Northern parties welcome ‘Slab’ Murphy sentence

Republican’s tax evasion conviction shows ‘no-one beyond the law’, says UUP spokesman

The SDLP, DUP and Ulster Unionist Party have welcomed the 18-month sentence given to Thomas "Slab" Murphy for tax evasion.

The DUP leader and First Minister Arlene Foster in a speech in Tandragee, Co Armagh last night said that while "some people refer to Murphy as a 'good republican' the people of this area know him to be a criminal".

“Setting aside the length of the sentence, this man who evaded prosecution for so long, has at long last been put behind bars. Most people will celebrate seeing justice done. If you break our laws, regardless of who you are, expect to go to jail,” added Ms Foster.

The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the support and acceptance of the independent judiciary was a keystone of democracy and the rule of law and all parties must accept the Murphy sentencing from the court.


"It is not acceptable for some to seek to give Mr Murphy, a convicted criminal, political cover. It's also inaccurate to describe him as a 'good republican'," he said.

“Depriving the Irish state of tax revenue to fund hospitals, schools or jobs is not a republican value. A good republican lives up to their obligations to others, they do not seek to evade their responsibilities in the pursuit of personal greed,” he added.

"Every party leader must be clear – the rule of law applies to every citizen equally. It doesn't matter if you're friends with Gerry Adams; everyone is subject to the law without exception. That is a founding principle of any republic," said Mr Eastwood.

“Any attempt to undermine the judgment of the court for political purposes is a dangerous precedent and would prove a party unfit to govern fairly.”

The Ulster Unionist Party’s justice spokesman Danny Kennedy MLA said the 18-month sentence imposed on Murphy was “proof that no-one is beyond the law”.

"For many years Thomas Murphy was alleged to be one of the most senior and powerful figures within the Provisional IRA," he added.

‘Relatively light’

"Many people may feel that sentence is relatively light but it is welcome nonetheless, given the long-standing and widespread concerns about levels of criminality along the Border, much of which involves the evasion of taxes and duty to be paid," said Mr Kennedy.

“Given the high-profile nature of Thomas Murphy, many people will be hoping that his arrest, trial and conviction are a signal that the no-one is beyond the law and that the political will is now there to provide the police and justice systems on both sides of the Border with the resources they require to instigate a meaningful crack down on criminality in the Border area,” he added.

“Some Sinn Féin politicians previously said Thomas Murphy was ‘a good republican.’ Today he is a convicted criminal on his way to jail.”

Labour Senator Máiría Cahill, who suffered sexual abuse from an IRA member and who was allegedly subjected to an IRA internal investigation about the case, welcomed the sentencing.

“Justice has finally caught up with this notorious individual,” she said. “For many years there have been substantial allegations that he is at the heart of republican activity – criminal and otherwise – in South Armagh. These allegations include matters far worse than tax evasion,” added Ms Cahill.

“Despite this, he has been repeatedly defended as ‘a good republican’ and a ‘typical rural man’ by Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald over recent weeks and months. This is a further indication of how they put themselves and their friends first before victims and the rule of law,” she said.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times