The Sinn Féin chair of an Oireachtas committee has been branded “an absolute disgrace” by one of its members for refusing to condemn the killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in 1996.
Tipperary TD Martin Browne, who is chair of the committee on public petitions, was called on by government members of the committee to clarify his position over the killing of Garda McCabe by members of the IRA.
Mr Browne recently told his local radio station, Tipp FM, that he would not go as far as his party leader, Mary Lou McDonald who had condemned the IRA killers in a television interview for the killing.
At the committee today, he said he unreservedly condemned the killing in Adare, Co Limerick, but he was accused of uttering empty, meaningless words by Fine Gael Kerry TD Brendan Griffin.
Mr Griffin asked: “Does the chairman or does he not condemn people who kill members of An Garda Síochána in cold blood and leave a wife widowed and leave children without their father?
“Is this something that he agrees with or is it something he doesn’t agree with? He should explain it to this committee or to Dáil Éireann. The chairman has got off the hook on a number of occasions.”
Fianna Fáil Senator Eugene Murphy said: “I was very disappointed to read about yourself and the comments that were attributed to you in relation to the death of Jerry McCabe.”
Responding to the calls, Mr Browne said the killing of Jerry McCabe was unjustified and “I condemn it unreservedly”.
“It was a reprehensible act and I condemn everything about it as my party leader made clear. The act and what they did, and I made clear in a subsequent statement to Tipp FM last Friday.
However, Mr Griffin then asked: “Do you condemn the killers?”
In response, the chairman said: “I am not going to go into it any further.”
Mr Griffin was then accused by Cork North Central Sinn Féin TD Pat Buckley of “character assassination”.
The chair then sought to close the meeting by saying: “I have made a statement there. I am conscious that we are over time.”
Mr Griffin interjected by saying: “I am asking you a simple question, black and white, do you condemn the killers, yes or no?”
“I have made a statement, Deputy Griffin. We’re leaving it at that.”
“Do you condemn the killers?” Mr Griffin asked again.
“It’s a disgrace, an absolute disgrace that you won’t do that. As the chairman of an Oireachtas committee, as a member of the Oireachtas, that you won’t condemn people who killed.”
“I am not going to politicise the situation deputy Griffin like you are trying to do. I have made a statement and like I said I unreservedly condemn the actions and my sympathies go out to McCabe family.”
“They are empty, meaningless words,” said Mr Griffin.