THE family of an innocent young man murdered by a former Provisional IRA member has condemned Chris Andrews's decision to leave Fianna Fail and join Sinn Fein.
Andrews, then a Dublin City councillor, assisted the family of Joseph Rafferty after he was shot dead on April 12, 2005.
Mr Rafferty had been the subject of threats from a known IRA member – who doubled as a Sinn Fein election worker – in the six months before his murder. Mr Rafferty's family made three appeals to the party to have the threats lifted.
Gardai questioned several Sinn Fein members whom they knew were aware of the circumstances surrounding the murder, but all refused to make a statement.
The man suspected by gardai of murdering Mr Rafferty, shooting him in the chest at point-blank range with a shotgun as he left his apartment at Ongar in west Dublin, was well known as a Sinn Fein worker in inner-city Dublin. Gardai believe Mr Rafferty was targeted because he had confronted relatives of the Sinn Fein/IRA man who had attacked a teenage member of the Rafferty family.
Mr Rafferty's sister, Esther Uzell, yesterday told the Sunday Independent that Chris Andrews had publicly supported the Rafferty family in the aftermath of her brother's murder and attended meetings with senior gardai during which the identity of the murderer and his associations with Sinn Fein and the IRA were discussed.
She said she was "disgusted" that, with this knowledge and the fact that Sinn Fein members with knowledge of the murder refused to speak to gardai, Andrews had made the decision to join Sinn Fein.
"We could not believe it when we heard the news. We are absolutely disgusted," Ms Uzell said.
"Loads of people have contacted us and said they were disgusted. He has no loyalty left in this area. If he runs here, he will see how people feel about this. They're really angry. He is seen as a traitor.
"He was supportive. He accompanied us to meetings in Leinster House and to Harcourt Square [Dublin Metropolitan Garda Headquarters] and he listened to very sensitive information about what happened to Joseph.
"I kind of trusted him and at those meetings he had that information about what happened to my brother and that a member of Sinn Fein was responsible. To think he is running for that party now, words can't describe it."
Ms Uzell said Mr Andrews betrayed her family's trust by joining Sinn Fein and said he was no longer welcome in their home.
"He knew we had gone to Sinn Fein about the threats to Joseph before he was murdered and he is running for that party now. It is absolutely vile. He would have been welcomed to my door but there are a lot of families around here where he will not be welcomed, definitely not.
"He knows what my family and the families of Robert McCartney and Paul Quinn have suffered. He knows that my car was smashed up when I ran in the [2007 General Election]. He was there when my sister Carmel was intimidated during the election by Sinn Fein people. He was there the night that happened.
"He knows that the murderer is a member of Sinn Fein and worked for them in elections and he still goes and joins them.
"He shook Gerry Adams's hand. He is running for the party that has information about who murdered my brother and who murdered Paul Quinn and Robert McCartney and who never ever gave up that information. How could he do that?"
Mr Andrews insisted his decision to join Sinn Fein did not conflict with his support for the Rafferty family.
When asked how he felt about Ms Uzell's criticism of him, he replied: "Obviously the murder was a tragedy for the family and the community. I am sorry that she does feel that way particularly as I worked closely with the family and attended meetings with the gardai.
"I have condemned the murder. Sinn Fein condemned it. We met the assistant commissioner on a number of occasions and I worked to ensure that the case would not be let slip."
Asked if he would call on his new party to assist in the investigation, Mr Andrews said: "Of course, absolutely, it should be supported by members of Sinn Fein and everybody in the community. I think the death is a tragedy for the Uzell and Rafferty family and for his friends."
He added: "This was a real blow for the community. I believe I worked particularly hard and closely with Esther. I am more than happy to meet Esther."
The dispute that led to Joseph Rafferty's murder began when a woman made passes at Mr Rafferty which he spurned.
This subsequently lead to a teenage cousin of Mr Rafferty's being attacked and badly beaten.
In response to this Mr Rafferty, who was 29 when he was murdered and the father of a young child, confronted one of the men who had attacked his cousin and, during a heated confrontation, punched him.
Mr Rafferty then began receiving public threats. They say the main threat came from a Sinn Fein and IRA member who was well known in the inner-city area.
Ms Uzell said yesterday she was in contact with and intended to meet the families of Robert McCartney, the 33-year-old father of two beaten and stabbed to death by IRA men who were also members of Sinn Fein in Belfast in January 2005 and of Paul Quinn, 21, who was beaten to death by an IRA punishment squad in north Louth in October 2007.
In both the Quinn and McCartney murder investigations, dozens of members of Sinn Fein were questioned by police and they also refused to make any statements.