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December 18, 2005

McDowell & Connolly

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News about Ireland & the Irish

TO 12/18/05 Connolly Probe Into Docks Deal
II 12/18/05 Connolly Was Arrested Over 1981 Shooting
SB 12/18/05 McDowell Accused Of Playing Dangerous Game
II 12/18/05 McDowell's Unorthodox Tactic On The CPI Worked
SB 12/18/05 McDowell 'Defending Against IRA Sleepers'
SB 12/18/05 Feeney To Scale Back Irish Interests
SB 12/18/05 Opin: McDowell Vendetta Disguises Hidden Agenda
II 12/18/05 Opin: Sacrifices Govt To Score Pnts On McDowell
II 12/18/05 Opin: Rattling Skeleton In Connolly's Closet


Connolly Probe Into Docks Deal

Frank Fitzgibbon

THE Centre for Public Inquiry (CPI) is carrying out an
investigation into property transactions in Dublin's
docklands, including a deal involving Joe Burke, a close
friend and political associate of the taoiseach.

Even though the centre's $4m (€3.3m) funding from Chuck
Feeney, the billionaire, has been cut off, following
allegations made by Michael McDowell, the justice minister,
about Frank Connolly, its executive director, the CPI has
enough money to complete its investigation and publish a
report early in the new year.

Sources close to the CPI have contradicted claims by
Feargus Flood, the chairman, that financial restrictions
will force it to close at the end of the month.

"We were funded on an annual basis and there is enough
money left to keep us going for another few months," the
source said. "We have been approached by a number of
wealthy people who have expressed an interest in providing
funding but are concerned about becoming media targets."

Contrary to other media reports, no investigation is being
carried out by the CPI into McDowell's decision to spend
nearly €30m acquiring five acres of land at Thornton in
north Dublin for a €300m prison. "The centre has been
investigating the background to a number of land
transactions in the docklands, including the one involving
Burke, and the Treasury Holdings deal with CIE on Spencer
Dock," the source said. "A lot of work has already taken
place and it will be ready to publish in a few weeks'

The revelation that the centre is investigating a deal
involving one of the taoiseach's closest political friends
adds a new twist to the feud between the CPI and the

McDowell met Feeney earlier this year to brief him about
Connolly's background. During the meeting the justice
minister showed the Irish-American philanthropist an
application for a false passport allegedly made by
Connolly. McDowell's claim that the CPI director travelled
to Colombia with a senior IRA terrorist in early 2001
eventually prompted Feeney to withdraw his support from the

The government has already come under pressure to explain
why the state-owned Dublin Port Company (DPC), chaired by
Burke, did not go through a tender procedure before
entering into a joint venture with private sector operators
to develop a 32-acre site.

Burke, a former Fianna Fail councillor and builder, was
appointed chairman of the DPC for five years in April 2002.
His appointment was made by Ahern's government after the
Dail was dissolved for the June 2002 general election.
Ahern responded to the criticism of the appointment by
stating that his political associate had a "huge interest"
in Dublin port.

In 1989 Ahern sent Burke to meet Tom Gilmartin, a Luton-
based developer, who claimed that he was being frustrated
in his attempt to develop a shopping centre at Quarryvale
in west Dublin. Ahern has told the planning tribunal that
this was the only meeting between the two men and that
Burke had not asked Gilmartin to make a contribution to
Fianna Fail "at my behest or otherwise".

Ten years later Burke embroiled the taoiseach in further
controversy when he visited the jailed architect Philip
Sheedy, a former employee, who was serving a sentence for
dangerous driving and causing the death of Anne Ryan. Ahern
told the Dail that Burke, whom he described as "a good
personal friend", had made representations to him about
securing Sheedy's early release.

The DPC acted as a "land partner" in the bid to build a
national conference centre in the Alexandra Basin in the
docklands. The bid was run by the Anna Livia consortium
comprising Bennett Construction, Earlsfort Centre
(Developments) and Kilsaran Concrete.

Fine Gael has questioned the DPC's role in the deal. Under
public procurement guidelines adopted in 2001, public
bodies awarding contracts worth more than €70,000 have to
seek tenders. The guidelines stipulate that auctions or
competitive tendering should be "standard practice" when
state bodies are granting access to property or
infrastructure for commercial arrangements.

Pat Rabbitte, leader of the Labour party, has said there
can be "no doubt" but that any deal between the DPC and the
Anna Livia consortium would be in breach of the code of

A firm of estate agents said that one of its clients would
have paid €15m an acre for the site if it had come up for


Connolly Was Arrested Over 1981 Shooting

Maeve Sheehan

THE former journalist accused by the Justice Minister of
involvement in a plot to train Farc rebels for cash, was
arrested in connection with the shooting of a British
executive in Trinity College, Dublin, in 1981.

