Sunday 23 October 2016

Mary Lou McDonald refuses to stand over her claim 'Slab' Murphy is a 'good republican'

But the Sinn Fein deputy leader says party manifesto will commit to abolition on Special Criminal Court

Niall O'Connor, Political Correspondent

Published 04/02/2016 | 13:42

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

SINN Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has refused to stand over her claim that Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy is a “good republican” in a move that will heap pressure on her party leader Gerry Adams.

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But Ms McDonald today finally confirmed that her party manifesto will commit to the abolition of the Special Criminal Court.

For the third consecutive day, Sinn Féin leaders have been challenged over their relationship with Murphy, who was described as a “mass murderer” on a BBC ‘Spotlight’ documentary this week.

The programme broadcast an interview with a British soldier who alleged that Murphy committed and ordered murders on behalf of the IRA.

Murphy is a former IRA leader and faces up to five years in prison for tax fraud.

At a press conference in Dublin, Ms McDonald repeatedly declined to stand over her and Mr Adams’s claim that Murphy is a “good republican”.

I have told you that Tom Murphy, like everybody else is accountable to the courts,” the Dublin Central TD said.

“Tom Murphy, like everybody else, has to pay their taxes. That is the position. The courts will deal with that matter. And I have nothing further to say on it.”

Asked earlier whether she is comfortable that Murphy was described as “mass murderer” by a soldier who served in the North, Ms McDonald replied:

“This issue has arisen many times. I’ll put on the record what I have said before and that is every citizen is absolutely obliged to pay their taxes. There are exemptions, there are no ifs buts and maybes on that score. And on the issues pertaining to Tom Murphy, the courts will decide that. I understand that it’s up for consideration on Friday, so that’s a matter for the courts.”

It was put to Ms McDonald that Mr Adams is not being accountable by refusing to take questions on his relationship with Murphy.

“Well, we are in the course of an election campaign. Tom Murphy is accountable to the courts Mary. That is who he is accountable to , and we are accountable to the electorate.”

The controversy over Murphy was ‘reignited’ after the programme aired an interview with Colonel Richard Kemp, who worked in intelligence at the UK’s cabinet office and who served several tours in the North.

Col Kemp claimed that soldiers who served in South Armagh were long familiar with Murphy and the IRA unit he led.

“We were briefed on the main IRA terrorists operating in south Armagh. Thomas Murphy was one of the main people on that list, in fact, as we understood it, he was the head of the Provisional IRA in south Armagh,” Col Kemp said.

“We did not believe that he was necessarily the trigger man, the one who would actually position the bombs or pull the trigger of a sniper rifle, but we did know that he was the one that sent those people out to commit murder on behalf of the IRA.

“I think Thomas Murphy will be remembered and I certainly will remember him for being a mass murderer, he killed and ordered the killing of many people,” he added.

Meanwhile, in a development that has been described as alarming by Fianna Fáil, Ms McDonald confirmed that Sinn Fein will commit to abolishing the Special Criminal Court in its election manifesto, which is due to be published next week.

“We have long had a position and I think it’s a universally accepted democratic norm that people have fair procedures and jury trials, that’s our position,” she said.

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