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Suzanne Breen

Brave Quinns were not used by the media

Suzanne Breen


Don't patronise Paul's parents...it takes courage to stand up to IRA

The Quinns.

NOW that the Republic's general election is over, the ranks of the Quinn Support Group will surely be flooded with new members campaigning for justice for Paul.

Sinn Fein and its supporters have predicted that all those voices raising the case will fade away post-election. Given this evident interest in the welfare of his parents Breege and Stephen, I'd expect they will want to rally around. See what they can do to help.

Maybe they could organise public meetings in South Armagh. Put up posters encouraging those with information to go to gardai without fear.

'The Quinns are being used by the media' was the mantra of Shinners on social media last week.

This journalist was accused countless times on Twitter of being uninterested in the case until the Dail election.

It was farcical because I'd written dozens of articles on Paul since his murder. Year after year, when there wasn't an election in sight.

But the Shinners did have a point. There was a lot of Johnny-come-latelies around. And was that a bad thing? Not at all.

Sinn Fein will remember the days when it was isolated by the media. It faced the broadcasting ban up north, and Section 31 down south.

When those were lifted, did the party say 'go away, you're just using us' to the BBC and RTE? Damned sure it didn't. It embraced the opportunity to make its case.

There are no victims in Northern Ireland who face a tougher time than those whose loved ones were killed by 'their own'.

Had the 21-year-old Cullyhanna man been murdered by loyalists or the British, his parents' hearts would still have been broken, but the pressures they have lived with since 2007 wouldn't exist.

The entire community would have rallied round. There'd likely be a plaque erected. The Paul Quinn memorial lecture perhaps.

Let nobody patronise the Quinns with media manipulation claims. They had their chance to tell their son's story to people across this island last week.

They'd have been fools to turn it down. And yes, some journalists' interest will decline. But a fleeting interest in injustice is better than no interest at all.

For a week at least, those who battered young Paul Quinn and those who sanctioned it and covered it up will have been discomforted. The people who Breege and Stephen have to meet every day of their lives.

They are a quiet, unassuming couple who aren't natural campaigners. But don't under-estimate them. It takes unspeakable courage to stand up to IRA in South Armagh when you live in South Armagh and intend to keep doing so.

As the IRA everywhere else finally admitted disappearing people, South Armagh alone refused. The names of Crossmaglen men Gerard Evans and Charlie Armstrong weren't on the list.

In 2010, an individual member of the IRA's South Armagh Brigade came to me with information and a map showing the field in Carrickrobin, Co Louth, where Gerard's body lay.

He said he was "sick of the lies". He was one of the unit who had killed Evans 31 years earlier. "If it got out I was speaking to you, I'd be dead," he said.

I ran the story, and who popped up to deny it? Conor Murphy.

"My understanding is, and always has been, that the IRA were not involved in that," he told the media, adding that Sinn Fein had "always supported the family".

I passed on the map and other details to the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains. The body was found.

The Finance Minister's take on what goes on in South Armagh can clearly be weak.

We can but only wonder why.

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