Frank Connolly was questioned over the shooting of a
British Leyland executive on March 25, 1981, the Sunday
Independent can reveal.

Geoffrey Armstrong was shot three times in the leg while
giving a lecture in Trinity College. His attackers, members
of far-left group Revolutionary Struggle, claimed the
shooting was in revenge for the IRA hunger-strikers.

In 1981, Mr Connolly, who was involved in Revolutionary
Struggle, was one of a number of people arrested.


Gardai suspected he had information relevant to their
inquiries. He was questioned about the shooting and about
how the guns were procured, but denied any involvement and
was released without charge.

The disclosure is a further blow to the embattled executive
director of the CPI. It emerged last week that Mr Connolly
was convicted for rioting in 1982, after trying to storm
the British Embassy in Dublin during a H-Block march. He
received a two-year suspended sentence.

Minister McDowell claimed that Mr Connolly travelled to
Colombia on a false passport in April 2001 along with his
brother, Niall, and the convicted IRA bomber Padraig
Wilson. Mr McDowell told Chuck Feeney, who finances the
CPI, about Mr Connolly's conviction and his involvement in
Revolutionary Struggle.

Mr Connolly has denied the Minister's claims but has
refused to elaborate on his whereabouts in April 2001.

Mr Connolly also refused to comment this weekend on his
arrest over the shooting of the British Leyland executive.

Mr Armstrong was delivering a lecture to the Junior Chamber
of Commerce in Trinity's arts block, when three men wearing
balaclavas burst in. According to reports, a gunman
shouted: "Everybody freeze, nobody move, this action is in
support of the H-Blocks." Mr Armstrong was shot three times
in the leg.

A far-left organisation, known as Revolutionary Struggle -
in which Mr Connolly was involved - was blamed for the
shooting. Mr Connolly, then aged 27, was among several
members of the extremist group to be arrested and
questioned about the shooting.

Last week, the Sunday Independent asked Mr Connolly the
following questions in a letter couriers delivered to his
office and home:

* Were you arrested in 1981 under Section 30 of the
Offences Against the State Act and questioned by detectives
investigating the shooting of Mr Geoffrey Armstrong at
Trinity College, Dublin?

* Did you answer the questions put to you by the gardai at
that time, or make a statement to them in relation to the
shooting of Mr Armstrong?

* At that time were you a member of a group known as
Revolutionary Struggle?

* Were you given a suspended jail sentence in 1982 on a
charge of riotous behaviour during a H-Block march the
previous year?

* Did you ever travel to Colombia, as stated by the
Minister for Justice, using a false passport?

* More generally, as a journalist, and as executive
director of the Centre for Public Inquiry, do you accept
that you have a duty to answer questions about these
issues, and that there is an obligation on you to explain
these issues?

Mr Connolly told a Sunday Independent reporter who called
to his home on Friday: "I have no comment to make." He
added: "Don't call to my house again."

The CPI came to the defence of its executive director on
Friday. Its chairman, Mr Justice Feargus Flood accused the
Minister of undermining the authority and the independence
of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

He said: "Despite the DPP's decision in March 2003 not to
prosecute Mr Connolly, a private and public blackening of
his character has been unleashed by the Minister."

Garda sources insisted this weekend that the investigation
into Frank Connolly continues. Detectives are awaiting
additional evidence from the Colombian authorities.
Officers who visited Colombia in recent months asked for
CCTV footage and witness statements from the immigration
officials who noted his passport details.


McDowell Accused Of Playing Dangerous Game

18 December 2005 By Niamh Connolly

In a recent interview, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern bemoaned the
fact that his counterparts in Europe had newspapers that
were "sympathetic to them. But we don't. That's a problem
for us."

The Taoiseach must be somewhat gratified then to find
himself, last week, on the winning side of at least one
Irish Independent article.

Even if there has been much disquiet about the Minister for
Justice Michael McDowell leaking documents relating to
allegations about former journalist Frank Connolly, at
least the Irish Independent is on the government's side.

It's hardly surprising that McDowell furnished his long-
time friend, Irish Independent journalist Sam Smyth, with
Garda intelligence on Connolly.

The leaked document concerned a forged passport
application, which was allegedly made by Connolly for a
visit to Colombia in April 2001.

Connolly has denied that he used a forged passport or
travelled to Colombia, but he has not provided details of
his whereabouts at the time of the alleged visit.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decided in 2003
not to bring charges against Connolly, though he only
issued a statement on this last Thursday.

McDowell entered uncharted territory when he exempted
himself under the Offences Against the State Act to leak
Garda intelligence by citing his duty to protect state

Some senior Fianna Fáil figures are privately furious with
McDowell. If a Fianna Fáil minister had used the contents
of a Garda file, he would have been driven out of office,
they said.

