FORMER Irish government minister Eamon O’Cuiv has promised to go to the appeal hearing of two Craigavon men convicted of the murder of PSNI constable Stephen Carroll.
The Fianna Fail TD for Galway West had met with the parents of Craigavon men Brendan McConville (41) and John Paul Wootton (20) in Dublin.
In May McConville was jailed for a minimum of 25 years after being convicted of taking part in a Continuity IRA attack in which Mr Carroll was shot dead.
His co-accused Wootton was sentenced to a minimum of 14 years in jail.
Both men maintain their innocence and claim they are the victims of a miscarriage of justice.
Mr Carroll was shot in the head as he and colleagues were attending an emergency call in Craigavon on March 2009.
Mr O’Cuiv held several Irish ministerial posts and also served as deputy leader of Fianna Fail, a post he stood down from earlier this year.
Speaking to the Irish News, Mr O’Cuiv, a grandson of Eamon de Valera, confirmed that he would attend the appeal hearing which is expected to be held in the new year.
“As I did before with other cases it is my intention to attend the appeal hearing as an observer,” he said.
“That does not mean I have a definitive view of the circumstances of the first trial.
“When I met (the families) they asked me to do that and I am willing to do that.”
The delegation that met Mr O’Cuiv included McConville’s parents Willie and Eileen and Wootton’s mother Sharon as well as supporters and legal representatives.
Willie McConville has described the meeting as positive. He is convinced of his son’s innocence. “Anyone who knows him will know he is not the type of person to do that,” he said.
“He has his political outlook which he is entitled to and was a Sinn Fein councillor.
“If he did have anything to do with it we would not stand by him, we would say he deserves what he gets.
“We believe nobody has the right to take life and we stand by that.”
McConville and Wootton have raised questions about the reliability of the evidence given by a witness known as M during the trial.
They have also raised questions about the DNA and forensic evidence used to secure the convictions.
Last month the pair received high profile support when Gerry Conlon who was wrongfully convicted of the IRA Guilford pub bombing in 1974, revealed that he was backing a campaign for their release.
However Constable Carroll’s widow Kate has spoken of her “total cynicism” about the appeal.
Kate Carroll said: “As far as I am concerned they were found guilty in a proper court of law and I am moving on with my life.
“I am in the process of setting up the Stephen Carroll Foundation, aimed at teaching young people to turn away from sectarianism. I am seeking charitable status and the full details will be available in January. I am also enjoying life with my four grandchildren - there is another one on the way - and these are the important issues in life.”