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Quinn family: No meeting despite Murphy apology

Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy has come under pressure to resign over remarks he made over 12 years ago regarding the murder of Paul Quinn. 

Paul Quinn (21), from Cullyhanna, was brutally murdered by a gang of up to 10 men in Castleblayney on October 20th, 2007.

At the time, Mr Murphy, who is the North’s Finance Minister, said: “Paul Quinn was involved in smuggling and criminality. I think everyone accepts that.”

Mr Murphy has since apologised for these remarks, but the Quinn family and some political figures think that the apology did not go far enough.

Speaking on Friday morning to Q Radio, Paul Quinn’s mother, Breege, said: “I have asked her (Mary Lou McDonald) to ask him (Mr Murphy) to say that Paul was not a criminal. Those words he has not said.  Why, I cannot understand. Mary Lou said it, Michelle O’Neill said it, but she doesn’t seem to want to ask him to say them for some unknown reason.”

The controversy ensued during a Leaders’ Debate on RTÉ on Tuesday last [February 4th], ahead of Saturday’s general election in the south.  Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was pressed by presenter Miriam O’Callaghan to clarify comments she had made to the broadcaster the previous day. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Bryan Dobson the day previous, Ms McDonald claimed that Mr Murphy “never said that (Mr Quinn was involved in criminality), that is not his view.”

When presented with Mr Murphy’s quote during the Leaders’ Debate, Ms McDonald said she had not “remembered Conor being quite as direct on this matter”.

She added that “the remarks were wrong, they are withdrawn, and will be apologised for directly to Mrs Quinn and to her family”.

The next day, Mr Murphy issued an apology, in which he said: “I apologise for those remarks and I unreservedly withdraw them.  I very much regret comments I made in the aftermath of Paul’s murder which have added to the grief felt by the Quinn family. Once again I offer to meet the Quinn family at a time and place of their convenience.”

He added that he has “consistently and unreservedly condemned the murder of Paul Quinn” and called on anyone with any information on the murder to bring it to the Gardaí or the PSNI. 

However, Mr Quinn’s parents said they won’t meet Conor Murphy until he tells the police who he spoke to about their son’s murder.

Mr Murphy said he spoke to IRA members in 2007, who reassured him the murder wasn’t carried out by the IRA.

Paul’s father, Stephen Quinn, called on Mr Murphy to “take the information he has about going to the IRA in Cullyhanna, to go to the Guards and the PSNI with that information”. 

He added: “If he does what we are asking, then we will meet him.”

Paul Quinn’s family also felt that Mr Murphy’s apology fell short because they wanted him to “say the actual words that Paul is not a criminal”.

In a phone call on Thursday evening between Mary Lou McDonald and Breege Quinn, Ms Quinn told the Sinn Féin leader: “You are the head of Sinn Féin, you are a mother, and if your son’s name was blackened, would’nt you fight tooth and nail to clear it.”

During the phone call, Ms McDonald said that she expressed her “profound sympathy” to Ms Quinn on the phone call and highlighted the importance that the “Quinn family and Conor Murphy speak directly to each other”.

Political figures north and south have also put pressure on Mr Murphy to step down from his position as the North’s Finance Minister. 

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said it was “extraordinary that it has taken 13 years to get an apology for the manner in which Paul Quinn’s name was sullied”. 

He also said that the “false innuendo and accusations” were an attempt “to detract from those responsible for his murder and I believe the IRA was responsible for his murder”. 

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was a matter for Conor Murphy to decide if he should step down.

He said he doesn’t want to turn Paul Quinn’s death into a political issue, and said of Breege Quinn: “She wants justice, she wants truth, she should get that, but we shouldn’t make that a political issue.”

In the north, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson tweeted: “If they have any decency, Conor Murphy should be required to resign or be sacked.”

Despite this, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that she “absolutely” will not be asking Mr Murphy to step down over the controversy and that she would not remove him from his position. 

She said that Mr Murphy issued a “sincerely made apology and I hope and I trust that the Quinn family can get some measure of comfort”.

She added: “We are only after getting the power sharing government back up and running. We have to make a success of this and I believe everyone is determined to do so. Conor won’t be stepping down.”

Mary Lou McDonald also said any suggestion that Mr Murphy is holding back information on the murder of Paul Quinn is deeply wrong.

When asked if Mr Murphy should tell the authorities what he knows, Ms McDonald said he had previously spoken to them, saying: “Any notion or suggestion that somehow Conor Murphy is holding back information or knows who carried out these acts is entirely wrong and it is deeply wrong to create that impression.”