McDowell was aware that the Garda file did not contain
sufficient evidence to secure a conviction, yet proceeded
to leak it for partisan political purposes, they said.

Of Fianna Fáil's backbenchers, only Barry Andrews went on
the record to say that McDowell's statements "rang hollow
since Frank Connolly is hardly about to invade the state''.

"There is certainly an acceptance that the technique he
used was wrong, but also there was a strong sense that
these are the rules that the Shinners have been playing by
for 35 years and it's about time they got a taste of their
own medicine," said one Dublin TD.

"The execution of it was wrong, but the net effect was
worth the candle - even Fine Gael is privately envying
McDowell on this."

Ahern will not lose sleep over the situation or the
withdrawal of the €800,000-a-year that the Centre for
Public Inquiry (CPI), receives from Irish-American
billionaire Chuck Feeney.

The body, led by Connolly, was set up to investigate
corruption in public life.

There is a belief within Fianna Fáil that the aim of the
CPI was to inflict electoral damage on the government and
to bolster Sinn Féin in key constituencies.

The CPI has published reports on Shell's controversial
Corrib gas field project and on planning matters around
Trim Castle in Co Meath.

It has denied having a party political agenda and, in a
statement last Friday, said its two reports were "factually
based and devoid of comment''.

"What has been striking is how close the Taoiseach has
stayed with McDowell on this issue," said a Fianna Fáil

"It suits Bertie Ahern's purposes, partly because he has
the same concerns about the financial sources for Sinn
Féin's election campaigns."

But there are mixed feelings within Fianna Fáil about
McDowell's handling of the situation.

"The leaking aspect of it went wrong. It's fair to say that
he overstepped the mark in that regard," said another party

"But there's an element that this is the first time the
establishment has struck out using the law of the jungle,
which is usually used by the Shinners."

There are those in the Dáil who admired McDowell's
"ballsy'' move and a number of Fianna Fáil backbenchers
were impressed by his high-wire act, but his pomposity
could yet prove his undoing.

"I don't think he'd get away with doing it again," said a
Fianna Fáil source.

"McDowell has put his political career on the line on this
one. If Connolly came up with an alibi, McDowell would be
back in the Four Courts in his wig and gown in jig-time."

McDowell's admission last week that he gave the document to
Smyth raised questions about his s elective leaking.

"He's now said enough outside the Dáil that if he's wrong,
Frank Connolly could sue him for libel and take him to the
cleaners," said one legal source.

"You have to have empathy for Frank Connolly in that his
job is at stake, but Connolly could take McDowell out of
his job in the morning if he presented any kind of a basis
to come to the conclusion that what McDowell had said was
wrong. McDowell would be destroyed politically."

The opposition have also tried to make capital from the

Labour's justice spokesman Joe Costello asked how many
other sensitive documents had been passed on for
publication by McDowell and how many more would there be in
the future.

Green Party deputy Ciaran Cuffe said McDowell had begun to
employ the methods of US Senator Joe McCarthy who hunted
for "reds under the bed''.

Although Fianna Fáil's Martin Brady said McDowell acquitted
himself well in the Dáil and that there were no divisions
within Fianna Fáil on the matter, the clandestine manner in
which McDowell leaked the document rankles with other TDs.

They said that if it really was a matter of national
security, McDowell should have informed the government,
called an official press conference through the Department
of Justice and made his information public rather than
sneaking the document to a pal in the media.

"You would have to be concerned about the methods he used,
that he set out deliberately to take out Frank Connolly.
But making this case around the place is difficult," said
one Fianna Fáil TD.

"The fact that Frank Connolly failed to provide details of
his whereabouts at the time means people are not going to
spring to his defence."

McDowell argued that the CPI, in "subversive'' hands, had
"the capacity to gravely undermine the authority of the

Dermot Walsh, Professor of Law at the University of
Limerick disputed McDowell's interpretation. "There is
something uncomfortable when a Minister for Justice says:
'Trust me and trust what I choose to tell you from
confidential Garda intelligence,"' he said.

"Is it a judicially proven fact or is it simply
intelligence they have from sources? This is not evidence,
this is an assertion."

Sources close to Fianna Fáil believe backbenchers should be
delighted that McDowell is doing their work for them by
attacking Sinn Féin, since the main battleground for the
next election will be to win the hearts and minds of middle
ground voters who might defect to a resurgent Fine Gael.

"The biggest chunk of that middle ground have a strong
anathema towards Sinn Féin.

"Their first preference is likely to be number one for
which of the bigger parties they feel is less likely to
cosy up to Sinn Féin," said a source close to the party.

