Dáil debates

Thursday, 7 February 2008

11:00 am

Photo of Brian Lenihan JnrBrian Lenihan Jnr (Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Dublin West, Fianna Fail)
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I once again condemn unreservedly the killing of Paul Quinn. This brutal assault, resulting in the death of a young man, has been properly condemned by all right-thinking people on both sides of the border. The obvious planned nature of the assault makes it all the more reprehensible. Deputies of all political parties and politicians across the island share my revulsion at what happened to Paul Quinn and his family. Let me express again my deepest sympathy to them. I fully support them in their quest to see those who perpetrated this savage act brought to justice. It is very sad that we, as Members of Dáil Éireann, find ourselves discussing again a life cut tragically short. In this case, Paul Quinn was only 21 years old when he was killed on 20 October last year. I am somewhat constrained, as Deputies will appreciate, in what I can say on this matter. An investigation into this appalling crime is ongoing in two jurisdictions. Nothing I or anyone else in the House says, therefore, should interfere with that process. I have a particular responsibility as Minister in this regard.

The basic facts surrounding Paul Quinn's death will be known to most Members but I will summarise them. Paul Quinn was lured into travelling across the Border from his home in Cullyhanna, County Armagh, to a cattle shed near Castleblayney, County Monaghan. He was then set upon by up to a dozen individuals who violently beat him. There has been speculation that the intention behind this vicious assault was not to kill but to teach a lesson but this is irrelevant. The outcome could very well have been predicted in the circumstances. The Garda Síochána was made aware of the incident at 6.10 p.m. on Saturday, 20 October. Gardaí arrived at the scene at 6.20 p.m. and found Paul Quinn badly injured. Basic first aid was administered at the scene and he was transferred by ambulance to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. He was found to have serious injuries to the head, lower body and legs. Despite the best efforts of the medical staff in Drogheda, he died later that evening.

I met the family of Paul Quinn before Christmas, as did my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Taoiseach also took the opportunity to speak with Paul's mother and father on the occasion of their visit. While deeply grieving the loss of their son, they also have a burning desire to see justice done in this case. As I have said, this is something we all share. I took the opportunity at that meeting to assure Mr. and Mrs. Quinn that the Garda is absolutely determined to do everything in its power to bring Paul's killers to justice. The force is carrying out a very intensive investigation with the closest co-operation of the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Many statements have been taken, facts checked and re-checked and forensic and other analyses have been carried out. This investigation is complex but it is very much live and ongoing.

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. In addition to on the ground co-operation, which has included Garda officers accompanying PSNI colleagues to interview individuals in the North, senior Garda management are in close contact with their counterparts in the PSNI. When the PSNI Chief Constable was in Dublin last week the case was reviewed in his discussions with the Garda Commissioner.

I have also spoken to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on several occasions and we are determined to ensure the highest level of practical co-operation in both jurisdictions. There has been an amount of speculation that there may have been a paramilitary element to this killing, specifically, Provisional IRA involvement. The investigation by the Garda will lead wherever it may, but the position in this regard remains that the force has no information to suggest this attack was authorised by, or carried out on behalf of, that organisation. The Secretary of State and myself are in complete agreement that the most important aspect of this crime is that those responsible, whatever their background, are brought to justice, and the way to achieve this is to allow the police investigation to take its course. It serves no one, least of all Paul Quinn and his family, to politicise his death while active investigations to apprehend his killers continue. None of us must lose sight of the central fact — the murder of a young man and the brutal removal of an innocent life by persons to whom humanity and decency are obvious strangers.

There has been speculation of intimidation of witnesses or potential witnesses in this case. It would not be helpful to comment on this. If that has happened or is happening, I condemn it and I am sure all Members will join in that condemnation. A successful police force needs the trust and co-operation of those to whom it provides its services. Crucial, therefore, to the success of the Garda investigation will be the level of co-operation which local people are willing to offer. I would like again to ask people who have any knowledge of this crime to share it with the police. It is vitally important that people with information that might help find the people responsible and bring them to justice make it known. I include those who may not have been directly involved but, nonetheless, are party to what could be vital information. I urge them to examine their consciences and to ask themselves whether they can stand by while young men are beaten to death.

I thank those who have come forward. Substantial co-operation with this investigation has been provided by people on both sides of the Border. Local people are making clear, in ever increasing numbers, their demand for proper, effective policing. One of the more sinister allegations that has been made about this incident is that it was intended as a punishment beating by those who seek to exert some form of control over the area. Both Governments, the police forces and people generally are united in determined opposition to them.

There is a new optimism in Ireland. The vast majority of people, North and South, are eager to grasp the opportunity for peace, reconciliation and prosperity with which we have been presented by the peace process. Many of my Cabinet colleagues are in Dundalk attending a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council, discussing further ways to bring benefits through practical co-operation for all the people who share this island. The past year has shown what can be achieved when different strands of opinion pull together for the common good. This is the future for the island and we will not allow it to be sabotaged by those who believe the law does not apply to them.

I again extend my sympathy to the Quinn family for their loss and appeal to those who have knowledge of this crime to share it with the Garda Síochána or the PSNI. The two police forces will continue to pursue those responsible with the utmost vigour and in doing so have the full support of the Government and, I am sure, everyone in this House.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I wish to share time with Deputies Charles Flanagan and Dinny McGinley.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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I thank the Government for making time available for statements on the murder of Paul Quinn. I pay tribute to the Christian courage shown by Stephen and Briege Quinn since the loss of their son. I recently met Mr. and Mrs. Quinn in Castleblayney. Briege Quinn was the first person to say there should be no retaliation for the loss of her son because her wish was to see justice for everybody. I admire her courage in that regard.

The murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast was a spontaneous eruption of violence inside and outside a public house after an incident but the murder of Paul Quinn was an act of premeditated and organised savagery in which a young man was beaten to death. In many localities in south Armagh and across a wide belt in the region, certain people demand respect and recognition. They know who was involved in this murder and who gave the instructions and ordered that people were to be on watch when the late Paul Quinn arrived in the farmyard in question.

This is a litmus test for the peace process. We cannot have a situation whereby people are afraid to whisper or speak out because the peace process might unravel. A peace process cannot continue if it delivers bad justice. If a just society cannot connect to a peace process through communities, that process will not stand the test of time. A just society does not exist in this instance. It is wrong that people with a conscience fear the structures may intimidate or bully them if they speak out.

The late Paul Quinn was entitled to have his good name and integrity protected by the peace process. I regret the quick response from the Government suggesting that criminal elements may have been involved. As I told Stephen and Briege Quinn, I and the party that I lead never regarded the late Paul Quinn as a criminal. It is important that all parties make that statement so as to bring some consolation to his family. I accept that the Government has confirmed that position in a meeting with his parents.

The reports of the Garda and the PSNI clearly indicate that persons who were or are members of the Provisional IRA were responsible for this murder, which gives rise to the question of authorisation. This element of plausible denial cannot be allowed to continue. The essential problem is the continued existence of the structures of the IRA, which the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform confirmed on 30 January. That structure, which exists against the background of a peace process agreed by everybody, uses fear, intimidation and bullying to ensure good people will not speak out. If there is to be any legacy for a fine young man like Paul Quinn or the peace process, it should be the complete disbandment of the IRA. The Minister noted that the Provisional IRA has been on ceasefire since 1997 and is not currently involved in terrorist or criminal activity. I respect the efforts made in respect of decommissioning but the situation of plausible denial cannot be allowed to continue. A person arranged for a so-called punishment beating to be carried out. People were instructed to be in situ and a young man was murdered. One does not use surgical gloves, balaclavas, boiler suits and iron bars unless premeditated savagery and murder are involved.

If good people do not speak out, the peace process will be seriously challenged. I admire the courage and Christian generosity of the Quinn family in dealing with their enormous loss. If there is to be a legacy for Paul Quinn and the other 3,000 lives lost in the Troubles, the peace process cannot be made to stand over bad justice. Those involved should declare that the IRA is finally disbanded so that fear, intimidation and bullying can be removed from a swathe of countryside.

Photo of Charles FlanaganCharles Flanagan (Laois-Offaly, Fine Gael)
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The murder of Paul Quinn last October in County Monaghan shocked the nation. The brutal nature of the killing was particularly disturbing. Both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil suggested in the aftermath that Paul Quinn's death was linked to criminality. Notwithstanding the fact that the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs later retracted their statements and irrespective of the motive behind Paul Quinn's death, his murder — like any other murder — was unacceptable. There can never be a valid reason or justification for a gang of masked thugs to lure a young man to an isolated farm and beat him to death.

I do not believe that Paul Quinn was involved in criminality. He was simply a young man who refused to bow and scrape to the racketeering, self-appointed hard men in his area. Whatever his supposed error as adjudged by those Mafia-type bosses taking on the role of judge and jury, he paid the ultimate price. His death shone a light on a world with which many of us in the Republic are unfamiliar. He came from the small village of Cullyhanna in the heart of south Armagh, an area long considered unsafe for the agents of law and order because of the strong republican presence in the area. In the immediate aftermath of his murder, it was unfortunate that the British and Irish Governments rushed to judgment by ruling out direct republican paramilitary involvement. As we search for the truth months later, we see how unhelpful these statements were.

What we have seen following Paul Quinn's death is that while we have peace in Northern Ireland, some areas remain outside mainstream civil society. It is clear that the Mafia-like situation that existed prior to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 persists at a certain level a decade later. The factors which created the vacuum and allowed an IRA dominated subculture to develop in south Armagh are well known. However, we are supposed to have moved on from the tragic era of the Troubles. The Good Friday Agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed by all the people of this island. We now have a functioning Northern Executive at Stormont that is charged with governing the domestic affairs of Northern Ireland. The PSNI is the legitimate police force in the North, just as the Garda Síochána is the legitimate police force in the South. If punishment for alleged crimes is to be meted out, that is a matter for the police and the courts and not for individuals or gangs.

Alleged links between criminality and those who took Paul Quinn's life in a brutal manner have been the subject of some discussion in the media. A recent "Prime Time Investigates" documentary on fuel smuggling from the South to the North revealed that the shed where Paul Quinn was beaten to death is sometimes used by smugglers to store fuel. The same programme revealed that legitimate authorities are simply afraid to go after the smugglers because of their fear of Mafia-style intimidation and the physical violence evidenced in so-called punishment beatings. This situation is simply unacceptable. Paul Quinn's tragic death must be a watershed for the Border area. It must be the catalyst that marks the end of Mafia-style rule and the beginning of a meaningful rule of law in every part of the State.

The people of south Armagh and beyond have been vocal in their condemnation of Paul's killers. It is clear they no longer want to live in a society dominated by fear and intimidation. They have the same right to feel safe and secure and live free of threats, intimidation and fear as all other citizens of this island. However, they must put their trust in the legitimate authorities. Yesterday, Chief Constable Hugh Orde issued a stark warning that "Northern Ireland is facing an imminent threat from a group of disorganised but dangerous dissident republicans". He stressed that co-operation between the people and the police is essential to neutralising this threat. I hope his plea for co-operation will be heeded.

