Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Veteran republican vows to appeal jail sentence

Veteran republican Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy has vowed to appeal the 18-month jail term handed down to him at the Special Criminal Court in Dublin on Friday, having been found guilty of nine charges of tax evasion.

Mr Murphy, from Ballybinaby, Co. Louth was convicted of failing to make tax returns between 1996 and 2004, amounting to €38,519.56.  However, with accrued interest the sum owed now totals almost €190,000.

Jailing Murphy for 18 months on each of the nine counts of tax evasion, which will run concurrently, Judge Paul Butler presiding, remarked on the publicity surrounding the trial but insisted reports of his republican links did not influence the verdict or the sentencing.

“It has no bearing whatsoever upon the Revenue charges.  This court must and does treat the accused as a farmer and cattle dealer with no other connections, past or present,” he said.

The three judges said they took into account Murphy’s age, his clean record, that he had been on bail for several years which would have impacted his life, and that he had continued to work in steady employment as he awaited trial.

Following his conviction, the 66-year-old farmer released a statement through his legal team, protesting his innocence and criticizing the investigation, his trial and the media.

“I am an Irish Republican and have been all my life.  For many years now I have been the subject of serial, prejudicial and wholly inaccurate commentary and media coverage. There have also been repeated assertions that I have amassed properties and wealth.  This is utterly untrue. I do not own any property at all and I have no savings,” he said.

“Further, with regard to my recent trial, it was alleged by one broadcaster that two people who had given statements to An Garda Síochána felt unable to give evidence in court and there was a suggestion of intimidation of these witnesses.  This is absolutely untrue.  The witnesses did give evidence. The prosecution legal team did not even allege there was witness intimidation.

“Despite never having been questioned by An Garda Siochana in relation to Revenue matters, I was arrested, charged and put on trial in the Special Criminal Court for failing to file tax returns in respect of farming.

“The case presented against me was that tax returns with an average liability of €4,279 tax per annum should have been filed by me over a nine-year period in relation to farming.  The evidence called by the prosecution showed that tax returns were made by family members in respect of the farm, and that all tax on any profit from farming has been paid.

“I maintain my innocence in respect of these charges which date back 20 years,” he said, adding that he is “very disappointed at the verdict” and has instructed his legal team “to pursue an appeal immediately”.