Conor Murphy told at Sinn Féin rally he has nothing to apologise for

Newry crowd applaud speaker over remarks to Conor Murphy on Paul Quinn controversy

A speaker drew applause at the rally when he told Stormont finance minister Conor Murphy he had nothing to apologise for. File photograph: Rebecca Black/PA Wire

A speaker drew applause at the rally when he told Stormont finance minister Conor Murphy he had nothing to apologise for. File photograph: Rebecca Black/PA Wire

 

The Stormont finance minister Conor Murphy was told he had absolutely nothing to apologise for when he attended a Sinn Féin rally in Newry on Wednesday night.

About 1,000 people travelled for the public meeting at the Canal Court Hotel, some of them, according to party leader Mary Lou McDonald, coming from as far away as Donegal.

A speaker drew applause when he told Mr Murphy he had nothing to apologise for. While he was not explicit he appeared to be referring to the continuing controversy over the 2007 murder of Paul Quinn and the Quinn family’s complaint that Mr Murphy has not formally stated Paul Quinn was not a criminal.

When asked after the meeting if he was referring to Mr Murphy’s comments about Paul Quinn, the man - called Kevin from Crossmaglen, Co Armagh - said: “There were three statements said at the time from three different people. Are they all making apologies? PSNI, the Garda, the Taoiseach at the same time all said exactly the same thing. Could you interrogate all them?”

This latest rally followed similar events in Cork and Dublin. Two big screens flanking the stage declared “Sinn Féin - Government For Change – Let’s Make it Happen”.

Ms McDonald was accorded a standing ovation when she arrived for the rally which started half an hour late, as some of the speakers were delayed due to an accident on the M1, among them TDs Pearse Doherty and Eoin Ó Broin.

And as Sinn Féin continued to negotiate to establish that “Government for change” one man, Paul from the floor offered caution about doing business with the Greens. They were described as a left-wing party, but he wasn’t convinced, reckoning a better label would be “Fine Gael on bicycles”.

That got a great laugh but nonetheless Ms McDonald initially was careful not to add to the insult by criticising a potential coalition partner. She did say, however, that the Greens in government with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would be “no change at all”.

To applause she added that the best outcome was Sinn Féin in government “without Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael” although she did concede the “numbers are tricky”.

But in the end Ms McDonald could not resist taking up on the FG cyclists.

“We have to make room for others even if they do cycle bicycles on behalf of Blueshirts,” she said.

‘Seismic shift’

Ms McDonald said the election of 37 Sinn Féin TDs was a reshaping of politics in the south and “represented a seismic shift . . . the likes of which we have not seen in a hundred years”.

The Sinn Féin leader made no reference to the Troubles or the IRA but did say, “the past is the past, there is no future to be found there”. She complained of political opponents reaching “consistently for the past in a way which I think is frankly shameful”.

Ms McDonald, taking questions from the audience and conscious of Northern Ireland people’s commitment to the UK national health system - notwithstanding the waiting lists and, for this audience, that it is a “British” system - said such a system also was required south of the Border. She realised that this was a “core issue” for many people in the North in terms of the unity debate.

She did not have a “blueprint” for an Irish national health system but it was something Sinn Féin was working on, she said.

One man from the audience wanted assurance that Sinn Féin would “have an all-Ireland before Mayo”.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill was in no doubt that “things are moving in one direction”. Ms McDonald agreed, “Constitutional change is in our line or sight.”