'Slab's not up for election', quips irritated Adams
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams is continuing to dodge questions over his relationship with Thomas 'Slab' Murphy - the former IRA chief who was recently described by a British army officer as a "mass murderer".
Mr Adams caused his party's General Election launch to be overshadowed by the controversy by refusing to say whether he still believes Murphy is a "good republican".
He said he had "nothing" to say about the contents of a BBC 'Spotlight' documentary, which broadcast an interview with a British soldier who said he will remember Murphy as a "mass murderer", who as head of the Provisional IRA in south Armagh killed and ordered the killing of "many people".
Asked repeatedly about his relationship with Murphy, who faces up to five years in jail after being convicted of tax fraud, Adams replied: "He isn't to my knowledge standing in the election, is he?"
When it was pointed out that his friend is facing a sentencing hearing at the Special Criminal Court later this month, Mr Adams said: "Thanks for that."
It is the second consecutive day that Mr Adams stonewalled questions on the issue.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who worked in intelligence at the UK's cabinet office and who served several tours in the North, 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.
Labour minister Ged Nash said it is "troubling" that Mr Adams is refusing to deal with the issue. "It is true that 'Slab' Murphy is not standing for election. But Gerry Adams is. And, as the old phrase goes, 'by their friends, you will know them'."