remarkably, at the time of writing, the lead voice of Unionism, the DUP, has said nothing about Mrs Quinn's call for Murphy to be removed from office.

Perhaps the silence isn't that strange. The DUP was perfectly aware of the nature of the Faustian bargain they struck when they entered mandatory coalition with the PIRA's political wing.

It is, nonetheless, worth recalling what the DUP said about the murder of Paul Quinn in 2007 - a murder committed when they had been in government with Sinn Fein for just five months.

A DUP party officer statement said: "There will be no place in government for those associated with murder."

Then Junior Minister Ian Paisley Jr told the cameras: "You cannot be involved in government on the one hand and be associated with anything like this on the other hand, so if it emerges that there was any Provisional involvement in this, the consequences are there for everyone to see"

Jeffrey Donaldson told Stephen Nolan: "If the IRA is involved - whether it's individuals or (if) there was a gang involved here - if there were a number of IRA members involved in this murder, then that's the actions of the IRA. We are not here to dance around this issue".

Of course, everyone knew the PIRA was behind the murder of Paul Quinn.

The question which faced all democrats in 2007 was, was the life of a 21-year-old man worth more than the peace process? For many the answer was no.

Even by the IRA's own depraved standards, the murder was particularly brutal.

Paul Quinn was beaten with iron and nail-studded bars for upwards of half an hour. His ear was torn off. Every major bone below his neck was broken.

The doctors told his mother that "nothing could be fixed", something she recalled in a heart-breaking interview yesterday morning.

Emboldened in the knowledge that unionist threats were bluff, Conor Murphy told the BBC that Paul Quinn was "involved in smuggling and criminality and I think everyone accepts that", before going on to add callously: "This is a very difficult situation because there is a family grieving here and you don't want to add to that grief by saying things about their son".

Murphy also boasted that he had "spoken to the IRA in the area" to receive assurances that they were not involved. That at a time when unionists claimed they had only agreed to share power with republicans because the Provisionals had ceased to exist.

Should Murphy go as Mrs Quinn has demanded? Of course he should.

The question Northern Ireland society needs to answer is, how did he ever get into office in the first place?

One final observation. Mrs Quinn wouldn't have got Mary Lou McDonald to say anything about the murder had it not been for the southern election.

How are innocent victims of the IRA supposed to have confidence in legacy mechanisms which depend on victim makers telling the truth with no process of testing the validity of what they say?

Jim Allister is leader of the TUV

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