Our Government and the Northern Ireland authorities must work closely together to deliver a real peace to south Armagh and to create and foster a civil society in which people feel secure and protected by the legitimate police force. There is much scope for North-South co-operation on this issue. The Garda Síochána and the PSNI must work together. The obvious place for such co-operation to continue is in investigating the appalling murder of Paul Quinn and bringing his killers to justice. I wish the Garda and the PSNI every success in this regard.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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It is not my custom to become involved, on a regular basis, in commenting on Northern Ireland affairs in this House. I have, however, been very much aware of events that took place there over the years. The brutal and savage murder of Paul Quinn is a reflection on everyone North and South of the Border. It was carried out with military precision by a group of murderous thugs and carefully planned and professionally executed. Out of respect for Paul's parents, who are present to witness this debate, I will not dwell on the pathological savagery and cruelty which occurred in our State on that dreadful night. It is sufficient to say that a young man, a mere teenager, was bludgeoned to death. Regardless of the crime, savages would not inflict it on one of their own.

A family has been left devastated, terrified by the nightmare visited upon it. For the Quinns, there is, as yet, no visible avenue of escape or relief from their terrible ordeal. To add insult to grievous injury, it was alleged that the innocent young victim of this crime died as a result of a feud between criminals. It is to our shame and a sad reflection on every one of us that such a vicious and vindictive spin, which emanated from highly-placed politicians who hold positions of responsibility in Northern Ireland, was initially swallowed hook, line and sinker by prominent politicians on the Government side in the Republic. At least this malevolent version of the atrocity has at last been repudiated by senior Government figures. As far as I am aware, however, it has not yet been withdrawn by its authors. Shame on those who would attempt to slander an innocent victim.

Since this murderous atrocity was perpetrated, a vow of silence has been imposed on an entire community. While a large gang participated in that dreadful orgy of violence, no witnesses have as yet come forward. An omerta in the best traditions of the Sicilian Mafia is in existence. Weasel words have been spoken but there has been no justice for either Paul Quinn or his family. This is not an isolated incident. There was much hypocritical condemnation of the McCartney murder but no witnesses came forward and there has been no justice or closure in respect of it. Approximately 12 miles from where I live in the constituency of Donegal South-West, a man named Denis Donaldson — I did not know him but perhaps other Members did — was murdered in an attack that was carried out with the same military precision as that employed in the killing of Paul Quinn. Mr. Donaldson's murder, which was also publicly condemned, remains unsolved.

Why are all these investigations running into the sand? It is glaringly obvious that community and mind control are being imposed. People know the truth of what happened and they also know who was responsible, but they have not yet been able to garner the courage to come forward as witnesses. This yoke of terror and intimidation must be removed if we are to become a civilised and law-abiding community.

How is it possible to justify the devolution of responsibility for the administration of justice to those who live in a community or an area in which murderers are protected, even if the latter is the result of fear and intimidation? Perhaps the death of Paul Quinn, who lies in a cold grave, might initiate a process that will remove the heavy hand of intimidation from a community and allow its members to live by the accepted standards of decency, democracy and the rule of law. I refer here to civil, not mob, law.

I extend my condolences and my sympathy to Paul's parents, his relations and the members of his community, who, like us, are decent and respectable people. I hope the heavy hand of intimidation will be removed. I also hope that, sooner rather than later, people will come forward to help bring about closure in respect of this atrocious murder.

Photo of Liz McManusLiz McManus (Wicklow, Labour)
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I wish to share time with Deputy Sherlock.

The murder of Paul Quinn in County Monaghan on 20 October last left a family bereaved and a community shocked and created huge political reverberations in the Monaghan and Armagh areas. Appalling as it was, the murder of Paul Quinn was only one of many shocking and brutal killings we have witnessed on this island in the past 35 years. Why should his death have received such public attention when so many other equally brutal murders have been forgotten? Part of the reason that this murder has created such an impact on the public consciousness is the cruel and premeditated nature of the killing. Even more so, it is that Paul's murder took place at a time when we all hoped that we had seen the last killings of this type and when the people of south Armagh and north Monaghan in particular hoped that their communities had at last been freed from the blight of terrible violence that had taken such a toll.

Let us recall the basic facts of the case as we know them. On Saturday, 20 October last, a group of young men were forcibly taken by an armed gang to an isolated shed in a remote area of north Monaghan. One of them was forced to phone his friend, Paul Quinn, asking him to come to the shed on the promise that there was some work available. When Paul arrived he was taken captive and removed to another smaller shed. Over a prolonged period his friends heard the sickening thud of iron bars and nailed cudgels on human flesh and his futile cries for mercy. Then there was silence. When his friends managed to free themselves they found Paul Quinn, his body broken and brutalised, still barely alive but clearly in a very critical condition. Despite the prompt arrival of an ambulance and the best efforts of medical staff, Paul died in hospital in Drogheda later that evening.

More than three months later, no one has been brought to justice for this shocking crime. The family and friends of Paul Quinn immediately claimed that well known members of the Provisional IRA had been responsible for his murder. Leading Republican figures at local and national level denied this. However, these denials were accompanied by a cynical campaign to denigrate the reputation of Paul Quinn. Not content with taking his life, those responsible were also determined to take his character.

The family and friends of Paul Quinn have since organised a vigorous campaign to ensure that his death is not forgotten and that those responsible are brought to justice. With a number of other Members, I attended a packed and passionate public meeting shortly before Christmas in the community centre in Crossmaglen, which was organised by the Campaign to Secure Justice for Paul Quinn. As local people expressed their anger about what had been done to one of their own, I was reminded of the words of Pádraig Pearse, "beware of the risen people".

