Sinn Fein TDs silent over party's connections to IRA tax dodger
Sinn Fein politicians are coming under growing pressure to distance their party from former IRA chief Thomas 'Slab' Murphy - who is now facing the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence for tax fraud.
TDs and senators last night adopted a stony silence when asked whether they feel comfortable about party leader Gerry Adams' description of Murphy as a "good republican".
After Murphy's farm in Hackballscross was raided by the authorities in 2006, Mr Adams swooped to his defence and infamously declared: "Tom is not a criminal. He is a good republican." He also described Murphy as a "keen supporter of the Sinn Fein peace strategy".
Despite the decision of the Special Criminal Court this week to find Murphy guilty on all nine charges of tax fraud, Mr Adams has refused to say whether his view remains the same.
Last night, Housing Minister Paudie Coffey accused Mr Adams of "double standards" and said the association with individuals such as Murphy illustrates that Sinn Fein "cannot be trusted".
"Gerry Adams has perfected the art of ducking and dodging and he is doing it again here. He has been critical of tax evasion in the past - but yet is adopting a stony silence in relation to 'Slab' Murphy," Mr Coffey told the Herald.
"I think the public will want to know from all Sinn Fein candidates how they feel about this case."
Murphy's conviction is hugely embarrassing for Sinn Fein and Mr Adams' apparent reluctance to distance himself from Murphy is bound to raise fresh questions about the party's suitability for government in the minds of voters.
The case has also heaped pressure on Sinn Fein politicians to give their views.
Dublin North West TD Dessie Ellis refused to be drawn on the matter when contacted.
"I don't know the full ins and outs of it, so it wouldn't make sense for me to be commenting."
Cork North Central TD Jonathan O'Brien said Murphy has yet to be sentenced, so he would "not be commenting".
Other Sinn Fein politicians did not respond to calls and texts.