A number of leading DUP figures have gone further than their own party and called on Stormont Finance Minister Conor Murphy to resign
MPs Sammy Wilson and Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley are calling on Mr Murphy to stand down.
On Wednesday the DUP issued a statement in support of the Quinn family calling on Mr Murphy to apologise, but stopping short of calling on him to step down.
It comes after Mr Murphy came under pressure to retract a statement he made in 2007 in which he labelled south Armagh man Paul Quinn a criminal only a month after he had been murdered by a gang of men reported to have been members and former members of the IRA.
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson tweeted this morning: “Despite SF’s continual calls for transparency, integrity and accountability, they have once again illustrated that they will always side with the terrorist and not the victim. “If they have any decency, Conor Murphy should be required to resign or be sacked.”
Jonathan Buckley MLA said: “Quinn family said that their son Paul was brutally beaten, had every bone in his body from neck down broken by iron bars,his ear ripped off, his bones sticking out. Murphy stated that Paul was a criminal yet states now he has no evidence!? The man was murdered ! He slurs his name!”
In an earlier tweet he said: “The Quinn family have lived through a tortuous period of grief at the tragic loss & murder of their son compounded by the slur, alienated by the Republican movement. If the Quinn family say Conor Murphy should resign, he shouldn’t have time to get his coat.”
DUP MP for south Antrim Paul Girvan also issued a lengthy statement on the issue.
“The comments made by the Finance Minister are completely out of line,” he said of his remarks in 2007. “The claims made by Conor Murphy are unsubstantiated even by his own reasoning, stating clearly that he could only speculate about Paul Quinn. The Quinn family suffered immense anguish with the cruel murder of Paul Quinn. Knowing the pain of a family from his constituency of Newry and Armagh Conor Murphy callously made claims which would only deepen the pain felt by the Quinn family. Not only is this a major lack of judgement on the part of the Finance Minister but it begs the question were the comments meant to be deliberately hurtful?
“I reiterate my call that Conor Murphy must immediately recall his knowledge about the murder of Paul Quinn to the authorities in Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.
“An apology has been far too long in coming. The mixed message from Sinn Fein on Conor Murphy’s behalf is not enough. A public apology from the Finance Minister is due immediately.”
Ulster Unionist leader, Steve Aiken commented that Conor Murphy`s failure to state Paul Quinn was not a criminal is heaping further anguish on the Quinn family.
“Conor Murphy`s failure to state publicly that Paul Quinn was not a criminal, heaps further anguish on Mr Quinn`s family,” he said. “It`s time he did the right thing. If not, he should explain who or what is stopping him from doing so.
“Sinn Fein`s continued prevarication on this issue means that they are in no position to lecture others about respect, honesty and integrity and definitely not when the RHI inquiry report is published. If the New Decade, New Approach document was meant to herald a new approach to politics in the reformed Executive, Sinn Fein have failed miserably at the first hurdle.
“In Scotland we have seen the SNP Finance Minister resign within hours of being engulfed in scandal, yet the same doesn`t apply in Northern Ireland. When it comes to the conduct of Ministers in the Northern Ireland Executive, why do normal standards not apply as they would do across the rest of the United Kingdom or indeed the Republic of Ireland?”
TUV leader Jim Allister said today: “It is clear that the Finance Minister is unfit for office. He has failed to fully withdraw his slur about Paul Quinn, nor explain why he in later years denied having uttered the slur. There are many convicted criminals in the South Armagh area Mr Murphy is happy to associate with.... Yet he chose to throw the allegation at the family of a young man brutally beaten to death and has failed to properly withdraw it.
“His motivation in the first place is clear to me: it was to take the heat off the IRA. This is a familiar Sinn Fein tactic, seen many times over the the years.
“No where else in the democratic world would such a minister be permitted to cling to office. Yet, in Stormont Sinn Fein brazen it out and the DUP leadership has nothing of substance to say. Expediency has replaced principle on both sides.
“Yesterday I tabled an Assembly motion calling on Murphy to consider his position and, following my proposal, the Committee which shadows Minister Murphy wrote to the Quinn family expressing our sympathy, commending their courage and condemning how the Minister conducted himself. The proposal was supported by all the Unionist and SDLP members of the committee with only Sinn Fein opposing the move. The Committee also agreed to write to the Minister questioning his fitness for office.
“As I said in the committee yesterday Sinn Fein are only offering any apology now because of the pressure they have come under in the Republic in the lead up to the election. There is nothing honourable about an apology which is extracted because of fear of lost votes. If Murphy really wants to help the Quinn family he will give the names of the PIRA terrorists he spoke to about Quinn murder to the police so that they can progress the matter.”
Mrs McDonald said on Wednesday morning she would not ask Mr Murphy to leave his role.
“Absolutely not, we just got powersharing up and running (at Stormont), and I believe that everyone concerned is determined to make a success of it,” she told PA.
“It’s extremely important for the collective good and stability, so no, there’s absolutely no question of that.
“Conor has clarified the fact that he is withdrawing his statement, comments he made over a decade ago and he has apologised for them.
“That’s the right thing to do, it’s the decent thing to do.
“I know that he will be hoping to meet with the Quinn family to talk to them.
“That family have been through a horrible ordeal, I mean I can’t even imagine, to lose their son in such a brutal way.
“Obviously they felt a deep hurt at any suggestion that he was a criminal. To be clear, the criminals in this scenario are the people who beat Paul Quinn to death.
“I think the focus now needs to be in giving the respect due to that family and those responsible for this barbarism have to be brought to justice.
“Conor’s apology is sincere, and I hope the Quinn family take comfort from that and are assured that everybody in every stage are very forceful in saying that the people who took their son’s life need to be brought to justice.
“Let me tell you, if it was my son, I would do as Breege has done and I would not rest until those responsible for his death were brought to justice.”
Mrs McDonald said anyone who has information about the “barbaric” murder should contact authorities.