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The 2007 killing of Paul Quinn: A timeline of the investigation and the political fallout

Today, Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy apologised to Paul Quinn’s family for comments he made in 2007.

Stephen and Breege Quinn holding a picture of their murdered son Paul Quinn.
Stephen and Breege Quinn holding a picture of their murdered son Paul Quinn.
Image: Liam McBurney/PA Wire/PA Images

SINN FÉIN HAS faced scrutiny in recent days about the party’s response to the killing in 2007 of Paul Quinn.

The 21-year-old from Cullyhanna in south Armagh was beaten to death by a gang of around a dozen men in a farm shed across the border near Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.

His family blame members of the IRA, but Sinn Féin has long denied republican involvement in the killing.

A month after the murder, Conor Murphy, a Sinn Féin representative for Newry and Armagh, claimed Quinn was involved in “smuggling and criminality”.

Murphy, now finance minister in the Northern Ireland Executive and a senior member of the party, had faced calls to apologise from Paul Quinn’s mother Breege. 

Today, after Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was quizzed on the issue on the RTÉ Prime Time debate last night, Murphy apologised. 

Here’s a timeline from the date of the murder in 2007 until today. 

20 October 2007

21-year-old Paul Quinn died after being severely beaten at a farm near Castleblayney, Monaghan. 

He was killed by a 15-strong gang of men after being lured to the farmhouse across the border from his home in Armagh. 

21-22 October 2007

Media reports began to suggest that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the murder. Sinn Féin denied that the IRA was involved. 

Both Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness condemned the murder, which took place just months after power-sharing had been restored. 

Speaking at Stormont on 22 October, Adams said: “Our sympathy is with the family of Paul Quinn.

“The criminals responsible for this dreadful killing must be brought to justice. I do not believe that there was any republican involvement in this murder. This murder is in our view linked to fuel smuggling-involving criminals. But let me repeat anyone with information has a duty to bring that information forward to the An Garda or the PSNI,” he said. 

Conor Murphy said at the time that he did not believe that there was any republican involvement in the murder. 

25 October 2007

Hundreds of people attended the funeral of Paul Quinn after national outcry at the murder. 

At the funeral mass, the murder was described as a “barbaric crime and deeply sinful”. 

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown described the crime as “brutal and horrific”. 

12 November 2007

The International Monitoring Commission, an independent monitoring group set up to monitor paramilitary activity, said that current and former members of the IRA may have been involved in the murder of Paul Quinn.

The commission said that it stemmed from a local dispute, but decided that it was too early to say if it was authored by the IRA leadership. 

On the same day, Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird used parliamentary privilege to name some of the men involved in the killing in the House of Lords, as well as claiming that all were current or former IRA members. 

Speaking to the BBC Spotlight programme in November, Murphy said that Paul Quinn was involved in “smuggling and criminality”.

ulster-powersharing Conor Murphy made comments in 2007 linking Paul Quinn to criminality. Source: Brian Lawless/PA Wire/PA Images

December 2007

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was forced to backtrack on comments about links between criminality and Paul Quinn. 

Ahern had previously told the Dáil that the murder of Paul Quinn had been linked to “feuds about criminality”. 

“I did not in any way intend to make an issue out of the character of Paul Quinn and I am happy to make that clear to the House,” he said.

He said that the only people who were criminals in the murder of Quinn were those who killed him. 

February 2008

Justice minister Brian Lenihan told the Dáil that he met the family of Paul Quinn before Christmas, along with the Taoiseach. 

Lenihan said that the gardaí were “absolutely determined” to find the killers of Paul Quinn. 

“While some of the individuals involved in the assault on Paul Quinn may have crossed the Border to commit this crime, the Garda and PSNI are demonstrating that the Border will not prove a barrier to their investigations,” he said. 

May 2008

The International Monitoring Commission said that the IRA was not responsible for the murder of Paul Quinn. 

The killing, the commission said, was ”clearly contrary to the instructions and strategy of the IRA leadership”.

It said that some members of the IRA may have been involved. 

In a statement following the report, Sinn Féin said: “It says much of the conspiracy theories which have been put forward by the political opponents of Sinn Féin linking the IRA to this horrific killing that even a body like the IMC cannot bring itself to give them any credibility.”

30 July 2008

Six men were arrested in separate operations by the gardaí and PSNI in connection with Paul Quinn’s murder. 

The men were later released. 

September 2008

A man in his 50s was arrested in the Dundalk area in connection with the murder of Paul Quinn. 

He was released. 

November 2008

A man was arrested in Castleblayney in relation to the murder. He was later released. 

April 2016

A man in his 50s was arrested by gardaí in relation to the murder.  

Monday 3 February 2020

By this point, 23 arrests have been made since the murder – 14 by gardaí and nine in the North. 

No one has yet been charged. 

Paul Quinn’s parents’ ongoing campaign for answers attracted attention as Sinn Féin surged in the polls this week.

Breege Quinn told RTÉ this week that her son was not involved in criminality. 

She asked that Conor Murphy withdraw his remarks and apologise. 

“He came out publicly and called Paul a criminal on national television. I want him to come back on national television and to apologise to us. And I want Mary Lou to make sure, she is the leader, that he does it,” she said. 

That same day, Mary Lou McDonald was quizzed about the issue in an interview with Bryan Dobson. 

She defended Conor Murphy and said had been “very forthright” in dealing with Paul Quinn’s murder. 

general-election-ireland-2020 Mary Lou McDonald faced questions about the murder of Paul Quinn last night. Source: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Tuesday 4 February 2020

When questioned on RTÉ’s Prime Time election debate, McDonald said: “I have spoke to Conor and he is aware that the comments he made after the murder of Paul Quinn have caused hurt and that that hurt has endured, so he apologised for those remarks, he withdraws those remarks and he will speak to Breege Quinn and the family directly.”

Debate host Miriam O’Callaghan put the 2007 comments made by Murphy directly to McDonald. 

She said that her recollection 24 hours earlier had not been correct.

“Those things should not have been said, Conor withdraws them and apologises,” she said.

“The remarks were wrong, they are withdrawn correctly and will be apologised for directly to Mrs Quinn.

“My sole concern in this is that the family have been hurt and the remarks made need to be withdrawn and apologised for, that’s the correct thing to do and that’s what Conor will do.

“A family that has lost their son in such brutal circumstances doesn’t need the additional hurt and grief of those remarks.”

Today 

This morning, Breege Quinn told BBC Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show: “Mary Lou should just step him down.”

“Has he any idea what we are going through, what he has put us through?” she said.

She added: “He has no compassion for anybody. He is not fit for the job he is in and he was not fit to be an MLA at the time either.”

Conor Murphy apologised for the comments this afternoon.  

Speaking to RTÉ he said he was sorry that they had added to the family’s grief at the time. 

“I want to apologise to them for that and I want to withdraw those remarks,” he said. 

In a further written statement he said: “I apologise for those remarks and I unreservedly withdraw them.”

McDonald said that Murphy would meet with Breege Quinn.

“He has made an apology. It is sincerely made. And I hope and I trust that the Quinn family will get some measure of comfort from that. But ultimately the issue here is that those who carried out this murder are actually brought to justice,” she said.

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