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Questions over Paul Quinn murder follow McDonald to RTÉ debate

Inside Politics: Sinn Féin leader was confronted with comments made by senior party figure almost 13 years ago

Good morning.

The last important debate of Election 2020 kept its most dramatic moment until the end, when Mary Lou McDonald, the standout performer of the campaign, was confronted with comments one of the most senior figures in her Sinn Féin organisation made almost 13 years ago.

Breege Quinn - the mother of 21-year-old Paul Quinn from Cullyhanna, Co Armagh, who was brutally murdered in 2007 - this week said Conor Murphy had at the time suggested her son’s death was connected to criminal activity, compounding the family’s heartbreak.

Murphy, the Stormont MLA for Newry and Armagh, is the finance minister in the power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland. He is - along with McDonald, Pearse Doherty and Michelle O’Neill - one of the four most senior people in Sinn Féin across the island.


On Newstalk earlier this week, McDonald said: “Paul Quinn was not a criminal, and so far as I’m concerned Conor has never asserted that Paul was a criminal.” She also told RTÉ she did not think Murphy suggested Quinn was involved in criminality.

But Prime Time dug up what Murphy actually said in 2007: “Paul Quinn was involved in smuggling and criminality. I think everyone accepts that.”

A widely held view, shared by some in Sinn Féin, has been that voters under the age of 40 who have flocked to it in the recent opinion poll surge are unlikely to move away from McDonald because of the usual reminders of the Troubles often deployed by Sinn Féin’s political opponents.

But the Paul Quinn murder does not belong to grainy 1970s or 1980s television news footage. It happened in 2007, and Conor Murphy is from Sinn Féin’s present and not its past.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil were already preparing to pile pressure on Sinn Féin as polling day approached in an attempt to halt McDonald’s momentum. The controversy surrounding Murphy may make their job that bit easier, even though McDonald and Sinn Féin still remain on course for a historically successful election.

Overnight analysis of the debate from yours truly is here.

Best reads

Miriam Lord says Mary Lou McDonald goes "on the run" while the other parties ramp up the fear.

Paul Murphy and Mick Barry warn McDonald against forming a coalition with Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil.

In the second part of our poll, voters say health and housing are their main priorities.

Harry McGee reports on the TG4/Ipsos MRBI poll for the Kerry constituency that shows Danny Healy-Rae could be in danger of losing his seat.


There are two podcasts from yesterday in your feed: one in which Jennifer Bray and Hugh Linehan review the RTÉ debate, and another in which Leo Varadkar says Michéal Martin will do a deal with Sinn Féin because this election is Martin's last shot at being Taoiseach.

Election Diary

Leo Varadkar will be in Dublin Mid West with party candidates Emer Higgins and Vicki Casserly. He will then canvass and meet Fine Gael members in Westmeath and Virginia, Co Cavan.

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin will hold a press conference in the party’s election headquarters.

Labour’s Brendan Howlin and Alan Kelly will hold a press conference in the National Print Museum, Dublin.

The Social Democrats will unveil their older people’s policy in Glasnevin with Róisín Shortall and Dublin Central candidate Gary Gannon.

People Before Profit’s Bríd Smith and Richard Boyd Barrett will announce their education policy in Ballyfermot this afternoon,

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