Irish Republican News · February 23, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Storm of criticsm over McDowell statements

Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness has described Dublin’s Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, as the “Minister for Smear”.

Mr McGuinness was responding to extraordinary allegations by Mr McDowell that Mr McGuinness, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and Kerry North TD Martin Ferris are current members of the Army Council of the Provisional IRA.

Reacting to Mr McDowell’s comments, Mr McGuinness said Mr McDowell’s comments were a “grossly disgraceful abuse”.

He said: “I was a member of the IRA many many years ago, and I outlined all of that to the Bloody Sunday tribunal.

“I am not a member of the IRA, I am not a member of the IRA army council. I am one of the leaders of Sinn Féin.”

Asked about Mr Adams and Mr Ferris, he said: “They’re not members of the IRA army council.”

He also accused Mr McDowell of being hostile to the peace process. “People like Michael McDowell have decided that a window of opportunity exists to attack our party, to criminalise our party in the best tradition of Margaret Thatcher.”

He told a republican rally in Belfast that they faced a huge challenge to withstand the “avalanche of propaganda” against them.

The most immediate challenge was the local and expected Westminster elections in May and, whenever “others come to their senses”, to rebuild the peace process.

He said that following Garda raids and arrests last week, a media “kangaroo court” immediately went into operation even though only one person was charged, and of the several arrested only one was a Sinn Féin member.

He described Mr McDowell as the “so-called Minister for Justice, a minister that I describe as a Minister for Smear, for Allegations and for By-passing Justice, challenging my credentials, Gerry Adams’s credentials and Martin Ferris’s credentials”.

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, appeared at odds with Mr McDowell when he subsequently stated that neither he nor Minister McDowell had “personal knowledge” of who is on the IRA Army Council.

And a Fianna Fail councillor yesterday said she thought the Mr McDowell should resign after making the accusations without any evidence.

Councillor Ryan said she did not support any criminality but that there was criminality in Fianna Fail.

She said she was not a member of Sinn Féin but was a republican. “My own party should be working towards the end of partition,” she said.


Meanwhile, the publisher of a Belfast-based newspaper has begun libel proceedings against Mr McDowell after the Minister described the ‘Daily Ireland’ as a “Provo front” and compared it to a Nazi propoganda sheet.

Speaking on Irish radio Mr O Muilleoir said he took the Minister’s remarks about the newspaper very seriously. “They are scandalous, they are rubbish, they are defamatory,” he said.

“So we instructed our solicitors today after his most recent outburst to start libel proceedings against the Minister about his claims,” Mr O Muilleoir said.

The following is a joint statement from Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams MP, Martin McGuinness MP, and Martin Ferris TD issued in response to Mr McDowell’s comments.

Sinn Féin is totally committed to the peace process and to engaging with the Irish government in these difficult times to find a way forward.

Despite our anger at attempts to criminalise our party and its supporters we have been measured in our comments. We have asked others to do likewise as we are conscious that a protracted war of words among Irish nationalists is deeply damaging to the overall process.

However given the seriousness of Michael McDowell’s outburst on the national airwaves on Sunday we have taken the unusual step of issuing a joint statement in response.

We want to state categorically that we are not members of the IRA or its Army Council. Our involvement in the peace process is as leaders of Sinn Féin and as elected representatives for West Belfast, Mid Ulster and Kerry North respectively. As part of this, in the past we have met with the Army Council to put propositions regarding the peace process.

Sinn Féin’s contribution to this process has been substantial and we will continue to play our part.

For some time now Michael McDowell has been unable to distinguish between his role as Justice Minister and President of the Progressive Democrats. He has made countless unsubstantiated allegations against our party and its leadership.

Recently the Irish government accused Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams of withholding information and of conspiring to rob the Northern Bank in December. We challenged the government to stand this accusation up and they failed to do so.

And then at the weekend Michael McDowell made his unfounded and serious allegation that we -Martin McGuinness, Martin Ferris and Gerry Adams - are members of the IRA Army Council.

For Minister McDowell to do this is an abuse of his office.

If his view is shared by the Gardai then the only way this issue can be confronted is for us to be charged with IRA membership.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News