Those who spoke were in the main people from the local community and the vast majority were absolutely certain members of the Provisional IRA had murdered Paul Quinn. Historically, Crossmaglen is in the middle of a republican heartland but there was particular anger directed at local Sinn Féin representatives.

Speaker after speaker got up and told of their own experiences over 35 years of violence. They spoke of things they had to put up with at the hands of the IRA and the security forces during the course of what they described as "the war". They said with one voice that enough was enough, they wanted no more killings and they wanted the killers of Paul Quinn brought to justice. Given the traditions in the area, I was struck by the extent to which people were prepared to urge those with any information on the killing to hand it over to the PSNI.

I have little doubt members of the Provisional IRA carried out the attack on Paul Quinn and were responsible for his murder. I do not know if the murder was sanctioned at a higher level but regardless of this, the provisional movement has an obligation to face up to its responsibilities.

There are some striking parallels with the murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast three years ago, for which members of the Provisional IRA were also responsible. On that occasion also, there were condemnations from provisional leaders, sympathy for the McCartney family and public pleas to co-operate with the PSNI.

Despite the fact that there were a large number of people in a public place involved in the McCartney murder, just one person has been charged with murder and two others with affray. When push came to shove, those who knew who killed Robert McCartney, those who witnessed his murder, were unwilling to co-operate with the PSNI. This must not be allowed to happen in the case of Paul Quinn.

I accept the transition from paramilitarism to democracy will not always be smooth. There will be slip-ups along the way and errors of judgment made. I also acknowledge the significant progress made in the political process in Northern Ireland and the changes brought about by the leadership of the republican movement. It took longer than we would have liked but the achievement of decommissioning and the effective standing down of the IRA cleared the way for the restoration of the Assembly and Executive in Northern Ireland.

There is now a choice to be made by members of the provisional movement. Do they stand with the murderers of Paul Quinn or do they stand with the Quinn family and the people of south Armagh? Are they prepared to go beyond paying ritual lip service to the principle of co-operation with the lawfully established police authorities, set up under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice and convicted?

We sign up for the full democratic package or not at all, as one cannot be half a democrat. Failure to ensure the murderers of Paul Quinn are brought to justice will rekindle doubts about the bone fides of republican leaders.

I cannot let this occasion pass without making some reference to the injudicious comments made by the Taoiseach in the aftermath of the killing in which he clearly implied that Paul Quinn had been involved in criminal activity. I do not know if the Taoiseach had been poorly briefed or if his desire not to do anything to destabilise the delicate political position in Northern Ireland clouded his judgment. However, the result of his comments was to play into the hands of his killers, provide ammunition for those who wanted to denigrate Paul Quinn and add enormously to the trauma of the Quinn family.

In fairness to the Taoiseach, six weeks later he eventually withdrew those comments and publicly stated that Paul Quinn was not involved in criminal activity, but these groundless comments should never have been made in the first place.

I again extend my sympathy to the Quinn family. I hope this debate will in some way assist the process of achieving justice for them.

Photo of Seán SherlockSeán Sherlock (Cork East, Labour)
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I thank Deputy McManus for sharing her time.

How can I speak for Paul Quinn in a way that does not patronise his family or politicise his memory? How can I, who did not know him personally, possibly speak in a manner that will pay adequate tribute to his independence and single-mindedness that ultimately cost him his life?

I can only speak to the fact that neither he or his family nor the community of Cullyhanna has received justice. If we are to subscribe to the ideals of the republic and all the beliefs going with it, we must speak up for Paul Quinn. We must condemn, without equivocation, his murder, and that condemnation must come from all facets of the political spectrum.

If there are those who seek to equivocate, they must reverse their position. If this island, which has left so many families bereft of justice, is to move on we must hold Paul Quinn up as an example that justice can prevail. In order for this to happen, those in the shadows must be rooted out and take responsibility for their actions.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I begin by extending my continuing sympathy and that of Sinn Féin to the family of Paul Quinn. Their grief at the loss of their loved one was compounded by the horrendous manner in which Paul was done to death.

The brutal murder took place in my constituency, in my home county of Monaghan, at Oram last October. It shocked and sickened people in the Border counties and throughout Ireland. As I stated at the time, as soon as the murder became known it sent shockwaves through our communities. It was a despicable act of brutality and murder carried out by people who deserve only the contempt and the condemnation of society. For a group of men to lure a man in such a way and then to beat him mercilessly until he died is to be deplored in any circumstances, at any time and wherever it occurs.

I reiterate here what I and other Sinn Féin representatives stated at the time and have stated many times since. Anyone who has any information related to this murder, no matter how small or insignificant they think it may be, should pass it on without delay to the Garda or the PSNI. There should be nowhere for the criminals responsible for this murder to hide. They are criminals because they committed a criminal act of murder.

I have seen no evidence that would link this crime to republicans but regrettably such claims have been made and continue to be made. I do not accept such claims and I emphasise in the strongest terms that it would be totally irrelevant if any of these criminals claimed at any time to be associated with republicanism. The reality is that this act of murder criminalises anyone who took part in it, irrespective of what politics they hold or may have held. The perpetrators are criminal murderers and that is the bottom line. I can be no clearer than that.

There have been attempts to taint Irish republicanism with this crime and to taint the people of south Armagh. The only people tainted, stained and shamed by this murder are those individuals who carried it out and anyone else who may have assisted in it.

As I stated here in the Dáil on 18 December, there has been a tendency on the part of some to determine responsibility. I caution Members against jumping to conclusions. The family has a view, as do others who are articulating their view. However, it is only through the respective police authorities, North and South, that the truth can be established and the full rigours of the law can be brought to bear on the event. That is what we want to see. We want those responsible for the murder of Paul Quinn to be apprehended, brought before a court of law, convicted and sentenced for their crime.

