Unionists have welcomed a jail sentence of 18 months for alleged former IRA “chief of staff” Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy for tax evasion offences.
The court decision left Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams facing questions over his previous defence of Murphy as a “good republican”.
After voting in Co Louth where he is a TD, Mr Adams was asked if he thought the sentence would have any influence on voters’ choices in the current general election there.
“It shouldn’t have, but we’ll see,” he said.
Mr Adams also declined to comment on the timing of the sentencing, saying his party is “trying to bring about real change”.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “Whilst some people refer to Murphy as a ‘good republican’ the people of this area know him to be a criminal.
“Setting aside the length of the sentence, this man who evaded prosecution for so long, has at long last been put behind bars. Most people will celebrate seeing justice done.”
UUP justice spokesman Danny Kennedy MLA said Murphy was alleged to be one of the most senior IRA figures.
“Now there is a criminal conviction against his name and he will be required to serve a prison sentence,” he said.
“Some Sinn Fein politicians previously said Thomas Murphy was ‘a good republican’. Today he is a convicted criminal on his way to jail.”
Victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer said republicans can no longer use the motto “my brother is not a criminal”.
“At least the Irish government and media seem happy to take on Sinn Fein/IRA,” he said.
“Also, the absence of Sinn Fein [in court] was notable given how they previously described him as a good republican.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said it had been inaccurate to describe Murphy as a ‘good republican’.
He added: “Depriving the Irish state of tax revenue to fund hospitals, schools or jobs is not a republican value.
“A good republican lives up to their obligations to others, they do not seek to evade their responsibilities in the pursuit of personal greed.”