‘Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy sentencing on day of Irish general election

Thomas 'Slab' Murphy
Thomas 'Slab' Murphy

Alleged former IRA chief Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy will be sentenced for tax evasion on the same day as Ireland’s general election.

The Special Criminal Court in Dublin heard the 66-year-old bachelor farmer owes the Irish exchequer almost €190,000 (£147,000) for eight years of tax dodging.

The non-jury court adjourned sentencing until February 26 to consider examples of similar tax evasion cases.

The court heard Murphy could face five years in jail or fines of up to €100,000 (£77,800) for the tax offences.

Murphy, from Ballibinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, on the border with Northern Ireland, was found guilty last December by three judges of nine counts of tax fraud.

He has been described by Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams as a good republican, while Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said peace was only secured thanks to support from men like him.

Murphy, dressed in a pink shirt and brown jacket, was in court for the two-hour hearing and sat in the dock and shook his head at one stage to confirm he has no dependants.

During the 32-day trial in the Special Criminal Court, which normally hears terrorism and organised crime trials, the farmer sat in the public gallery and did not give evidence.

One of his brothers supported him in court.

Murphy has been living with his sister since he was charged with tax offences in 2007 and he was remanded on continuing bail ahead of sentencing in a fortnight’s time.

After hearing examples of penalties for previous tax evasion cases, Judge Paul Butler said: “It’s a matter we do want to consider in light of the submissions made.”

Sinn Fein has been roundly criticised in the election campaign as it is a longstanding party policy to abolish the Special Criminal Court if in power.

Murphy’s sentence will be dealt with as Irish voters go to the polls and while a broadcasting moratorium is in place on election issues but it will not have any impact on the court report.

In 1998 Murphy, who has no previous convictions, lost a £1 million libel action against the Sunday Times which described him as a senior IRA figure.

In one of only two occasions when he has spoken publicly, he claimed he had to sell a home in order to pay for some of the cost.

Paul Burns, senior counsel for the state, outlined to the judges the assessments made of Murphy’s earnings, taxes owed and interest from 1996 and 2004.

The total tax bill for the eight years was €38,519.56 (about £30,000), the court heard.

Interest built up on those unpaid bills totals €151,445.10 (about £117,000), taking the final bill to €189,964.66, Mr Burns said.

The court was told the figures were based on income of €15,000 (£11,600) a year from the Murphy farm.

“I want to make this clear – Tom Murphy has not made any settlement,” Mr Burns said.

Murphy was charged with five counts under the Republic’s Taxes Consolidation Act and four under the Finance Act that he knowingly and wilfully failed to make tax returns and did so without reasonable excuses.