The question has been raised as to whether the victim of this murder, Paul Quinn, may or may not have at any time been involved in criminal activity. As I have said before, that has no bearing whatsoever on the heinousness of the crime of murder committed against him. What happened to him was an absolute outrage and I want to make that very clear, as I did last December, for fear that some sense of difference would be promoted about whether he had or had not been so involved. I did not know Paul Quinn or know of him. I do not know the facts of his life story. Irrespective of the full facts, and they may reveal themselves in time, it is absolutely imperative that it is stated loudly and clearly that what happened was an outrage and a crime, and absolutely indefensible in any circumstances.

I appeal to all who genuinely seek and support truth and justice for the Quinn family not to compound this family's distress by fuelling, by actions or words, the destructive efforts of those who have already pointed the finger of blame at innocent members of the community in Cullyhanna and beyond and who have engaged in misguided and misdirected acts of retribution against the same innocent people. This too must stop.

There is no ambiguity whatsoever in the Sinn Féin position on the murder of Paul Quinn, as I hope I have made clear here today. Sadly and predictably, some of the siren voices we are so used to hearing and others of more recent vintage have attempted to use this murder to feed their politically motivated antipathy to Sinn Féin. That is of no service to the Quinn family or to the pursuit of the murderers of Paul Quinn. It serves only as a distraction and for that reason I will not elaborate on it here.

Instead, I conclude by urging anyone with any information on this murder to come forward with it and to assist the Garda and the PSNI in their pursuit of the killers. I join others today in again extending sincerest and deepest sympathy to the parents and family of Paul Quinn.

Photo of Margaret ConlonMargaret Conlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I raised this issue on the Adjournment on 24 October 2007 and it is good that we are having this debate today.

Once again, I extend my deepest sympathy to Paul Quinn's parents, Stephen and Briege, and to his family and friends who are seeking the truth about, and justice for, his murder. I welcome them to the Visitors Gallery today.

This murder was one of the most horrific crimes ever committed against anybody in this country. It takes only one person to kill another with one blow. This young man was lured to an isolated rural area and manhandled out to a farm shed where people with bats, crowbars and pick axe handles brutally ended his life. The point has been made that these savages did not mean to kill Paul Quinn but what other outcome could be expected when a gang of masked men repeatedly attacked one lonely man with weapons, as the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, said this morning?

Several politicians were quick to tell us that they knew who did not commit this awful atrocity. There are, however, people who know who did and who gave instructions for this savage act to be carried out. There are people with blood on their hands to whom conscience is alien. As a public representative for the Cavan-Monaghan constituency, where this heinous crime was carried out, I hope and expect that any honourable citizen of this island, North or South of the Border, who knew anything, will give such information to the Garda or the PSNI. I commend the Garda and the PSNI on their co-operation and dedication in the ongoing investigation into Paul's murder. It is a sign of significant progress when the recognised police forces on both sides of the Border work together with a common purpose.

I attended a public meeting in Castleblayney after Christmas, attended by hundreds from North and South of the Border, many from south Armagh. Their wish was to find justice and truth for Paul but also to be able to live and conduct their daily lives, to go where they liked, visit friends and family and socialise in a community not ruled by fear or intimidation. Unfortunately, there are still some members of this community who operate to their own laws and standards and this cannot and will not be tolerated in the Ireland of today.

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, we have come a long way. We must not allow anything to undo this good work but in south Armagh we still have a good distance to travel. As a republican, I will always advocate a peaceful resolution to a problem. We have learned over the years that violence is not a resolution to any dispute or cause, and the people who committed this barbarous act are nothing but thugs. I commend the family of Paul Quinn on repeatedly calling for no retaliation. I repeat that call because retaliation would not serve any purpose or further the investigation.

As I said in my speech on the Adjournment last October, the wall of silence that surrounded the murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast must not be repeated in this case. Nobody in this country has the right to take the law into their own hands. In the McCartney case, the complete lack of respect for human life, coupled with walls of silence, has prevented a prosecution since that awful killing in Belfast, on a bleak day in January 2005. It is my earnest hope that this will not happen in this case.

I was happy before Christmas to facilitate the meetings of the parents of Paul Quinn with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Minister assured Stephen and Briege that the investigation was active and ongoing, an assertion repeated today. The Taoiseach said to Briege Quinn that the only criminals involved in this crime were the thugs who murdered Paul, with which I concur. It serves no purpose to politicise Paul's death. The central fact is the brutal death of a young man, an innocent life cruelly taken away by thugs who displayed no humanity or decency. These traits are alien to the savages who committed this crime.

I commend the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for his commitment to ensuring an active investigation and the Garda and the PSNI for their vigour and determination in attempting to solve this heinous crime. I pledge that as a Deputy for this area, I will continue to highlight this issue at local and national level.

A life was wiped out by this murder. There was not merely one victim of this crime as a community is in mourning. Paul Quinn's friends, who unwittingly were forced to call Paul to his death, have been badly affected and some of them have received threats to their own lives. Ultimately, his family remains devastated by this heinous crime and must live with the consequences of the ruthless and savage actions of those thugs for the rest of their lives. No parent should be obliged to endure what Stephen and Briege Quinn are going through. They never will be able to grieve properly while the perpetrators of this crime remain at large. Were justice to be done, the perpetrators brought to account and a new peace to emerge in south Armagh, it would be a lasting memorial to the life of Paul Quinn.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Photo of Seymour CrawfordSeymour Crawford (Cavan-Monaghan, Fine Gael)
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I thank my party leader, Deputy Enda Kenny, for meeting Briege and Stephen Quinn in Castleblayney and for following through on his commitment to facilitate these statements in Dáil Éireann. I also thank the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and all concerned for agreeing to them. It constitutes an opportunity to put on record Members' anger and repulsion at the murder of the Quinns' son and brother, Paul. His murder was premeditated and was carried out in the most cruel way in my constituency in Oram, County Monaghan. I welcome to the Gallery Mr. Stephen Quinn, his son and daughter, Paul's aunt and other relations.

