Niall O'Connor: Sinn Fein is again left reeling as Adams fails to cut ties to criminals
Published 20/12/2015 | 02:30
Senior party figures are under growing pressure after the 'Slab' case, writes Niall O'Connor
Ireland: The "best, smallest country in the world in which to evade tax if you're wealthy." - Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, February 2015
On Thursday afternoon, just hours before the Dail broke up for Christmas, Sinn Fein politicians found themselves in an all-too-familiar dilemma.
As word seeped back from the courts that 'Slab' Murphy, a staunch party loyalist, former IRA chief, and crony of Gerry Adams, had been found guilty of tax fraud, 'Operation Shutdown' swung into action.
It's a strategy unique to Sinn Fein and one which has been rolled out on numerous occasions in the past.
TDs and senators go to ground, and wait, as the news cycle eventually moves on and the latest controversy engulfing the party disappears. But for some of Sinn Fein's most prominent members, the 'Slab' Murphy case raises glaring questions over their own records.
Just over a year ago, the party's deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald hid behind the protection of Dail privilege and named former ministers Desmond O'Malley, Ray MacSharry, Gerard Collins, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, Richie Ryan and an 'S Barrett' as allegedly having offshore accounts.
All five individuals - and the family of the late Sylvester Barrett - denied the allegations, which have never been proven to be correct.
Many of those named said Ms McDonald's actions had caused hurt and damage to their reputations and their families.
Despite being found to have breached Dail rules, Ms McDonald has never apologised, insisting that she was merely reading into the Dail record details of the so-called Ansbacher dossier.
But she is not the only member of the party now under extreme pressure following the verdict of the court on Thursday.
Two other impressive politicians, and potential future leaders - finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty and Justice spokesperson Padraig Mac Lochlainn - must now tell their views on the Murphy case. After all, they promised in their alternative budget to yield €25m by bolstering the Revenue's powers to investigate tax evasion.
If Ms McDonald, Mr Doherty and Mr Mac Lochlainn are serious about tackling tax fraud, why have they maintained a deafening silence in relation to 'Slab' Murphy? They are in familiar territory as this controversy bears all the hallmarks of previous problems for the party.
Sinn Fein politicians find themselves part of a unfortunate script that was written by one man only - their leader. At best, the failure by Gerry Adams to distance his own party from Murphy and the crimes his "decent friend" has committed demonstrates a dearth of leadership.
But at worst, it illustrates how Mr Adams is seemingly unwilling to cut ties with a criminal empire that continues to pose a threat on both sides of the border.