SINN Fein President Gerry Adams has weighed in behind former IRA chief Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy after he was last week convicted of tax fraud.
Mr Adams has been under pressure in recent days to address his relationship with Murphy who he previously insisted was not a criminal but rather a “good republican”.
Within hours of Murphy’s conviction, Sinn Fein issued a statement saying Mr Adams would not be discussing the trial as it has not completed.
But in a shock development, Mr Adams this evening issued a strong defence of his relationship with Murphy who he claimed has been “treated unfairly” by the justice system and “his rights have been denied”.
“Let me be clear, everyone has a duty to pay the taxes for which they are liable. There can be no equivocation on this whatsoever. Those who for any reason have been in default of tax returns need to rectify this and need to ensure that tax returns are in order and in accordance with the law,” Mr Adams said.
However, he added: “I believe that Tom Murphy has been treated unfairly. All citizens have the right to be judged by a jury of their peers.
"It is extraordinary that a case involving a failure to complete tax returns is heard before a non-jury court. Tom Murphy’s rights have been denied to him.
"There have been many prominent public figures accused of tax irregularities including TDs. They have not been treated in the same fashion as Mr Murphy. Neither have they been labelled as criminals by those media outlets currently writing lurid headlines about Mr Murphy.
"I have been asked if I consider Tom Murphy a good republican. The answer to that is yes.”