Irish Republican News · December 12, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
McDowell admits smear bid

26-County Minister for Justice Michael McDowell is under pressure to resign after he admitted he had passed a Garda document to a national newspaper.

The document related to Kevin Connolly, the executive director of the watch-dog group, the Centre for Public Inquiry (CPI). Mr McDowell claims Mr Connolly was involved in a plot to train Colombian rebels in the country’s civil war.

Mr McDowell used parliamentary privilege to allege that the former journalist also travelled to Colombia in 2001 using a forged passport. Mr Connolly is a brother of Niall Connolly, one of the ‘Colombia 3’ who endured a miscarriage of justice in that country but returned safely to Ireland following similar allegations.

Mr Connolly has vehemently denied McDowell’s allegations, accusing the minister of joining “a witch-hunt”. By using parliamentary privilege, McDowell effectively deprived Connolly of any legal recourse to challenge his allegations.

Atlantic Philanthropies, the charitable trust founded by Irish-American philanthropist Chuck Feeney, said it was ceasing its O800,000 a year funding to the CPI following pressure from the Dublin government.

Speaking on radio on Monday, the Minister revealed he had given the Irish Independent documents he says prove that Mr Connolly had made a “bogus application” for a passport.

However, McDowell did not explain why no attempt has been made to question or arrest Mr Connolly in connection with the alleged offence.

In a statement, Mr McDowell said only “the criminal standard of proof... is not applicable to many aspects of public and private affairs.”

He said the journalist was “a threat to the State’s democracy and authority” and the action was taken for “the protection of the State’s security and the prevention of subversion of democracy”.

McDowell’s behaviour has shown increasing belligerence and paranoia in recent months, launching vituperative attacks on republicans and progressives on a weekly basis.

Mr McDowell told reporters last night: “I am delighted with what I have done, and I will do it again and again and again.”

A board member of the Centre for Public Inquiry, broadcaster Damien Kiberd, said McDowell sought “to deprive Frank Connolly of his right to earn a living as a journalist and by extension to support his wife and children”.

Kiberd said: “Like most bullies he [McDowell] is completely yellow.”

Sinn Féin’s Aengus O Snodaigh said Mr McDowell was using his position to “serve his own ends” and should resign.

“All passport applications are confidential. If one is ‘bogus and fraudulent’, as the Minister puts it, it does not mean that it is no longer confidential.

“The Minister has some questions to answer in this case. Where did he get this document? Did he receive it from the gardai or did he pass it on to the Gardai?

“By passing this confidential document on to the media, he has turned the justice system on its head. The minister’s actions have proved that he is not fit to serve in the position of Minister for Justice and he should now resign,” Mr O Snodaigh said.

Labour’s Joe Costello accused Mr McDowell of “abusing his position”.

Independent TD Finian McGrath had called for Mr McDowell’s resignation before the radio interview saying the allegations against Mr Connolly “breached fundamental principles of the DPP’s office”.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News