Mary Lou McDonald refuses to ask party colleague to apologise to family of IRA murder victim

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonaldwith Dublin Mid West candidates Eoin Ó'Broin and Mark Ward (left), in Bawnogue, Clondalkin, today. Pic:
By Juno McEnroe
Political Correspondent

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has refused to ask a party MLA to apologise to the family of IRA murder victim Paul Quinn after an alleged slur that he was involved in criminality.

Ms McDonald has also refused to support the existence of the special criminal court, despite criticism from other parties over Sinn Féin's opposition to it.

Earlier today, the family of Paul Quinn, a young man brutally beaten to death in a shed in Monaghan in 2007, said they still had not received an apology from Sinn Féin over alleged comments about him.

The North's finance minister Conor Murphy, a Sinn Féin MLA, has said that he has been given “solid assurances” the IRA were not responsible for Mr Quinn's death. But he also said the young man had been killed as a result of a “criminal feud”.

Paul Quinn's family have repeatedly called for a retraction of this statement. His mother, Breege, has told RTE she had heard nothing from Ms McDonald or Sinn Féin on the matter.

Ms McDonald, in her interview, told Mr Dobson that the “only criminals” were the people who took Mr Quinn's life. But she declined to say if Mr Murphy would apologise to the family or go to the police and only said the best thing was for him to speak to the Quinns.

Ms McDonald also said that Mr Murphy had disputed making the original comments.

The Sinn Féin leader, despite being pressed, also refused to back the special criminal court. The party wants a review of the court, which gardaí and others say has been largely responsible in helping to lock up serious criminals and gang members from both Limerick and Dublin.

Ms McDonald said: “Everything that needs to be done to make communities safe needs to be done.”

She added that everything that the State had was “failing to keep vast amounts of communities safe.”

Elsewhere, Ms McDonald faced questions about funding commitments in the Sinn Féin manifesto. Sinn Féin is proposing spending some €14bn over the next five years, above and beyond the €11bn in money set out by other parties.

She said her plans were “costed and deliverable”.

But one proposal is to collect an extra €107m from the vacant site levy by raising it from 7% to 15% over five years. However, Mr Dobson put it to her that the existing levy had only raised €882,000, as he asked how she could get that much in extra funding.

Ms McDonald responded with:

I'm not the costing unit of the department [of finance].

She also said that, if lands were released and the levy then was not collected, that those losses could be made up for through increased amounts of VAT from home construction.

In the interview, Ms McDonald also said she expected Britain to pay for a transition period in the event of a United Ireland. Asked about what might replace the huge subvention payments which come from London for the North, she said: “The British will have to take out their cheque book and put their hand in their pocket.”

The party leader was also quizzed about what whether Sinn Féin could end up back in opposition after the election, especially with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil refusing to share power with them.

Ms McDonald said that she didn't “want government just for the sake of it”.