"That's why Bertie Ahern has ruled out going into
government with Sinn Féin, because he knows that, if he
doesn't, he'll drive a lot of those voters to Fine Gael."

Others fear that McDowell could make martyrs of Sinn Féin,
which could rebound badly on Fianna Fáil in areas where its
support base was eroded by Sinn Féin in last year's local

McDowell himself is playing to his middle-class Dublin
supporters who fear Sinn Féin and this could secure his
reelection in 2007.

However, Fianna Fáil could suffer a backlash in
constituencies such as Donegal, Waterford and Dublin
Central, where Sinn Féin is strong.

Fine Gael TDs were visibly uncomfortable in the Dáil over
any perception that they were providing support to Sinn
Féin when they attacked McDowell in the Dáil last week.

"Frank Connolly would not have been satisfied with the
answer Frank Connolly gave on his whereabouts," said Fine
Gael leader Enda Kenny.

But the party of law and order overcame its instinctive
antipathy to Sinn Féin by attacking McDowell on a point of

"Our problem is that we do not know what the threat is
about which he talked," said Fine Gael's justice spokesman
Jim O'Keeffe.

"Was it an invasion? Is it supposed to be the importation
of arms, or was it just something the minister dreamed up
and then, because it was his post facto opinion, used it as
a justification?" said O'Keeffe.

"Second, if there was any such threat, what is the
organisation from which the threat derived? Was it the IRA?

"Our understanding was that the IRA had gone out of
commission and was not now involved in subversion. Is this
not accepted by the minister?"

McDowell is legally entitled to invoke the Official Secrets
Act, but the opposition parties insist that he failed to
convince anyone that the motive was anything other than

"It seems to me that any such activity is effectively
filching a potential court document from a file and using
it to bolster his case by revealing it in a back-door way.
The minister has not given any explanation for that
conduct," said O'Keeffe.


McDowell's Unorthodox Tactic On The CPI Worked

AS MINISTER for Justice, Michael McDowell has a
constitutional right to defend the State from subversion.

But leaking a forged passport application to a national
newspaper was hardly the best way to warn the country of a
threat to Irish democracy, and to exercise his
constitutional right.

His tactic showed poor political judgement, and it devalued
the subversive threat. However, his unorthodoxtactic also

On Tuesday he told the Dail, he was satisfied "on
intelligence grounds" that the purpose of the various IRA-
inspired trips to Colombia (including one allegedly made in
April 2001 by Frank Connolly, his brother, Niall, and
convicted IRA member and bomb-maker Padraig Wilson) was to
barter the IRA's terrorist expertise in return for tens of
millions of dollars from the Farc terrorists.

That money, he said, was to be used to subvert Irish
democracy; either by enabling the IRA to buy more guns or,
more likely, to finance Sinn Fein's political goal -
gaining power in Dublin and Belfast.

Clearly Michael McDowell felt the threat of IRA subversion
had greatly increased this year, after Frank Connolly was
appointed executive director of the Centre for Public
Inquiry (CPI) in February, and after the IRA had carried
out a €40m bank raid at the Northern Bank. And to allow the
CPI to be led by one so closely involved with the IRA in
the Colombia process was unacceptable, he told the Dail.

The IRA, by exporting terrorism techniques to the Farc
guerrillas, was subversive of our national interest, he
insisted. While the IRA, by importing the Farc money to pay
for Sinn Fein's participation in the democratic process,
was "equally subversive of our democratic process".

Michael McDowell's decision to elevate this security matter
into a major public issue was precipitated by Frank
Connolly's repeated denials that he had travelled to
Colombia in April 2001, on a forged passport, and under an
assumed identity. Indeed, since 2002 when this paper first
published the allegation, Connolly has always strongly
denied the charge each time it is made.

What Frank Connolly, so far, has singularly failed to do,
is to account for his movements on April 8, 2001. He has
failed to show that he was not in Colombia on that day, as
Michael McDowell and others have claimed. And he has failed
to uphold the same standards of "accountability" that the
Centre for Public Inquiry has sought to promote, and by
which Connolly, and the CPI, would claim to judge other
public figures in similar situations.

But the Minister, by outlining the nature of the IRA threat
to Irish democracy, also invites the question: why did the
Government fail to alert the public to this threat sooner?
The Government, after all, had known about it since August
2001, whenthe Colombia Three werearrested.

Undoubtedly, Frank Connolly's arrival as an executive of
the Centre for Public Inquiry (CPI) last February served as
the catalyst for government action. As Michael McDowell
remarked on Tuesday, the CPI - in subversive hands - has
the capacity to gravely undermine the authority of the

So he lobbied Chuck Feeney, chairman of Atlantic
Philanthropies, which was funding the CPI, to secure
Connolly's effective removal. And last week he had
succeeded. Atlantic withdrew its funding, having done later
what it should have done sooner: some overdue diligence on
its executive director, Frank Connolly.

