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Opinion: Paul Quinn's parents should not have had to wait 13 years for apology

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy claimed a month after the murder that Paul Quinn was 'involved in smuggling and criminality.'
Leading article

The horrific murder of Paul Quinn in 2007 was an appalling crime, savage in the extreme and completely unjustified.

The 21-year-old from Cullyhanna in south Armagh was lured to a barn near Castleblayney, Co Monaghan where a gang attacked him with iron bars and nail-studded clubs, breaking every major bone in his body.

It is believed the IRA carried out this wicked deed but despite a number of arrests on both sides of the border, no one has been convicted of the killing.

In the 13 years since Paul's death, his parents Stephen and Breege have mounted a brave and indefatigable campaign for justice, something that is their absolute right.

During this time they have been highly critical of Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy, who claimed a month after the murder that Paul Quinn was 'involved in smuggling and criminality', something that has understandably incensed his parents.

Although the family's views have been widely aired since his killing, they made little progress with Sinn Féin until this week, when party leader Mary Lou McDonald came under intense pressure during the Republic's general election campaign.

After initially suggesting Mr Murphy did not accuse Paul Quinn of criminality, Ms McDonald subsequently said he apologised for his remarks and withdrew them.

Ms McDonald said: ''That's the right thing to do, it's the decent thing to do.''

She is correct, of course, but the question for the party and for Mr Murphy is why it was not done much sooner.

Grieving parents should not have had to wait 13 years for the Sinn Féin representative to publicly retract a deeply hurtful slur and issue an apology.

There is a lesson here for the party in terms of how it responds to past killings carried out by the IRA or elements within that organisation.

Condemnation of wrongdoing must be unequivocal, the feelings of bereaved families and the need for truth and justice the overriding concern.

From a purely political perspective, this case has not been well handled by Sinn Féin. It should not have taken an election spotlight to push the party into doing the right thing.

While Mr Murphy's apology yesterday was long overdue, it was necessary and appropriate. .

Away from the political furore, we must remember there is a young man who died an awful death yet his killers remain free.

Those with information must search their conscience and decide to do the right and decent thing.

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