Fear and loathing in Cullyhanna over barbarity of Quinn murder

 

The Armagh village where Paul Quinn's parents mourn him is rife with rumours and accusations of how he met his end, writes Carissa Casey

In a modest country bungalow two miles from the tiny Armagh village of Cullyhanna, Paul Quinn's parents are visibly struggling to come to terms with their 21-year-old son's barbaric murder.

Since releasing a statement the day after his death accusing the Provisional IRA of being involved, the family have remained silent, protected in their grief by a close community of neighbours and friends.

A week after their son's funeral, it is still impossible for them to talk about the savage nature of his death. Paul was pummelled by iron bars over a sustained period by eight masked men across the Border on a Monaghan farm just two parishes away.

An assortment of chairs and stools litter the front room where Paul was waked in an open coffin. In the corner, there is a small shrine with smiling pictures of the young man, flowers and candles. Steven Quinn, Paul's father, is a stout-built, quiet-spoken man. He says it was encouraging to see gardaí and police making joint inquiries in Cullyhanna on Monday.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said yesterday that most of the suspects in the case live in Northern Ireland. The presence of gardaí in Armagh has been criticised by unionist politicians but, for Steven Quinn, the most significant thing is that local people are responding to their inquiries.

"People are talking to them," he says. "You think around here people wouldn't talk to the police but people are behind us." According to several reports, Paul's murder was linked to a feud between rival fuel smuggling gangs. Steven Quinn dismisses this theory, pointing to his son's old Toyota Carina, his "pride and joy", as evidence of his modest standard of living.

The family insists Paul was abducted "by the Provisional movement" and brutally beaten to death because he refused to leave the country following a dispute with individual members of the IRA.

The horror of her son's death is etched all over his mother Briege's face.

She is a slim, soft-spoken woman, unwaveringly polite and hospitable despite the circumstances. She says she finds what comfort she can in the support of family, neighbours and friends. "People around here believe us," she says.

Paul Quinn was a jobbing lorry driver and it is likely, given the area, that from time to time he drove laundered diesel. For this he was paid £50 a day. At other times he got work at local building sites operating machinery.

If there is a question mark elsewhere over who is responsible for Paul's murder, there are few doubts in Cullyhanna. "IRA murdering scum" is scrawled throughout the village. More ominously, the names of two local families are daubed by the turn-off from the main Newry-Armagh road, just beside a memorial to the 25th anniversary of the hunger-strikers.

One individual in particular appears in several patches of graffiti, beside the letters "R.I.P." A former IRA man claims that at least 20 people would have been involved in the murder.

More details have emerged of the two personal disputes which people in Cullyhanna believe led to Paul's murder. In the first, Paul fought with and got the better of a "well-connected" local man who had insulted his sister Cathy. The second dispute involved the son of a man who people in the area believe to be the IRA OC in the area. Former Sinn Féin councillor Jim McAllister says there has been a concerted attempt to clean up the graffiti, particularly those bearing names. "It's spreading," he says. "New ones appear every day."

Amid the anger there is still an unmistakeable sense of fear. One man, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, said his son was beaten a few years ago in a manner similar to Paul Quinn following a run-in with one of the men whom local people believe was implicated in Paul's murder. Like Quinn, this man's son was beaten several times on the head and survived only because he was taken to hospital on time. The incident is well-known in the area.

Asked why, after all this time, the father was still afraid to speak publicly, he replies: "They'd burn you out." "People aren't so much worried for themselves as for their children," says McAllister.