The Government's action, however, raises questions about
its consistency on the whole Colombia Three issue. Just a
year and a half ago, the Government was willing to pay a
repayable bond to secure the release of the three, and
their return to Ireland, pending the outcome of the court
appeal by the Colombian authorities. Subsequently, the trio
skipped bail and absconded, and returned here last
September as fugitives from justice.

But if the scale of the IRA threat to Irish democracy was
as Michael McDowell outlined it last week, then the
Government clearly knew about the threat four years ago.

And yet the response of the Government, as late as last
year, showed far less concern about the impact of the
actions of the Colombia Three, there and here. Both the
Taoiseach, and the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian
Cowen, had sent personal messages to the Colombian
president and foreign minister calling for the men to
beallowed home.

Indeed, throughout 2004 the Irish and British governments
chose, largely, to downplay and ignore the evidence from
the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) of major acts
of IRA criminality. The Taoiseach and Michael McDowell,
however, did speak publicly of their concern about IRA
robberies in Dublin port.

But for the Irish and British governments the prize of the
restoration of the Good Friday Agreement seemed a greater
priority last year, and IRA criminality was left as a
residual matter to be dealt with later.

It was also very clear that the IRA was not prepared to
concede what Michael McDowell had demanded in those
negotiations: a clear commitment to end its criminality.
And when negotiations did fail, they foundered on that, and
other issues. The IRA failure to make a commitment to end
all criminal acts was followed within days by the IRA raid
on the Northern Bank. And when that was followed by Frank
Connolly's appointment as executive director of the CPI
with a €4m budget over five years, it unnerved both Bertie
Ahern and Michael McDowell, for different reasons.

For Bertie Ahern, his major reservations about Frank
Connolly were largely based on a libel action the Taoiseach
took, and won. Connolly, who was relying on a statement
made to the Flood Tribunal, had alleged that the Taoiseach
had accepted a bribe on a planning issue. Judge John
O'Hagan said the allegation was "utterly, completely and
absolutely false and untrue".

Once Frank Connolly was appointed as the CPI's executive
director, without due diligence being carried out on the
known and widely-published claims that he had travelled to
Colombia on a forged passport in IRA company to meet Farc
guerrillas, he became a marked man.

The CPI was operating a double standard by holding Connolly
unaccountable for his past actions, by not investigating
the Colombia claims adequately, while the Centre held those
that it chose to investigate to a far higher account. And
all in the name of the Centre for Public Inquiry promoting
"the highest standards of integrity, ethics and

Who shall guard the guardians?

Last week, Michael McDowell was guarding one of the former
guardians. And he was exercising his right to silence.

Joseph O'Malley


McDowell 'Defending Against IRA Sleepers'

18 December 2005 By Paul T Colgan

"IRA-Sinn Féin were well on the way to creating a state
within a state. They were using well-placed sleepers and
collaborators – some of them pillars of society – to
achieve that end."

The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, April 9, 2005.

They are already here among us. It could be anyone.

Your solicitor perhaps, your banker, your accountant or
even your favourite newspaper columnist. They might be
living right next door to you.

Republican "sleepers'', having for years successfully
evaded the attentions of the gardai and the media, lie
dormant within Irish society awaiting their orders to rise
up and seize the apparatus of the state.

This is the scenario unveiled by Michael McDowell at the
Progressive Democrats' party conference last April.
According to the Minister for Justice, Sinn Féin - aided
and abetted by the muscle of the IRA - had, only months
earlier, almost succeeded in creating a "state within a

Analysis of McDowell's speeches over the past year uncovers
a clear line of thinking on republicans.

Speaking in early March, he claimed: "The truth was and is
that the [IRA] Army Council were preparing to transform the
movement by stealth into one in which . . . a lightly-armed
IRA gendarmerie. . . would in future act as the enforcers
for the criminal and control strategy underpinning Sinn
Féin's drive for political power."

His choice of the word "sleepers'' to describe the alleged
republican strategy is particularly savvy.

Popularised in recent years by the rise of al-Qaeda, the
sleeper cell theory brings to mind the sort of cold-
hearted, steely-minded political fundamentalists who crash
airliners into buildings and detonate bombs on busy
commuter trains.

The month before McDowell's April speech, Phil Flynn, a
government trouble-shooter and confidant of Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern, was questioned about an alleged IRA money-
laundering ring in Co Cork. No charges relating to money-
laundering have ever been brought against him.

Flynn, a former chairman of the Irish subsidiary of the
Bank of Scotland, denied any wrongdoing after a company he
had invested in was alleged to have laundered the proceeds
of the €38 million Northern Bank robbery.

