Sinn Féin’s Mac Lochlainn says he has never met ‘Slab’ Murphy

Asked if he saw Murphy as ‘good republican’, justice spokesman said he didn’t know him

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams: “Do I think judges can’t make mistakes? No I don’t.” Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams: “Do I think judges can’t make mistakes? No I don’t.” Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Sinn Féin justice spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has declined to say whether he agrees with his party leader’s comments on Thomas “Slab” Murphy being a good republican.

Mr Mac Lochlainn said he had never met Murphy but “noted” the comments by Gerry Adams and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness on the republican who was last week convicted of tax evasion.

Asked if he shares the view of his colleagues, Mr Mac Lochlainn replied: “I don’t know Tom Murphy. I have never met him in my life.”

Mr Mac Lochlainn said his focus as justice spokesman is on raising concern about the use of the non-jury Special Criminal Court in a tax evasion trial.

“I have no sympathy for anybody who is in default of tax,” he said. “If they are sentenced to jail time that is what they should be sentenced to. I fully support the right of the State to pursue anyone who hasn’t paid their taxes.”

‘Arrogant’

Alan Shatter

“They have said by challenging the use of the Special Criminal Court that we are seeking to undermine the justice system,” he said. “That is untrue. They would never say that to the Irish Council of Civil Liberties or Mary Robinson, who have repeatedly raised concerns about the Special Criminal Court.”

Former minister for justice Dermot Ahern said the Special Criminal Court was necessary until a time of intimidation of witnesses and jurors ends.

‘Both ways’

Mr Adams yesterday insisted the judiciary can make mistakes.“Do I think judges can’t make mistakes? No I don’t. I think judges can make mistakes,” he told reporters. “The certainty for citizens is that we are tried by our peers. That is the safest process. Juries can make mistakes as well.”

Mr Adams said he did not know if Murphy was a member of the Irish Republican Army and said these were all questions for him. He said he did not accept the claim that if you were involved with the IRA you were a criminal.He said he had not spoken to Murphy since his conviction and denied his response to the matter had caused a split within the party.

Any reports of disquiet were “wishful thinking”, he added.

Louth Sinn Féin councillor Tomás Sharkey said local people were “bemused” by the big politics of the case. “When it comes down to it locally Tom Murphy is a man they know, he is a man they are friendly with and that we are comfortable having as a neighbour. He is the man you sit beside at Mass on a Sunday morning.”