Irish Republican News · December 15, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
CPI was a threat to the 26-County state - McDowell

Sinn Féin has clashed in the Dublin parliament with the embattled Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, over his admission that he leaked official documents to the media in an attempt to destroy an independent government watchdog body.

Speaking in the Dail this morning during Leaders Questions the Sinn Féin leader, Caoimhghin O Caolain TD accused the Minister for Justice of delivering “a fanciful fairytale” in relation to his allegations against the Centre for Public Inquiry and its Director, Frank Connolly.

The body, which has previously received little media attention, has drafted two reports on the planning process, including one on the controversial Shell gas pipeline in County Mayo.

But in a statement to the Dail, Mr McDowll claimed the CPI would have been used to undermine the State if its funding had not been pulled by its US patron, Chuck Feeney.

Last week, Mr McDowell successfully convinced Mr Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies to terminate its funding after he claimed that Mr Connolly, a former journalist, was a “subversive” who travelled to Colombia on a false passport to help train rebels in Colombia’s civil war.

The head of the CPI, judge Feargus Flood, has described the allegations made by Mr McDowell against Mr Connolly as “a drumhead court-martial”.

Judge Flood said he stood “four-square” behind Mr Connolly and his right to a presumption of innocence and due process.

In the Dail the Minister said he had his decision to attack the CPI had been made with his colleagues’ approval.

Mr Feeney’s donation to the CPI had been made “with the best of motives” but “equally it is one which, in subversive hands, has the capacity to gravely undermine the authority of the State”.

Sinn Féin has accused McDowell of violating Articles 38 and 40 of the Constitution, which provide that “no citizen shall be tried, save in due course of law”, and that “all citizens shall be held equal before the law”.

On Tuesday, the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, defended McDowell and stated the Minister acted in defence of “the security of the State”.

In the Dail on Wednesday, Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghin O Caolain said the Taoiseach had failed to elaborate and give reasons for that belief, or outline the nature of the alleged threat.

“The Taoiseach asked us to wait for the Minister’s subsequent statement. The Minister entered the House to deliver a fanciful fairytale.

“The Minister repeated without substantiation his claim that a named citizen, Frank Connolly, was in Colombia on a false passport. Mr. Connolly has not been charged with this offence or any other offence which I know of, let alone convicted of it.

“The Minister linked his allegations to the Colombia three, and he went on to claim that the purpose was to train FARC guerillas in return for large amounts of money for the IRA. He then compounded his allegations against Frank Connolly, again without a shred of evidence, by claiming he was central to this plot. I believe the plot to be a figment of the Minister’s imagination.”

Recalling the trial of Colombia 3 Deputy O Caolain said, “that even the corrupt judicial system in Colombia could not convict the three men of the training of FARC guerillas. The case collapsed ignominiously and it (the Colombian Government) had to resort to a secret appeals process, where the defendants were not even represented, to overturn a verdict reached in open court.”

Dismissing the Taoiseach and Minister McDowell’s claims that there was a threat to the State the Cavan/Monaghan TD asked: “Was it the fantasy of the IRA using money from Colombia to subvert democracy, or was it the case that the Taoiseach viewed the threat from the Centre for Public Inquiry, with Frank Connolly as CEO, as greater to the political interest of the Minister, Deputy McDowell, the Progressive Democrats and the Government?”

Deputy O Caolain went on to compare the case of the Centre for Public Inquiry with the Stormontgate scandal and accused the Taoiseach of being “blind to the facts” if he didn’t see the parallels.

He said, “Does the Taoiseach not see the parallels with the “Stormontgate” situation, where those in a position of influence in a state can fabricate a case against this party, Sinn Féin, and as a result bring about the collapse of public institutions?”

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