Flynn insisted that the company was "clean'' and had
nothing to answer for.

The audacious robbery seemed, however, to help crystallise
the "sleeper'' theory in McDowell's mind. Here you had an
alleged IRA operation, apparently designed to swell the
coffers of the republican movement, with links to hitherto
unblemished "pillars of society''.

In recent days, McDowell has revisited this theory to
explain why he brought down Frank Connolly, executive
director of the Centre of Public Inquiry (CPI).

McDowell's claims that Connolly was central to an IRA plot
to secure "tens of millions of dollars'' from Colombian
rebels in exchange for bomb-making expertise, have caused
huge damage to the CPI's executive director.

Connolly denied the allegations and accused McDowell of
having usurped the function of the DPP and the Garda.

McDowell's initial claim that Connolly had travelled to
Colombia on a false passport came only hours before the
CPI's main benefactor - US billionaire Chuck Feeney's
Atlantic Philanthropies charity - withdrew funding worth €4

The comments, made under Dáil privilege, followed
McDowell's decision to leak documents that allegedly
referred to Connolly, to the Irish Independent.

The minister told the Dáil last week that he had spoken out
against the former journalist because he believed Connolly
would use the CPI to undermine the state.

It does not take a forensic analysis of McDowell's words to
see how he views Connolly's raison d'etre at the CPI.

Connolly has described McDowell's actions as a "witch-
hunt'', while Mr Justice Feargus Flood of the CPI has
described them as part of a "drumhead court-martial''.

Fine Gael justice spokesman Jim O'Keeffe said he had "grave
concerns'' about McDowell's behaviour, while Labour justice
spokesman Joe Costello said the minister had set an
"extremely dangerous precedent''.

McDowell had been busy behind the scenes over the past year
briefing journalists and other interested parties on who he
viewed as a "threat'' to the state. Far from seeking to
disguise this fact, McDowell appeared to take great pride
in his uniquely proactive approach to the justice

Following his appearance on RTE Radio's News at One last
Monday, when he admitted leaking the forged passport
application form allegedly used by Connolly, McDowell said
he was "delighted'' to have been able to do so.

Speaking in the Dáil later in the week, he said it would be
a sorry day when a justice minister chose not to act as he
did when faced with similar circumstances.

McDowell is unlikely to incur political damage from this
strategy. Despite speculation early last week that his
overeager admissions might come back to haunt him, such
pronouncements are more likely to enhance his standing
among the "law and order'' set, while strengthening the PD

Indeed, given McDowell's unwillingness to back down over
the Connolly allegations, he may even seek to "expose''
more "pillars of society'' in the coming months and years.

Individuals or organisations targeted by the minister have
so far had little in the way of legal recourse. Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern said last week that if Connolly wished to
clear his name, he could initiate legal proceedings. While
Connolly could conceivably sue the newspapers that
published articles in 2002 about his alleged trip to
Colombia, he may have more difficulty suing McDowell.

The Daily Ireland newspaper has discovered that it can be
difficult to claim defamation against a government
minister. The newspaper's owners brought a libel case
against McDowell last month after he compared the Belfast
publication to a Nazi propaganda sheet.

In a 3,000-word broadside directed against various
political opponents and published on the Department of
Justice's website last January, McDowell had written: "Will
it [Daily Ireland] be to Irish democracy what the
Volkischer Beobachter was to pre-World War II German

He went on to repeat the claims on RTE Radio and said the
paper, which had yet to publish its first edition, was
driven by the IRA.

Daily Ireland publisher Mairtin Ó Muilleoir claimed the
comments had put his staff at risk and said it was an
attempt to "bully the readers, workers and investors of
Daily Ireland''.

However, the minister's lawyer pleaded "sovereign
immunity'' and said the statements were made on behalf of
the government. He also said that no statement of claim had
been put before the court to corroborate claims that
workers' lives had been put at risk.

Judgment has been reserved in the case, but legal observers
do not anticipate a successful outcome for the paper.

McDowell's critics have questioned whether it was likely
that a clandestine and over-arching republican plot
actually existed to undermine the state. Last April, he
claimed that the money accrued through IRA robberies would
be used to fund Sinn Féin in its pursuit of political power
in the south.

Yet in September, McDowell accepted the word of
decommissioning boss General John De Chastelain that the
organisation had disposed of all its weaponry.

Similarly, McDowell, along with the rest of the cabinet,
accepts the assessments of the Independent Monitoring
Commission that IRA activity has ceased since the summer.

If the war is in fact over, ask the opposition, why did
McDowell choose to say what he did about the CPI two weeks

If republicans have abandoned illicit fundraising, which
supposedly fuelled the so-called "sleeper'' strategy, then
the threat to the state he identified in April has
dissipated - or at least changed.