It is not acceptable for any politician or individual to try to justify such a judge, jury and execution system in any country, let alone in respect of the peace process. These statements give all Members a chance to clear the record, which is important for the future. I note the Quinn family seeks a future without any other deaths or retaliation. People from all political backgrounds and none must co-operate with both the Garda and the PSNI so that those responsible can be put behind bars. My constituency colleague, Deputy Margaret Conlon, already stated that more young people are under threat in this region. In recent years, many others have been badly beaten but are afraid even to make statements because they fear for their lives in south County Armagh.

Those who murdered Paul Quinn must be brought to justice, otherwise this would be an unacceptable result of all the efforts for peace. Yesterday witnessed the return of the PSNI on to the roads and streets. People have been found buying guns in eastern Europe and districts still lie under fear and are controlled without PSNI involvement. South Armagh is not the only problem area, as two PSNI officers have been shot in other areas. I know from first-hand experience that loyalist districts also are causing serious problems and this issue is not limited to south Armagh or republican areas. Such districts also must be brought under police control. There must and can be only one army and police force in a democratic country.

The PSNI, the Garda and the Customs and Excise have had some success in Border areas on other issues in the recent past. The two Governments must provide whatever resources are necessary to bring the murderers of Paul Quinn to justice and give other young people the right to live. Twelve or 14 people could not be involved in such a brutal murder without someone being aware of what happened or who organised it. It is not a secret that the people involved were wearing balaclavas, special uniforms and other items that all had hoped to forget. I plead to their consciences, whoever they are, to break this cycle as they may be the next victims otherwise.

While I welcome the statement made today by my constituency colleague, Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, I hope that all his colleagues in south Armagh will be as clear. I assure Members that Fine Gael has not raised this issue in the House for political reasons. It brought the issue into the House to provide justice to the Quinn family. Paul Quinn died in the most heinous and tragic circumstances and were his death to go unsolved, it would raise major questions regarding the reason people are unable to speak out. Undoubtedly, many people know exactly who was responsible for this deed.

I congratulate all those who attended public meetings in Cullyhanna, Crossmaglen and Castleblayney. My colleague, Deputy Fergus O'Dowd, accompanied me to the meeting in Crossmaglen while others accompanied me to the meeting in Castleblayney. Those meetings provided a clear indication of the high levels of support for the Quinn family, as well as the opportunity for people to speak in public on the problems and to clear Paul Quinn's name.

Young people in south Armagh have as much a right to freedom and opportunity as anyone else on our island home. Let the word go out loud and clear that democracy and justice, based on the rule of law, is the only way forward now and in future. The meetings in Castleblayney and Crossmaglen that I attended were illuminating as for the first time in the history of the Troubles, people were prepared to speak openly and show their support. I appreciate that Deputy Liz McManus travelled all the way from Wicklow to attend that meeting and that my other colleagues from all parties in County Monaghan attended the meeting in Castleblayney. Tremendous openness and a great commitment to law and order was displayed. Such commitment can only be proven to be real if it can be seen that people are prepared to come forward without fear and without the awareness that they face death in order that the Quinn murder can be solved.

I have spoken to many people privately since Paul Quinn's murder. People have come forward and have asked to meet me privately. It has been a revelation to hear of the level of threats and the pressures that exist in that locality. Having worked with all parties in the peace process, I have no doubt that all parties represented in this House are committed to it. However, the only manner in which this can be proved in the long term is to effect the restoration of law and order in all parts of the country and to see real progress in this case.

I again sympathise with the Quinn family, their relations and many supporters. I sympathise and pray they will be granted the strength to carry on. Unfortunately, Mrs. Briege Quinn is not present today. She was under great pressure in terms of her health when Deputy Enda Kenny and I met her in Castleblayney and I realise she did not wish to go through the experience of this debate. The manner in which Paul was murdered and his body was abandoned is inexpressible and unbelievable. When Stephen told the details to Deputy Kenny, Briege simply could not take it any longer. I thank her for coming that day to Castleblayney in order that Members witnessed the reality and pressures experienced by the family at first hand. I hope and pray that God will give them the strength to carry on and that they will be seen to receive the justice they deserve through the incarceration of the perpetrators.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to share time with Deputy Kirk.

Photo of John O'DonoghueJohn O'Donoghue (Ceann Comhairle; Kerry South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Is that agreed? Agreed.

12:00 pm

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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The murder of Paul Quinn on 20 October was an appalling atrocity. Although months have passed since it occurred, our feelings still go out the parents, family and relatives of Paul Quinn, and to the members of his community. Two issues arise from his murder, the need for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and the need for proper law and order in south Armagh.

A few weeks after the murder, I called to the Quinn household in Cullyhanna in the company of councillor Geraldine Donnelly. Despite the enormity of the tragedy, I was impressed by the dignity of the family. Briege Quinn told me she desired two things, that Paul's name be cleared of allegations of criminality and that the perpetrators be brought to justice. Paul Quinn's name has been cleared by the Government here and the Taoiseach spoke to Briege. I was present at the meeting. The Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party also accepts that Paul Quinn was an innocent victim.

