Analysis: Murphy defence exposes Sinn Féin contradictions

Sinn Féin chief Gerry Adams opens party to criticism after ‘good republican’ statement

Sinn Féin leader Adams at the annual turning on of the Christmas Tree lights in Leinster House. Photograph: The Irish Times

Sinn Féin leader Adams at the annual turning on of the Christmas Tree lights in Leinster House. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

The speed with which Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams rushed to the defence of the south Armagh republican boss Thomas “Slab” Murphy raises a number of embarrassing questions for the party on the eve of the general election.

Adams’s rapid reaction to the conviction of the “good republican” for tax evasion has exposed potential contradictions between Sinn Féin’s links to the IRA campaign and its desire to make electoral gains in the Republic.

At the very least, it has forced the party on the defensive just when it was hoping to mount pressure on the Coalition parties and Fianna Fáil.

Sinn Féin has spent the last five years fulminating about alleged golden circles and tax dodgers in Irish society and has built a solid support base on the back of such rhetoric.

Murphy’s conviction by the Special Criminal Court of a massive tax evasion on the basis of detailed evidence compiled by a range of State agencies, including the Criminal Assets Bureau, was a test of Sinn Féin’s credibility.

Adams’s decision to rush to the defence of his longtime republican associate immediately after the guilty verdict was announced left him wide open to charges of hypocrisy.

Not fit

Martin scored an open goal by saying the Sinn Féin leadership was more interested in protecting their own than respecting and enforcing the rule of law. “Gerry Adams’s delayed response shines a light on how important ‘Slab’ Murphy continues to be to the Sinn Féin project,” Martin said.

“It is incredible that Adams would concentrate on the unfairness of this case when it took the Criminal Assets Bureau to carry out this investigation in the first place. CAB does not normally investigate routine non-payment of tax.”

Imagine the hullabaloo if a similarly close associate of Martin or the Taoiseach was convicted of tax evasion and they decided to back their pal against a court decision.

If they went further and not only expressed public support for a political “friend” but went on to attack the court for trying the case, public indignation would know no bounds.

Yet that is exactly what Adams did. He questioned the right of the Special Criminal Court to hear the case on the basis that it was a simply a tax matter that should be heard in an ordinary court.

Court’s case

By questioning the appropriateness of the court to hear the case, Adams has raised issues about the attitude of the republican movement to some of the State’s key institutions.

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter said at the weekend that the abolition of the Special Criminal Court would place “all citizens called to jury service and their family members at risk when required to deliver a verdict in terrorist- or gangland-related prosecutions”.

The announcement yesterday of the new task force to deal with cross-Border crime highlighted the need for the continuation of the Special Criminal Court. It also shows the need for institutions on both sides of the Border to bring this multimillion-euro crime business to an end.

Indications are that the mainstream republican movement has been trying to distance itself from the continuation of such activities along the Border. So it is ironic that the Murphy case has come to a conclusion at this time.

Adams and Sinn Féin do face a real quandary as they attempt to bring the republican movement further along the road from violence to democracy. This case highlights the difficulty in trying to have it both ways.

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