Tommy McKearney, a former senior member of the IRA who
disagrees with the current republican strategy, said he
found McDowell's claims of sleeper cells "hard to

"What he is proposing would simply be too hard to keep
secret," said McKearney.

"I'd be very sceptical of what he says. I can't recall a
precedent where a once-revolutionary organisation has
sought to undermine a state in such a way.'' He said,
however, that attempts to gather intelligence on political
opponents was not restricted to republicans and was a
simple reality of parliamentary democracy.

"It's par for the course for political parties to seek to
gather information on each other. Any party that gets a
juicy story on its opponents is going to use it.

"Every party to some extent uses some method or means to
trip up the government. But it doesn't go beyond that. It's
the meat and bones of parliamentary democracy."

Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA member now opposed to the
mainstream republican leadership, said he believed
republicans would continue to seek intelligence on their
opponents, but such activity could only be very limited.

"You have to ask how widespread such a thing can be in
democratic society," he said.

"In my view the IRA has made too many mistakes for a
network to be widespread. For example, why didn't they see
the arrests in Cork coming?

"That was an indication of where they are at."

Since doubts about the existence of a vast republican
conspiracy pervade those critical of Sinn Féin, McDowell's
stated belief that the state is under "threat'' may be open
to question.

It has been suggested that McDowell chose to move against
the CPI, not because of any security concerns, but because
it was planning to examine the purchase by the state of the
Thornton Hall prison site in north Co Dublin.

Sources close to the CPI said it had looked at the Thornton
Hall issue, but decided there was not enough information
available to warrant the preparation of a full report on
the subject.

McDowell presided over the decision to buy the site for €30
million earlier this year. Objectors maintain that the site
was only worth €6 million and that other potential sites
had been ignored.

It has also been mooted that McDowell acted on a party
political basis.

He certainly would have received encouragement from his
party colleagues. PD leader Mary Harney recently said: "The
idea of some group of citizens setting themselves up with
absolutely no justification to the wider public is
absolutely sinister and inappropriate."

The minister denied he had acted improperly and would no
doubt maintain that he had access to confidential Garda
information suggesting he was right to have spoken out in
recent weeks.

McIntyre said: "The contention at the moment is no longer
about what McDowell is saying, but about the ethics of
saying it at all.

"He needs to be called to account."


Feeney To Scale Back Irish Interests

18 December 2005

American billionaire Chuck Feeney is believed to have
indicated that he will have little further personal
involvement in Ireland, putting a question mark over the
amount of funding Atlantic Philanthrophies will provide to
Irish projects in the future.

Feeney's decision, which is believed to have been conveyed
to the Taoiseach at a meeting in August, is thought to be
related in part to the controversy surrounding the Centre
for Public Inquiry (CPI).

Ireland's increased wealth and Feeney's decision to
undertake less travel are also factors. Feeney's
organisation has provided around $1 billion in support to
Ireland, notably to the third level educational sector, and
is believed to be planning to fund future Irish projects.

However, Feeney is thought to have suggested to Taoiseach
Bertie Ahern, when he met him at the end of August, that he
would have little further involvement in projects in

Feeney had hands-on involvement in the work of Atlantic
Philanthrophies on both sides of the border and was the
driving force behind its funding of many projects here.

Feeney hired a Dublin investigator in July to look into the
allegation that Frank Connolly who heads the CPI, travelled
to Colombia on a false passport in 2001.

Before meeting the Taoiseach, Feeney discussed the issue
with the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, at a

In November, Feeney had further contact with senior
department officials over the issue.

Atlantic Philanthropies said earlier this month it was
withdrawing its funding of the CPI.

Feeney is believed to have been extremely unhappy with the
subsequent controversy.

Feeney's indication that he is withdrawing personal
involvement from Ireland does not end Atlantic
Philanthrophies' involvement here.

However, it does raise questions over the level of likely
funding in the long term.

Ireland has been one of a small number of countries outside
the United States where the organisation concentrates its
funding - the others are Vietnam, Bermuda and South Africa.


Opin: McDowell Vendetta Disguises Hidden Agenda

18 December 2005 By Vincent Browne

Columnist Kevin Myers made a good point on the Frank
Connolly affair in The Irish Times last Thursday.

He said that "due process'' had no place in journalism -
that is 'due process' as applies in the criminal justice

As journalists, we do not require someone to be convicted
of an offence before we fix the offence on them. For
instance, Frank Connolly, in writing about the €30,000 Ray
Burke received from JMSE, did not wait until a court proved
that the money had been handed over.

Of course, we do - or should - apply a 'due process' of our
own. For instance, we make every reasonable effort to
establish that what we write is true and we should hear all
sides of the case in almost every instance.

