| 10.6°C Belfast

Suzanne Breen

Conor Murphy's half-hearted apology won't repair the damage done to Paul Quinn's traumatised family

Suzanne Breen

Conor Murphy

Paul Quinn was not a criminal. After 13 years, Conor Murphy still can't say those six simple words.

By not doing so, he is prolonging the agony of a heartbroken family.

A family that has already been to hell and back.

It is surely unthinkable that a senior minister in any other European country would not act to swiftly and comprehensively address the wrong he had committed against his own bereaved constituents.

Conor Murphy is a highly ambitious politician and, for reasons of self-preservation alone, his actions are bizarre.

Unless he believes that his fellow politicians and the media will let him off the hook.

The Finance Minister created the scandal in the first place, and he alone is now prolonging it.

Why did he choose in 2007 to utter those harsh, untrue words about a battered boy just weeks in the grave?

He said them not on the spur of the moment but in a sit-down pre-recorded BBC interview.

He chose not to withdraw them for 13 years.

Even more bizarrely, he denied he had even said them.

He told the Irish News in 2017 that claims he had called Paul a criminal were "totally without foundation". That effectively made liars out of parents Breege and Stephen Quinn.

Mary Lou McDonald said he had told her the same.

"He is very clear he never said that," she told RTE last week.

The Finance Minister then said his party president had got it wrong.

It was "a misunderstanding on her behalf", he claimed.

But Mary Lou's confident assertion fits with what the Irish News had previously printed.

Mr Murphy must be asked to explain that.

Sinn Fein clearly hoped that its minister's letter to the Quinns would put the whole controversy to bed.

But the very fact that he did not unambiguously state that Paul wasn't a criminal means that the family are still understandably aggrieved.

What will Mary Lou McDonald now do? Will she speak to her Finance Minister and instruct him to utter those six simple words, or will she cop out?

Sinn Fein is known for its top-down approach and iron discipline, so let's see whether Mary Lou cracks the whip or lets Murphy away with it.

Breege and Stephen Quinn genuinely appreciated her telephone call last week, but they need her to convince her minister to fully put right the wrong he did them 13 years ago.

The response of the other Stormont parties and the media will be crucial for the family.

Will they drop the issue now the Dail election is over, or will they keep asking questions of the minister?

Conor Murphy would be much happier being quizzed in Parliament Buildings about budgetary matters than about Paul Quinn.

This is a test not just of the Finance Minister, but of all those who claim to hold power to account.

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph