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Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy and the Provo boss linked to Paul Quinn murder

Sinn Fein man seen socialising with IRA chief whose gang is accused over attack

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Conor Murphy with Frank McCabe (blue shirt beside him)

Conor Murphy with Frank McCabe (blue shirt beside him)

Paul Quinn who was murdered at a remote border barn in County Monaghan

Paul Quinn who was murdered at a remote border barn in County Monaghan

Conor Murphy with Frank McCabe at Christmas party (McCabe in light blue shirt top right)

Conor Murphy with Frank McCabe at Christmas party (McCabe in light blue shirt top right)

Conor Murphy with Frank McCabe (blue shirt beside him)

This is Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy with the IRA commander whose gang members are accused of murdering Paul Quinn.

Mr Murphy is photographed enjoying a meal and drinks with Frank 'One Shot' McCabe, and also socialising with him at the Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh Christmas party just two months ago.

McCabe was the 'officer commanding' (OC) of the IRA in South Armagh when its members lured the 21-year-old Cullyhanna man to a barn in Oram, Co Monaghan, and beat him to death with iron bars and nail-studded cudgels.

It must be stressed that there is no suggestion he played a role in the actual killing in October 2007.

The Sinn Fein minister is pictured with McCabe in a restaurant with food and bottles of beer on the table.He is also photographed with him at a party in Newry just days before Christmas. The Crossmaglen grandfather is a hugely influential figure in the border area and is a key Sinn Fein supporter.

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Conor Murphy with Frank McCabe at Christmas party (McCabe in light blue shirt top right)

Conor Murphy with Frank McCabe at Christmas party (McCabe in light blue shirt top right)

Conor Murphy with Frank McCabe at Christmas party (McCabe in light blue shirt top right)

Weeks after Paul Quinn's murder, Conor Murphy branded him a smuggler and a criminal. He insisted that the Provos weren't responsible for the brutal killing.

"I have spoken to the IRA in his area and I am satisfied with the assurances they gave me, very solid assurances, that they weren't involved in his death," he said.

Years later, the Sinn Fein minister denied that he had accused Paul of being a criminal but he was forced to admit he had done so, and to retract the slur, after the BBC tape of his interview was unearthed during the Dail election campaign last month.

While he apologised to the Quinns, he has refused their request to unambiguously state that their son wasn't a criminal. Paul's parents have asked why he won't follow the example of Sinn Fein leaders, Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill, and say those words.

Mr Murphy again refused to do so at a press conference at Stormont last week. He said he had already made a statement on the issue. "I am content to meet the family at any time and discuss these matters with them," he said.

However, the Quinns won't meet him until he publicly states that their son wasn't a criminal.

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Paul Quinn who was murdered at a remote border barn in County Monaghan

Paul Quinn who was murdered at a remote border barn in County Monaghan

Paul Quinn who was murdered at a remote border barn in County Monaghan

Breege Quinn told Sunday Life that in the weeks before Paul was executed in October 2007, he was involved in a fight with McCabe's son Tomas. There is no suggestion that he was involved in Paul's murder.

Breege Quinn said: "I believe that the IRA decided to kill Paul because of that fight. He had the temerity to physically challenge relatives of what was seen as republican royalty in South Armagh.

"That's why my son had every major bone in his body broken below his neck. That's why we couldn't even place rosary beads in his hands as he lay in the coffin."

The McCabe family has always denied suggestions they had any involvement in the Quinn murder.

In a letter responding to a previous Sunday Life article in February, Frank McCabe's lawyer said: "Our client and his family deny any involvement in or knowledge of the murder of Paul Quinn. Our client also denies allegations made in your article that he is an 'IRA godfather'."

Frank McCabe's wife Eileen has publicly confirmed that their son was involved in a clash with Paul Quinn whom she admits confronting afterwards, but she is adamant that the matter went no further.

Breege Quinn told this newspaper: "After his row with Tomas McCabe, Paul was told that he would be shot by the IRA. Later, he was told by someone else that he would be found dead in a black bin bag by the side of the road. I believe that this fight was the reason why the IRA decided to murder my son."

In 2008, Eileen McCabe denied her family had any links to Paul's murder. However, she admitted that Tomas had rowed with the murder victim prior to his killing, and that she had raised the fight with him.

"I was angry and warned him (Paul) I'd speak to his mother who I've known for years," Mrs McCabe told the Irish News.

"I met Breege afterwards but never mentioned it because, as far as I was concerned, it was over and done with.

"I couldn't believe Paul had been murdered, but I was physically sick when I heard someone was putting it about that me or my family had anything to do with it."

"They were saying that I'd gone to his house and threatened him with a hammer," added Mrs McCabe, who confirmed that she and her son Tomas had made statements to gardai.

"I wanted to go to the Quinns' house after Paul's murder to assure Breege that I hadn't anything to do with it. In the end I didn't go because I was told it would only make matters worse."

The aftermath of the fight between Paul and Tomas McCabe is a key line of inquiry for detectives on both sides of the border investigating the killing.

In an Assembly debate in February 2008, at which Breege and Stephen Quinn were present, Conor Murphy ignored cross-party appeals to him to lift his slur against Paul.

SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley recalled in graphic detail how the IRA gang had beaten the 21-year-old unconscious and how "even when he had stopped crying out for mercy, the dull thuds of the blows continued to rain down on his broken body until he lay motionless".

He said the killers had "proceeded to spray his body and the crime scene with a substance that would render DNA evidence from the scene unusable".

He said: "They wore forensic suits and gloves and smashed the mobile phones of those (Paul's friends) who were present before they left the scene.

"It was a group of up to 10 people who knew what they were doing . . . and who organised, planned and executed that dreadful deed with military precision.

"They were 10 men against one young man, to show who was boss in the area. I do not believe that anyone in South Armagh believes that the IRA was not involved in Paul Quinn's murder."

Mr Murphy told the Assembly that, from the start, he had "completely condemned" Paul's murder and had called on anyone with information to "co-operate with the police investigation on both sides of the border".

He added: "I have repeated, and stand by, my assessment of what was involved in Paul Quinn's killing."

Frank McCabe served an eight-year prison sentence in the Republic during the 1980s for possession of explosives and a firearm.

IRA member Bernard McGinn, who was in a Provo sniper team in south Armagh, repeatedly named the republican in statements to police after his arrest in 1997, explaining how he was central to a bombing campaign in England after the breakdown of the organisation's ceasefire the previous year.

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