SEVERAL SINN FÉIN politicians have remained silent on the comments by party leader Gerry Adams about the conviction of prominent republican Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy for tax evasion.
Adams has defended controversial remarks he made about Murphy over the weekend when he insisted that he remains a “good republican” and had been “denied the right to be tried before a jury of his peers”.
Last week Murphy, 66, was convicted of not paying income taxes for nine years by the non-jury Special Criminal Court. He will be sentenced in February.
Adams has been heavily criticised for his defence of Murphy by government and other opposition politicians, but there has been, as yet, no dissent from those within Sinn Féin who have spoken publicly.
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness today concurred with Adams that Murphy is “a good republican” who had been invaluable to the peace process.
“The amazing [achievement] wouldn’t have happened without the work of Tom Murphy. We need to understand that,” McGuinness said of Murphy’s contribution to the peace process in convincing hardline republicans to accept the Good Friday Agreement.
He also said the Sinn Féin position is that non-jury courts should be abolished, but added that people have a duty to pay their taxes.
But other senior party figures, including deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald and finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty, did not respond to calls and texts from TheJournal.ie today.
Sinn Féin TD for Cork North-Central Jonathan O’Brien said he agreed with Adams’s remarks about the Special Criminal Court.
My own personal opinion, and that of the party, is that non-jury criminal courts shouldn’t exist. Everyone has a right to be judged by a jury of their peers.
But O’Brien refused to be drawn on Murphy saying: “I don’t know him, I can’t comment on him.” He added:
I’ve never met him and the only thing I’ve heard about him is what is being written in the media. I try not to pay too much attention to what’s in the media.
Dublin North-West deputy Dessie Ellis said he would rather not comment, claiming he had not heard Adams’s comments and had not spoken to him, nor had he followed the Murphy case:
I am not going to say any more. I haven’t studied what has been said. I’d rather not comment.
Sinn Féin senator David Cullinane told WLR FM that Murphy does not pose a threat to anybody, but would not be drawn on whether or not he is a good republican.
I don’t know Thomas Murphy. I don’t know the man from Adam. I’ve never met the man. So how can I describe him as any word?
A spokesperson for Sligo-North Leitrim TD Michael Colreavy said he would not commenting on the story today.
Other Sinn Féin TDs who did not respond to calls and texts today included Peadar Tóibín, Seán Crowe, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Brian Stanley, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Sandra McLellan and Padraig Mac Lochlainn, who is the party’s justice spokesperson.