Tuesday 27 September 2016

Sentence delay until votes are cast is good news for Sinn Féin

Published 13/02/2016 | 02:30

Thomas 'Slab' Murphy. Photo: Courtpix
Thomas 'Slab' Murphy. Photo: Courtpix

The delay in sentencing Thomas 'Slab' Murphy - even though it is now scheduled for polling day itself - is a relief to Sinn Féin. A Special Criminal Court decision on a sentence yesterday would have given the party a deal of adverse publicity rolling on over the weekend and into next week, across a series of valuable canvassing days.

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News of the outcome on Friday week, February 26, as voters go to the polls, is not entirely ideal - but it is better than a court decision yesterday.

Polling day itself is a rather topsy-turvy day for many people and they often do not focus much on the news. Many voters will have their minds already made up by then anyway, so detail on Mr Murphy's fate is unlikely to sway too many, even if they are aware of it as they head to the polls.

There is also the crucial matter of the broadcast moratorium.

This effectively calls a 'radio and television ceasefire' on political news, usually from lunchtime on the eve of voting until polls close on the day itself.

So it is clear that broadcast media coverage of Mr Murphy's fate is likely to be a stand-alone court report. Political overtones and linkage to Sinn Féin will be minimal; in fact they are unlikely to figure at all.

Let's recall that Mr Murphy's linkage to Sinn Féin is extremely strong and his track record is not a political asset to the party as it seeks to expand its support base among the middle-class. Let us do a quick stock-take here.

Mr Murphy was found by a jury to be a senior member of the IRA and Gerry Adams has described him as a "good republican".

It is also established fact that he was a smuggler and he has been the subject of a number of CAB settlements.

Last December, he was convicted of income tax evasion for failing to disclose his earnings from cattle trading.

Sinn Féin's relief at yesterday's deferment recalls the Fianna Fáil reaction to a decision by Judge Alan Mahon in late April 2007 to suspend Planning Tribunal hearings until after that year's general election.

The Mahon Tribunal had earlier announced that it would hold public hearings on the so-called 'Quarryvale module' until two weeks before the election.

Then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and his former partner Celia Larkin, and those known to have given him money in 1993-94, were to be witnesses. Mr Ahern said it was customary to suspend tribunals during an election.

Irish Independent

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