On Mrs. Quinn's second desire, that the perpetrators be brought to justice, I was impressed by the fact that she wanted to achieve this within the law and in no other way. As I have done many times since the murder, I appeal to anybody who has any information whatsoever to give it to the Garda or the Police Service of Northern Ireland, PSNI. I am very impressed with the level of co-operation and the manner in which the investigation has been carried out by both the Garda and PSNI. It is very encouraging to those of us who live along the Border.

The second issue of fundamental importance is the restoration of law and order to south Armagh. The overwhelming majority of people in the region are decent and law abiding but there are thugs who take the law into their own hands. It is encouraging at present to note the burning desire of so many to see a restoration of the rule of law and a normal society re-established. This has been highlighted by the hundreds of people who have attended the meetings organised by the Quinn's support group throughout south Armagh and in my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan, one of which was held in Castleblayney.

It is important that so many people, particularly locals, are prepared to speak out very strongly about the fact that they want to see the perpetrators of the crime brought to justice and that they want a restoration of normality to the locality. It is the first time in a generation in such circumstances that so many ordinary people — a small number was always prepared to come forward — have spoken so strongly about the need to bring the perpetrators to justice and restore law and order.

There is now an opportunity to re-establish the rule of law in south Armagh. We must all work together, including the people in the locality and those in the wider Border area. The two Governments must grasp the opportunity that exists because it may not last. The Garda and PSNI also have an important role to play.

Who is afraid of normality? We all want to see normal community policing sooner rather than later and due process in the courts of law. I hope that people will never again live in fear of external sanctions or be beaten to death with iron bars in Oram or anywhere else.

Photo of Séamus KirkSéamus Kirk (Louth, Fianna Fail)
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I, too, convey my sympathy to the Quinn family on the brutal murder of their son Paul outside Castleblayney some months ago. By any standards the murder was extremely brutal. There have been very brutal murders in the Border area and across the Six Counties over the past 30 years but this was as brutal as they come. Paul Quinn was 21 and was lured to his death in dreadful circumstances. One can only speculate on the physical and emotional impact of the murder on his family .

It is simply unacceptable that this type of brutal murder could be perpetrated on anybody. Everybody, young and old, should be entitled to go about his or her daily business without feeling intimidated and without the fear of abduction or being lured to his or her death. One should be able to live, travel, work and socialise in one's community without the fear of being intimidated or frightened in any way.

The reality is that the basic tenets of democracy are at stake. Peace in Northern Ireland has been a long time coming. We all welcome it and are delighted it is bedding in so well and successfully but the fundamental principle at stake is the right of the individual to be able to go about his or her daily life and to have his or her interests protected by the institutions in his or her area.

The people who perpetrated the murder are thugs by any standards. We all exhort anybody with information that would help both the Garda and PSNI in bringing the perpetrators to justice to make it available as quickly as possible. I congratulate the Garda and PSNI on their intensive work in investigating the case and compiling the evidence. We all hope they will be able to bring about a successful prosecution. This would help in some way to ease the pain that has been visited on the Quinn family.

The circumstances of the investigation into the murder, which occurred near the Border just outside Castleblayney, and the cohesive nature of the work of the Garda and PSNI bode well for the future of peace and harmony in the area. We all hope the two police forces are successful and that the perpetrators will be brought to justice, thereby sending out a signal to anybody else who wants to contemplate indulging in such activity that it has no place in the Ireland of 2008.

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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I welcome this debate. It is very important that it take place in this Chamber. With no disrespect to the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Power, I would have believed this debate warranted the presence of a senior Minister for its full duration. The inquiry into the murder has led to very serious allegations which, if true, will have significant and serious ramifications north and south of the Border. Justice must be seen to be done even if heaven falls in this case. We must face up to the fact that the people I heard in open debate in Crossmaglen are absolutely convinced that the people who murdered Paul Quinn were members of the Provisional IRA, contrary to what the Minister said in his speech. The ramifications of this fact, if it be true, are very serious.

Certain actions must be taken to deal with the situation. I listened carefully to what Deputy Ó Caoláin had to say. I say to him that I very much welcome the peace we have attained in this country. I very much welcome the fact the IRA is no longer engaged in a campaign of murder. It is also to be welcomed that Sinn Féin is fully playing its part in the administration of the Six Counties, as its members call it, or, as we would say, of Northern Ireland. That should not be put at risk.

If this death means anything and if any good is to come of it, this House, the Government and the British Government should insist that the IRA disband and cease to exist. The meeting to which I referred was an open debate, where people went into a hall in the heart of Crossmaglen and spoke openly and strongly, with a lifetime of experience, of their desire to be rid forever of this blight on their lives. Nobody to whom I spoke expressed a wish for the Northern Ireland Executive to fall. Nor do I want to see it fall. However, there is a desire for change.

A person to whom I spoke put it properly when he said that he had been intimidated, on the one hand, by the British Army and the RUC for most of his adult life and, on the other hand, by the IRA. He has had no peace in his life. Either one side or the other, he observed, was constantly intimidating ordinary people because of events that took place in the area. This person wants rid of both sides. The British Army, thankfully, is gone, and it is time now for the Provisional IRA to cease to exist. That would be a fitting outcome of this most appalling and savage murder.

I listened carefully to Deputy Ó Caoláin's speech. I do not accept the words he used. I can only paraphrase what he said but he referred to the question of whether the late Paul Quinn had or had not been involved in criminal activity. The Taoiseach has expressed his belief that Mr. Quinn was not involved in such activity. I acknowledge the importance of the contribution of Sinn Féin in bringing about peace. I make no argument in that regard. However, the party should not continue to cast doubt on this man's character. It is wrong to do so. This country must move forward. Crossmaglen is only three quarters of an hour from my home, but the last five miles of the journey are through an area that has witnessed the most appalling and savage killing for many years. Everybody is delighted those killings have ceased, apart from this particular evil attack.

