| 11.7°C Dublin


Paul Quinn's murder is not a tale from history - it's current, brutal and we need answers

John Downing



Close

Controversy: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald at party headquarters in Dublin. PHOTO: GERRY MOONEY

Controversy: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald at party headquarters in Dublin. PHOTO: GERRY MOONEY

Controversy: Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald at party headquarters in Dublin. PHOTO: GERRY MOONEY

Many of us in the southern jurisdiction often put what happened a short distance from where we live and work into a box labelled "something dark and awful - something in the Northern Troubles".

This is a premium article

Premium articles will soon be available only to Independent.ie subscribers.

But then every now and again something so appalling and brutal occurs, like the savage murder of Paul Quinn. It rocks us out of our indifference/complacency and its happening so recently makes us again confront the IRA-Sinn Féin nexus.

The sad reality is that partition has for a century cut both ways. Since 1922 we have had two communities - North and south - functioning separately and only sometimes coinciding. Sinn Féin has engaged slowly in elective politics on both sides of the Border, for the past almost 40 years, and for a very long time it maintained the option of returning to IRA violence. We're told that era is completely over - but how do we know vestiges do not linger?

People, especially of a rising generation beyond their party and supporters, dearly want to believe that the "war is over" and the IRA no longer exists. But, Sinn Féin's tolerance of past shocking atrocities, and its issue-dodging of more recent horrors, makes one wonder why the outrage when it is asked about links to republican violence?

Our regular IRA informant, "P O'Neill", told us many things down the years. But an tUasal Ó Néill never, ever told us - to paraphrase, Gerry Never-In-The-IRA Adams - that the IRA "had gone away". It is difficult to assume other than that its grim leaders still exist, wielding influence in the background.

Mary Lou McDonald and her party colleagues are wondering themselves at the surprise great success of their ongoing election campaign. They set out believing, given serious reverses in the 2018 presidential and the 2019 local and European campaigns, that this one would be about managing reverses.

Now their problem may be their lack of candidates to soak up available votes.

But it is time to talk about the murderous story of Paul Quinn. This is not a "history story" arguably linked to the "dirty war" from the outbreak of the Troubles in 1969 to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

In 2007 Paul Quinn, then aged 21, from Cullyhanna, was lured to a Castleblayney barn, seven miles from his home where he was set on by 10 men with nail-studded bars and beaten for more than half an hour. Every major bone in his body was broken and he died a few hours later.

Paul's mother, Breege Quinn, has led a long campaign for justice and has taken exception to comments by Stormont finance minister and Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy.

He spoke one month after the murder and asserted that her son had been involved in criminality.

"Paul Quinn was involved in smuggling and criminality and I think everyone accepts that," he said.

On Monday, the Sinn Féin leader was rather hit-and-miss about all this when interviewed by RTÉ's Bryan Dobson. It went on a bit, but yesterday, as original footage of his slur was screened by the BBC, Mr Murphy finally issued an apology.

But Paul Quinn's mother had publicly rejected his comments in advance. She said she would accept an apology only "on national television, because that is where he made the allegation". Her anger is entirely understandable - and it spills across the Border.

Close

Justice call: Breege Quinn at home in Armagh with husband Stephen (right) and SDLP MLA Justin McNulty. Photo: Frank McGrath

Justice call: Breege Quinn at home in Armagh with husband Stephen (right) and SDLP MLA Justin McNulty. Photo: Frank McGrath

Justice call: Breege Quinn at home in Armagh with husband Stephen (right) and SDLP MLA Justin McNulty. Photo: Frank McGrath

Ms Quinn called on Mr Murphy to quit and for the Sinn Féin leader to go with him. Some chance of that.

But the mother, still grieving after 13 years, also said Mr Murphy should tell investigators north and south of the Border the names of the IRA members who he said told him the organisation was not involved in the murder.

"We could have justice tonight if Conor Murphy decided to give it to us," she said.

Sinn Féin went into default mode. Circling the wagons, it blamed the "big parties" and "big media" who are out to get it. The sad part here is that it is right on this.

Other political parties and mainstream political journalists are a bit old-fashioned when it comes to murder and gangsterism. Vote with care.

Irish Independent