Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald is under fire after her party was accused of “covering up” IRA atrocities and failing to help the victims of violence.
The party’s northern finance minister Conor Murphy is still facing calls for his resignation despite apologising to the family of Paul Quinn for remarks he made about the 21-year-old after he was murdered in October 2007.
Mr Quinn was beaten to death in Co Monaghan and Mr Murphy later alleged that Mr Quinn was involved in criminality and smuggling before he was killed. Mr Murphy withdrew his comments yesterday and said he is willing to meet the Quinn family to discuss the matter at their convenience.
Politically, the issue dominated the general election campaign agenda yesterday after Ms McDonald was forced to admit she made an “honest mistake” in saying Mr Murphy had never said that Mr Quinn was involved in criminality.
She said her recollection was that he never said it, or that his words were as “pointed as that”.
She had to admit her mistake after quotes from Mr Murphy to aprogramme in 2007 were presented to her during the RTÉ Prime Time leaders’ debate on Tuesday night.
Pressure was heaped on Ms McDonald and Mr Murphy after Mr Quinn’s mother, Breege, spoke onand radio and detailed how no one in Sinn Féin had contacted the Quinn family.
She revealed the devastating impact Paul’s death has had on her husband Stephen, and his siblings.
Other political leaders severely criticised Ms McDonald’s handling of the matter, with Fianna Fáil’s leader Micheál Martin questioning the timing of the apology.
“It is a qualified apology and one has to question why it took 13 years and why it’s coming days before a general election,” said Mr Martin.
He laid the blame for Mr Quinn’s death squarely at the door of the IRA, claiming that but added Sinn Féin as a party has covered up past killings.
“The IRA did this. That raises the broader question as to why the comments were made in the first place,” he said.
“The Quinns didn’t need that grief caused by those comments. Sinn Féin has been involved in covering up a lot of what went on in the past and the atrocities and not treating the victims of IRA violence properly. Conor Murphy should go to the PSNI and the Gardaí.
He said he met the IRA at the time, which in itself is quite extraordinary.
Speaking onlast night, Ms McDonald said Mr Murphy’s comments were “extremely hurtful”, but that Mr Murphy had withdrawn them fully and apologised for the grief caused to the Quinn family.
“The commentary has been entirely withdrawn and apologised for. And the reason for that is because the comments were wrong,” she said.
Responding to the Quinn family’s demand that Mr Murphy speaks to Gardaí and the PSNI, Ms McDonald said it “is not necessary for me to ask him” to do that.
In his statement, Mr Murphy said: “Remarks that I made at the time of his killing are a matter of regret.
I am sorry that that has added to the grief that the family has felt. I want to apologise to them for that. I want to withdraw those remarks.
Mr Murphy said he hoped to meet the Quinn family in the “near future”. However, Mrs Quinn responded onby saying that Mr Murphy should resign as a minister, adding he “should finish off and get justice” for the Quinn family.
She said that until he does this, “he is not fit for his job as minister, as he has shown no compassion”.