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Family fight for justice five years after brutal IRA murder

(Suzanne Breen, Ulster News Letter)

Garda detectives investigating the murder of a young South Armagh man brutally beaten to death by the Provisional IRA are set to make a new wave of arrests.

Paul Quinn (21) from Cullyhanna was battered to death five years ago this weekend. His heartbroken parents, Breege and Stephen, last night told the News Letter they come face-to-face every day with the men who murdered their son.

Stephen said: "There's not a day I don't meet those who were involved in some way in Paul's murder. They don't have the guts to look me in the eye.

"It's not the men who beat Paul I despise most. The worst are those who ordered and directed Paul's murder, the 'respectable' people, the ones who rub shoulders with local Sinn Féin figures.

"They mightn't have wielded the iron bars but they've more blood on their hands than the men who did."

The Quinns pledged they would continue their fight for justice until their son's killers are behind bars.

Eighteen people arrested after the murder – including a former driver of local Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy – were released without charge. But sources said more arrests are imminent.

And the Quinns revealed they had been deeply hurt when "snubbed" by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister after requesting a meeting with them.

North Down MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon, sent a letter on behalf of the family asking for the meeting. "Neither Peter Robinson nor Martin McGuinness even bothered to reply. We found that extremely offensive.

"Three years after our request, there hasn't been a word back from them. It seems Paul's life doesn't matter," Breege said. "The letter was sent on 19 August 2009. Lady Sylvia's office have a copy of it."

The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister declined to comment on the matter.

And Breege accused Martin McGuinness of "shameless hypocrisy" for his exhaustive efforts to obtain justice in the Michaela McAreavey murder case while "blatantly ignoring" her family.

The daughter of Tyrone GAA football manager, Mickey Harte, was murdered on honeymoon in Mauritius last year. Breege said: "Our heart goes out to Michaela's family and we support them.

"But why has Martin McGuinness gone out of his way to help them fight for justice yet he blanks us? He speaks passionately about a murder 6000 miles across the world but ignores one 60 miles down the road.

"Martin McGuinness could come down to South Armagh and secure justice for us within an hour because it's members and supporters of the Provisional republican movement – to which he belongs – who murdered our son."

The Quinns visit Paul's grave every day. They're still haunted by the horrific memory of seeing their dead son when they arrived at the hospital five years ago.

"Paul was lying on the bed with a ventilator tube protruding from his mouth, his eyes half open. His head was swollen and there were gashes on his face. His right ear was torn off.

"Every major bone below his neck was broken. The doctors said nothing could be fixed," recalled Breege, breaking down in tears.

"What mother wouldn't be destroyed seeing the child she gave birth to and reared in that pitiful state? As I looked at his broken body, all I could remember was standing at the kitchen sink the day before and him bursting in and lifting me up in the air, full of mischief and life."

After Paul's murder, Conor Murphy said he had spoken to the IRA and was satisfied they weren't involved. He branded Paul "a criminal" and linked his murder to a feud among criminals.

Stephen said: "Paul wasn't a criminal. Conor Murphy blackened our son's name in the most hurtful and degrading manner.

"We're once again calling on him to apologise and withdraw his disgraceful remarks. He should do this not just as a politician but as a man and a father."

Immediately after Paul's death local unionist and SDLP representatives contacted the Quinns offering their condolences, Stephen added: "No-one from Sinn Féin came near us – that says it all."

Paul Quinn was savagely beaten to death in a farm near Oram, Co Monaghan, on 20 October 2007. Around a dozen masked men wearing black military style clothing were involved.

From Paul's toes to his groin, they battered him with iron bars. They used nail-studded cudgels on his upper body.

Two friends of Paul's had been working at the farm that day. IRA members arrived, beat the young men and tied them up in a shed.

The lads were then forced to phone Paul and lure him to the farm by claiming they needed a hand shifting cattle.

Paul drove from South Armagh with another friend to help. When they arrived, Paul's friend was taken to the shed where the other two young men were tied up.

Paul was brought to another barn. His friends heard him screaming loudly as the beating began, begging for mercy. As the assault continued, his voice grew weaker and eventually faded away.

His assailants shouted, "Now you know who the bosses are here!" Paul had several previous run-ins with senior Provisional IRA figures, their associates and relatives.

He punched the son of the local IRA commander after he had forced Paul's car off the road. After the incident, a member of the IRA commander's family threatened Paul with a hammer and warned: "There'll be a body in a bin bag at the side of the road for this."

Paul assaulted another IRA member who had insulted his sister in a taxi-depot. He was told he'd be shot for that.

Stephen Quinn said: "My son wasn't an altar boy. He didn't go looking for trouble but he never ran from it. He didn't like being told what to do by people with no authority. Paul fought clean.

"He used his fists – nothing else. And once a fight finished, it was over for him. Had he been given a thump for clashing with the Provos, we wouldn't have complained. But what happened was wicked beyond belief."

Paul's mother Breege said: "Sick, evil people sat down and planned Paul's murder to a tee. They knew he was good-natured and would never refuse a request from a friend to help out on the farm."

Despite Sinn Féin denials, locals insist the Provisional IRA was responsible. They say the orders came from the South Armagh commander and were approved by the Army Council member known as 'the Surgeon'.

Ex-Sinn Féin Assembly member, Pat McNamee, said: "From the assailants' military style clothing to the forensic cleaning of the barn after the beating, this was the IRA's modus operandi."

October 24, 2012

This article appeared in the October 18, 2012 edition of the Ulster News Letter.

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