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Suzanne Breen

Skeletons of past will haunt Sinn Fein until party addresses the pain of victims

Suzanne Breen


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Gerry Adams

Gerry Adams

Robert McCartney

Robert McCartney

Gerry Adams

What a difference a Dail election campaign makes in a party's attitude to besmirching a murder victim.

On January 13, I put the Quinn family's demand for Conor Murphy to retract his slur against their son to Sinn Fein.

He had just been made Finance Minister in the new Stormont executive.

Now that he was once again a senior government minister, Paul's parents were repeating their request - made countless times over the past 13 years - that he retract what he said and apologise.

Sinn Fein didn't even bother to reply. The story ran in the Belfast Telegraph without any comment from the party.

The skeletons of the past will keep falling out of the closet until Sinn Fein addresses the injustices endured by victims' families

Likely it wasn't worried at all because Murphy's words from 2007 weren't an issue preoccupying other media.

It will have calculated that the Finance Minister wasn't likely to ever be asked about criminalising young Paul Quinn when he spoke in The Great Hall in Parliament Buildings.

The day we published our story, a general election was called in the Republic.

As the Dail was dissolved on January 14, Sinn Fein would never have dreamed that its Finance Minister would end up at the centre of the campaign in a negative way.

It was all going so well for Mary Lou McDonald. Her media performances have been first-class.

She combines street savviness with charisma and clear capability in a way that few in Sinn Fein do.

She can take the party to places that Gerry Adams never could reach because no interviewer will ever ask her: "Were you in the IRA?"

But the skeletons of the past will keep falling out of the closet until Sinn Fein addresses the injustices endured by victims' families.

The Quinns are no more going to give up than the Finucanes.

The McCartneys are as hungry for justice as the families of the Bloody Sunday victims who, bizarrely, some of Robert's attackers were commemorating in Derry hours before they stabbed him to death in 2005.

Sinn Fein supporters have been out in force on social media venting their fury about a biased media out to ambush the party when it's on the verge of a major electoral breakthrough.

Even if that's partially true, at the heart of this story is a south Armagh couple who first endured their son being brutally taken from then, and then his memory being besmirched.

What are they meant to do - sit at home and be silent?

Had Sinn Fein and Conor Murphy responded positively to the Quinn family's request - made through the Belfast Telegraph on January 13 - then the story would never have become an election issue

They didn't just start asking Conor Murphy to remove his slur against their beloved boy during an election campaign.

They asked him countless times over the past 13 years.

In 2017 on Paul's 10th anniversary, they appealed to him "as a politician and a father" to retract his statement.

And he ignored them then as he had ignored them every other time before.

That wasn't just the wrong thing to do morally, it was pragmatically foolish as well.

Had Sinn Fein and Conor Murphy responded positively to the Quinn family's request - made through the Belfast Telegraph on January 13 - then the story would never have become an election issue.

It would have been done and dusted before Leo went to the polls. An apology to the Quinns then would have been in keeping with the spirit of what is purportedly the new Stormont of New Decade, New Approach.

Instead, Sinn Fein reckoned it didn't need to pay any heed to a bereaved family.

It gambled wrong.

Let's hope it learns from that spectacularly bad call.

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