Murder victim family's outrage at Sinn Féin's Strictly fundraiser video starring IRA commander
The family of murder victim Paul Quinn have branded the appearance of an IRA commander in a video promoting a dancing competition as insensitive.
Notorious south Armagh Provisional Sean Hughes features prominently in the glitzy video to advertise the Sinn Fein fundraiser this weekend.
But the parents of Paul Quinn from Cullyhanna - who was beaten to death by an IRA gang on a border farm in 2007 - last night said they were disgusted at Hughes' participation.
"My son will never dance again," said Paul's mother Breege. "He will never be able to get dressed up, go for a night out, see his friends, have a bit of fun.
"The IRA robbed Paul of all that and more. It makes my blood boil to think of Sean Hughes out enjoying himself at a dance competition while Paul lies in a grave.
"In case Sean has forgotten, I want to remind him how the IRA left my son.
"Paul's right ear was torn off. Every major bone below his neck was broken.
"The last time I saw my child he was lying in a hospital bed with a ventilator protruding from his mouth and his eyes half open. His head was swollen and there were gashes across his face.
"Let Sean and any of his fellow IRA leaders attending the dance competition on Saturday have that image in their heads."
The event in Jonesborough, based on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing programme, will help swell Sinn Fein's coffers in the run-up to elections on both sides of the border.
The party is charging £15 into the event, with 1,000 people expected to attend.
Sinn Fein said it is part of "centenary events to commemorate the Easter Rising" in Newry and Armagh, adding: "Couples from right across the constituency have been shaking, jumping and jiving all winter in order to claim victory at what promises to be a fantastic event."
The DUP's Nelson McCausland stated: "The whole affair is ludicrous, but then it is progress when veteran republicans move on from Sinn Fein sloganising to sequins, and from 'Tiocfaidh ar la' to the cha-cha-cha."
In a promotional video at the competition's launch in Dromintee, featuring dancers in costume and music, Hughes said: "This is going to be a fantastic night in the Jade Centre.
"There will be over 1,000 people in it. The atmosphere will be brilliant. There are dances worth coming to see."
A close associate of Thomas 'Slab' Murphy, Hughes has been linked to numerous murders and bombings. He was nicknamed 'The Surgeon' by security forces, because of the surgical precision evident in his attacks on them.
In November 2007 Lord Laird claimed under parliamentary privilege that Hughes was among IRA leaders who authorised the murder of Mr Quinn in a barn in Oram, Co Monaghan, the month before. It must be stressed that Hughes has never been charged with any offence in connection with Mr Quinn's murder and is deemed innocent until proven guilty.
Mr Quinn's parents, however, believe Hughes and other leading republicans are representatives of the organisation that ordered their son's murder.
In December 2002 the DUP's Peter Robinson accused Hughes under parliamentary privilege of being on the IRA Army Council and linked him to the 1996 Canary Wharf bombing that killed two and ended the IRA ceasefire.
Mr Robinson also claimed Hughes was responsible for the Warrenpoint bombing in which 18 soldiers were killed, a mortar attack on Newry RUC station that killed nine officers, and the murder of Lord Justice Gibson and his wife Lady Cecily. Again, Hughes has not been charged with any offence in connection with these incidents.
When Belfast High Court froze assets belonging to Hughes in 2009, Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy defended him.
Mr Murphy, then Regional Development Minister, said: "Sean Hughes is a sound republican. He has spent his entire adult life engaged in the struggle for Irish unity and independence. He has championed the peace process."
Mr Murphy added that he was "very proud" that Hughes was "a good friend of mine and has been for very many years".
The Sinn Fein Assembly Member, along with Newry and Armagh MP Mickey Brady, is featured in the video at the dance competition launch.
After Mr Quinn's murder, Mr Murphy said he had spoken to the IRA and was satisfied it wasn't involved.
He branded Mr Quinn "a criminal" and linked his murder to a feud among criminals.
Former Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern and the SDLP both asserted that the 21-year-old wasn't a criminal.
His father Stephen last night said: "Nine years after my son's murder, Conor Murphy still hasn't withdrawn his disgraceful slur.
"He'd be better doing that if he intends going out to a dancing competition."