DUP politician urges Conor Murphy to resign over Paul Quinn comments

Paul Frew says Sinn Féin finance minister ‘shouldn’t have time to get his coat’

A DUP Assembly member for the first time has called on the Sinn Fein Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy to stand down as Minister for Finance in the Northern Executive.

After the Quinn family rejected Mr Murphy's apology for saying their murdered son Paul was involved in criminality, and repeated that he should resign, North Antrim DUP MLA Paul Frew said the Minister "shouldn't have time to get his coat" in quitting office.

Senior DUP politicians such as First Minister Arlene Foster have been careful in their comments but Mr Frew has now put out a tweet saying Mr Murphy should stand down as Minister.

“The Quinn family have lived through a tortuous period of grief at the tragic loss & murder of their son compounded by the slur, alienated by the republican movement,” he wrote in a post late on Wednesday night.


“If the Quinn family say Conor Murphy should resign, he shouldn’t have time to get his coat,” said Mr Frew.

That post was retweeted by DUP MLA for Upper Bann Jonathan Buckley.

While the controversy has focused on the general election in the South the issue now appears to be having an impact on Northern Ireland politics which last month saw the restoration of the Northern Executive and Assembly.

Mr Quinn, from Cullyhanna, Co Armagh, was brutally beaten to death by up to 10 men in a barn in Co Monaghan on October 20th, 2007. His family has always held the IRA responsible.

When asked had he any evidence for the original comments Mr Murphy told RTE, “I am not going to go into what the evidence was or wasn’t at the time. The fact is that regardless of what my view was at the time those remarks added to the grief of a family. It was the wrong thing to do at the time.”

Further asked was it his view that Paul Quinn had been involved in criminal activity Mr Murphy said he accepted that there was no evidence to link him to such criminality.

Paul Quinn’s parents Breege and Stephen said that the reason they did not accept Mr Murphy’s apology and still wanted him to resign was because he had not said their son was not a criminal.

Instead he had apologised for his remarks and rather than say he was not a criminal he said there was no evidence he was involved in criminality and fuel smuggling.

Mr and Ms Quinn said they were satisfied that Sinn Fein leaders Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill had accepted and acknowledged Paul Quinn was not a criminal.

Unreservedly withdrawn

Sinn Fein however has rejected the Quinns’ interpretation and insisted that Mr Murphy’s statement met their demands. A Sinn Fein spokesman pointed to how Mr Murphy in his statement said, “I apologise for those remarks and I unreservedly withdraw them.”

The spokesman stressed that Mr Murphy as well as apologising had unreservedly withdrawn his initial comments.

Senior Ulster Unionist Party figures such as Steve Aiken and Doug Beattie and Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister have said Mr Murphy should not continue as Minister.

DUP leader Ms Foster made no such demand. When she appeared on Wednesday with Ms O'Neill at a Stormont committee that scrutinises the Executive Office she was asked by Ulster Unionist member Mike Nesbitt was she happy to continue to work alongside Mr Murphy.

Ms Foster said Executive appointments were made by individual parties and that Mr Murphy’s future in the role was “a matter for Sinn Fein”.

She added, “Wherever possible, if mistakes are made, we should reflect.

I haven’t heard Conor’s apology, but I think it is right that should happen.

I’m sure Mr and Mrs Quinn would want above all to have justice for their son.”

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times