I remind the Taoiseach and his Government that the future of the peace process will depend on the outcome of this case. If the perpetrators are apprehended, people will begin to have confidence in the effectiveness of going to the Garda and the PSNI. This will allow for a new mood in south Armagh and all along the Border. People in the area have told me they are in fear of the former IRA volunteers who walk the roads of south Armagh. They believe these individuals to be current members of the IRA. Significant and serious intimidation is ongoing. Deputy Crawford and I met people who gave us a list of incidents of intimidation and beatings that have occurred in the last three to four years.

Such incidents must end forever. That is what the Quinn family wants. Deputy Ó Caoláin said that certain people in the area were being blamed for this murder and intimidated for that reason. The words of Briege and Stephen Quinn are clear on this point. They want no retribution and do not support or condone any such action. The Quinn family has no agenda for retribution. Rather, their agenda is to seek the justice to which they are entitled. That is the way forward for us.

My deepest sympathies go to the Quinn family. On meeting them, one's instinct is one of absolute conviction and support for what they know to be true, that their son was not a criminal or thug and that he was evilly, morally and appallingly done to death. Mr. Quinn's family has no doubt that the Government, Garda and PSNI are doing their best. There is total acceptance of that and support for them. What the family wants, and I support them in this, is for the IRA to be disbanded for all time. One of the killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe was released this week having serving the sentence he was given under due process. There must be an end to all of that. I ask Deputy Ó Caoláin and his Sinn Féin colleagues to go to the IRA as it presently exists and put the case that it is time to disband. If it does so, the entire organisational structure and historical ethos to which Deputy Crawford referred will be gone forever.

Justice must be done and must be seen to be done in this case. The Government must have the courage to say to Sinn Féin that it must disband the IRA. We want it gone forever. Nobody is saying the Executive should fall. However, there must be some change as a result of this murder. The absolute conviction of the Quinn family and of the others at that meeting in Crossmaglen is so crystal clear that it has 100% credibility.

Photo of Seán PowerSeán Power (Minister of State with special responsibility for Equality Issues, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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I thank my colleagues for their contributions. It is fitting that we discuss the killing of Paul Quinn in this House. This was a well planned and brutally executed killing. It is gratifying, though not unexpected, that the House should generally have spoken with one voice on this matter. I hope the Quinn family can take some small comfort from the expressions of sympathy and support from all sides during the debate.

I add my voice to those calling for witnesses to come forward. The importance of this cannot be overestimated. I thank my colleagues who have joined in appealing again for assistance from people in the local area. As the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, made clear in this opening statement, there is no information available to the Garda that there was an organisational involvement by the Provisional movement in the killing. However, as has been stated by Members in this House and others outside the House, there are suspicions that people with connections to that movement were involved.

We must be cautious about discussing the detail of what is an ongoing investigation. I am anxious that nothing should be said that would jeopardise the chances of successful convictions. We have made clear time and again that criminality of any type will not be tolerated from any group, North or South. In this regard, the Minister welcomes the condemnation of this crime by Members on all sides of the House as well as the various public statements that anyone who has information on this crime should pass it to the Garda or the PSNI.

The Minister spoke of a new optimism in regard to Northern Ireland. This optimism is born of the hard work of people across the political spectrum who were willing to look to the future rather than focus on the past. The next great challenge for Northern Ireland is the successful devolution of policing and justice responsibilities to the Assembly. The timing of this next step is ultimately a matter for the Assembly itself. The Government hopes the May deadline set out in the St. Andrews Agreement will be adhered to. The Minister looks forward to working with his Northern Ireland equivalent to strengthen further the type of co-operation already evidenced by the investigation into Paul Quinn's killing.

As the Minister mentioned in his opening remarks, the Taoiseach spoke with Paul's mother and father at a meeting before Christmas. He reassured them that it was never his intention, in anything he said in response to questions about any wider implications that this case may have, to make an issue of Paul's character. Mr. and Mrs. Quinn accepted the Taoiseach's assurances. I do not believe it is particularly helpful to seek to score points against the Taoiseach in relation to such a horrific incident. I and the Government have no problem stating categorically that the murder of Paul Quinn was not related in any way to any involvement of by him in criminal activities. It is no secret that arising from the conflict in Northern Ireland, there are small pockets in Northern Ireland where there has been a lack of real policing in the past. That vacuum was often filled by others to the detriment of all. I am glad this is now changing. The people are saying that those who seek to take advantage of that vacuum are not wanted under any circumstances and I advise them to take heed. I note with satisfaction the call from the Deputies in this regard. The days of no go areas are finished.

As the Minister said, anyone with information relevant to this crime should be encouraged to give it to the Garda or the PSNI. I welcome calls from others in the House for people to co-operate with the Garda and the PSNI. Achieving justice in this case is fundamentally a matter for the criminal justice system and I am sure all Members will join with me in offering full support to the Garda and the PSNI.

Deputies Kenny and McManus said there are people in the area of south Armagh who know who planned and carried out this murder. I accept this to be the case and I respect what the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and others have said. Anyone with information should bring it to the police. This type of co-operation is essential to success in this case. I again urge witnesses and anyone with relevant information to go to the police with it. Let us stand against the murders and with the Quinn family. In common with all Members I hope we can all look forward to the time when those responsible for this heinous crime are brought to justice.

I thank my colleagues for spending this small amount of time remembering a young man whose life was cruelly and prematurely taken away.