Garda says Quinn killing a criminal feud - Ahern

 

The murder in Monaghan last month of Paul Quinn "was not paramilitary but pertained to feuds about criminality that were taking place", the Taoiseach told the Dáil. Bertie Ahern said the Government had received a number of reports from both gardaí "and secondhand from the PSNI, and both of them match at this stage, that this action was due to criminality".

He also reiterated his concerns about dissident republicans - while there might not be significant numbers, "there is a hardcore group that is out to create as much embarrassment, trouble, harassment and killing as possible, and the security forces must be extremely vigilant".

He was concerned about three republican dissident groups - Continuity IRA, the Real IRA and a "new grouping that calls itself Óglaigh na hÉireann. All three of these have the capacity to cause trouble and two of them are certainly involved in the present troubles. They are small groups which do not contain any prominent people from the past but consist of a younger generation."

The Taoiseach defended the approach taken by Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern in the controversy over the North's Minister for Social Development Margaret Ritchie's decision to cut loyalist funds because of the UDA's failure to decommission.

"Whatever discussions he had with her and others in the heat of it, Minister Ahern defended and praised her," the Taoiseach said.

Labour deputy leader Joan Burton asked if it was "simply part of normal discussions or was she advised by the powers that be in the Department of Foreign Affairs to alter her stance? Circumstances have certainly shown that her position was correct."

Former Labour leader Ruairi Quinn said at the SDLP conference many delegates felt "the level of pressure brought to bear upon her, through the diplomatic channels of Iveagh House and elsewhere, was less than helpful".

The Taoiseach said Mr Ahern "issued a very strong and forthright statement in support of her at a time when the issue was at its height a few months ago. The stance the Minister took was in line with the stance I have taken on these issues for a decade or more." Ms Ritchie's move "did create a fair bit of rumblings and difficulties within the Executive and obviously that is a matter for it".

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny asked about an International Monitoring Committee member's view that Mr Quinn was murdered "by present or former members of the IRA or their associates. Will he comment on the fact that those who committed that murder were dressed in boiler suits and surgical gloves, which was the trademark of IRA punishment squads?"

Mr Ahern said gardaí advised that "there is no information available to suggest that the attack was authorised or carried out by or on behalf of any paramilitary grouping".

Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin again condemned Mr Quinn's murder "in the strongest possible terms", but said the IMC member's remarks "were a statement and equate with speculation. Within the remarks made, there was not one verified fact." Mr Ahern said "the IMC has not reported formally on the murder of Paul Quinn. It has a process for doing that."