SF TDs silent over Adams's links to IRA tax dodger
Minister says case shows Sinn Féin 'cannot be trusted'
Sinn Féin politicians are coming under growing pressure to distance their party from former IRA chief Thomas 'Slab' Murphy - who is now facing the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence for tax fraud.
TDs and senators last night adopted a stony silence when asked whether they felt comfortable about party leader Gerry Adams's description of Murphy as a "good republican".
After Murphy's farm in Hackballscross was raided by the authorities in 2006, Mr Adams swooped to his defence and infamously declared: "Tom is not a criminal. He is a good republican."
He also described Murphy as a "keen supporter of the Sinn Féin peace strategy".
Despite the decision of the Special Criminal Court this week to find Murphy guilty on all nine charges of tax fraud, Mr Adams has refused to say whether his view remains the same.
Last night, Housing Minister Paudie Coffey accused Mr Adams of "double standards" and said the association with individuals such as Murphy illustrates that Sinn Féin "cannot be trusted".
"Gerry Adams has perfected the art of ducking and dodging and he is doing it again here. He has been critical of tax evasion in the past - but yet is adopting a stony silence in relation to 'Slab' Murphy," Mr Coffey told the Irish Independent.
"I think the public will want to know from all Sinn Féin candidates how they feel about this case."
Murphy's conviction is hugely embarrassing for Sinn Féin and Mr Adams's apparent reluctance to distance himself from Murphy is bound to raise fresh questions about the party's suitability for government in the minds of voters.
The case has also heaped pressure on Sinn Féin politicians to give their views.
Dublin North West TD Dessie Ellis refused to be drawn on the matter when contacted.
"I don't know the full ins and outs of it so it wouldn't make sense for me to be commenting."
Cork North Central TD Jonathan O'Brien said Murphy had yet to be sentenced so he "will not be commenting".
Other Sinn Féin politicians did not respond to calls and texts.
These include Meath West TD Peadar Tóibín, Donegal TD Padraig MacLochlainn, Kerry deputy Martin Ferris, as well as senators David Cullinane and Trevor Ó Clochartaigh.
Dublin South Central TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh answered his telephone. But the line went dead in mid-conversation.
Murphy has now been remanded on continuing bail and will be sentenced early next year.
The 66-year-old, from Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, had denied the nine charges alleging that he failed to furnish a return of his income, profits or gains or the source of his income, profits or gains to the Collector General or the Inspector of Taxes for the years 1996/97 to 2004.
He had previously been named in a libel action (that he lost) as a senior IRA commander.
Delivering a 10-page ruling, Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court was "satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that in each of the individual counts on the indictment, the accused is guilty".
Murphy's defence lawyers had claimed that his brother, Patrick, was in control of the farming activities and was therefore the chargeable person.
A chargeable person is a person who is chargeable to tax on income.
Two witness statements were read into evidence under a Section 16 application.
Section 16 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2006, allows for a witness's statement to be read into evidence if there is an inconsistency between evidence given in court and a statement given to gardaí.
Judge Butler said the statements represented the "true state of affairs", which was that Murphy was involved in the farming business.