Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Dublin’s Minister for Justice have again clashed in advance of the local and European elections in the 26 Counties next month.
On Monday Mr McDowell said Sinn Féin was under “the control” of the IRA, which posed “a clear and unambiguous threat” to democracy.
“There is massive sustained crime in the Dublin area and it is organised by senior officers within the IRA army structure,” he said. “We have clear evidence that when things go wrong with their criminal plans senior members of the IRA intervene to put things right and to make threats to people involved in those events.
“I don’t believe there is any doubt whatsoever but that the IRA are organising very significant crime on both sides of the border,” the minister said.
Mr McDowell said Sinn Féin had a “subservient relationship” with the IRA, adding: “The IRA is an illegal organisation. It is not the worthy successor to the republicans of 1916. It engages in unspeakable acts of barbarity.”
He also challenged Mr Adams to prove his party’s local election candidates had not exceeded the maximum budget for election expenses of 2,000 Euros.
The minister said he found it difficult to accept that Sinn Féin candidates could mount their extensive campaigns within these budgetary constraints.
The latest challenge by the Progressive Democrats politician was rejected by the Sinn Féin President, Mr Gerry Adams at the party’s Dublin election launch yesterday.
“I would say it is obvious that there is going to be a leadership battle within the PDs. This is Michael putting personal ambition and narrow sectional interest before the Good Friday agreement, which has been the most remarkable achievement,” Mr Adams said.
Mr McDowell had been a long-time enemy of the peace process, said Mr Adams, during his time as a “pin-up” columnist in the Sunday Independent. Mr McDowell had to be “fairly muted” in the period immediately after the signing of the agreement, although he had been able to be more vocal again as “the last couple of years have become more difficult. Obviously, there is some point to this. It isn’t just a rant. All of that is fair and legitimate. Where I take issue with him is where he places the peace process into second place,” the Sinn Féin leader said.
He rejected Mr McDowell’s assertions that Sinn Féin was partly funded by the IRA’s criminal activities. “That is not true. The party is wholly independent. The core authority of the party is the ardfheis. That meets annually. There is a free vote where their conference is a bandwagon for a speech,” he said.
Rejecting the Minister’s allegations that the IRA was nothing more than a criminal enterprise, Mr Adams said some republicans might have fallen by the wayside.
However, he said the vast majority of republicans believed in what they were doing, citing the example of those who went on hunger-strike in the H-Blocks and Armagh jail in the early 1980s.
“Republicans get quite upset about all of this. Margaret Thatcher was the one who branded the IRA as a criminal enterprise,” he said.
And he insisted that Sinn Féin had always been open about its expenditure.
“I, as the party leader of Sinn Féin and others have been forward, we have opened our accounts. The Progressive Democrats don’t do this,” he said.
“I believe absolutely in the sovereignty of the people of the island of Ireland. I believe that they are a sovereign people. I believe that all of us in public service and all of us who seek to change the situation must get a mandate from those people to try and make the changes.”