But the 'due process' mentioned in relation to the
allegation concerning Connolly is nonsense

It is also a nonsense, incidentally, to contend that, in
the media arena, everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

Did Connolly regard Burke as innocent of having taken the
€30,000 from JMSE because the allegation had not been
proved in court?

It is entirely appropriate to apply the same standards of
accountability to Connolly as he would apply to anybody he
writes about.

Where people in the public arena refuse to answer questions
about their public actions - or their alleged public
actions - we are entitled both to report that and to draw
obvious inferences.

Therefore Connolly's refusal to say, for instance, where he
was in April 2001,while on leave from The Sunday Business
Post, is a relevant fact to be reported.

We are entitled to draw inferences from his refusal to
answer that question, as we would have been entitled to
draw inferences from Burke's refusal to answer questions
about his funding while he was a public figure.

Myers made some of these rather obvious points on the way
to justifying McDowell's conduct in this affair. In so
doing, he avoided every one of the obvious issues that
arise concerning that conduct.

Had McDowell confined himself to commenting, however
stridently, on the known facts concerning Connolly, there
would not be a problem.

However, what he did was to put into the public domain a
document from a Garda file and to represent this as proof
of criminal conduct by Connolly.

Also he used 'intelligence' from that file - and perhaps
otherwise - to state that the Garda Siochána and the
Colombian police force believed that Connolly had travelled
to Colombia in April 2001 on a false passport and that,
while there, he had assisted Farc terrorism and had boosted
the coffers of the IRA for subversive purposes at home.

It is questionable whether a minister for justice should
have recourse to a Garda file, given the improper use to
which such material might be put. It is quite certain that
a minister for justice should never disclose the contents
of such a file.

We have no less an authority for that proposition than
McDowell himself, who said on the Pat Kenny radio programme
in September 2003: "I am not supposed to just throw out
into the public domain facts which haven't been proven in
court against people."

There is good reason for this. Much of what is on Garda
files is false - and inevitably so.

Some of the material comes from informers who have an
animus against the person concerned or a motivation for
supplying false information.

Some of the information is speculative, a lot of it

Some, as in this instance, is based on information received
from other police forces whose reliability is very much
open to question.

Some such information is fabricated by the gardai
themselves, as we have come to know through the Morris
Tribunal. In other words, it is thoroughly unreliable.

The only context in which such information should be
disclosed is in the context of a trial where the rules of
evidence can determine its admissibility and test the
reliability of the information.

McDowell himself acknowledged this in 2003.

To put this information into the public domain without the
safeguards attendant on a trial, as though this information
could be relied upon, is despicable.

McDowell's characterisation of the false application for a
passport as 'proof ' of misconduct by Connolly is a case in
point. It is no such thing. All it proves is that a bogus
application was made by someone, and perhaps that a
photograph was used which bears some resemblance to
Connolly. Were such 'evidence' presented in court, it would
be tested. Its use in apolitical vendetta outside a court
process is disgraceful.

The further use of Garda 'intelligence' based almost
entirely on Colombian 'intelligence' as proof of
criminality and subversion by Connolly is shameful. Do we
not know by now that Garda 'intelligence' is unreliable and
do we not know the worthlessness of Colombian

The blackening of the reputation of a citizen, under cover
of Dáil privilege, by a minister for justice, based on such
'evidence', which he knows - or should know, or at least
suspect is entirely unreliable - is a gross abuse.

What is most disturbing however - and this was not
mentioned by Myers, even though it is an entirely obvious
point – is McDowell's motivation in all this.

The minister has claimed that it is his duty to safeguard
the state against subversion and, when he has evidence of
subversion, it is his duty to speak out and expose it. The
reality is that he has no duty to speak out in such

He certainly has a duty to ensure the police force, along
with the legal and penal systems, are adequately resourced
to deal with subversion.

He may also have a duty to use his office to rally support
against subversion by speaking out against subversion and
alerting the public to its dangers. But a duty to disclose
information from Garda files in the fight against

Nonsense, as McDowell himself implicitly conceded in 2003,
and as his record, and the record of previous ministers for
justice, testifies.

No other minister - in times when subversion was a real
threat - ever resorted to the disclosure of Garda files.

McDowell's motive is to bring about the closure of an
independent, well-funded investigative agency, the Centre
for Public Inquiry.

The PDs have had the centre in their sights since its
inception, devising an array of bogus justifications for
their antagonism. Amid all the posing as angels of
accountability, in reality they hate the prospect of a
truly independent, effective inquiry agency.

McDowell's assault on Prime Time is a further example of

The PDs would prefer the fawning adulation of
'investigative' reporters, who never found out anything
that wasn't in their postbox, or of columnists who revile
other journalists for ignoring obvious issues and then go
on to do the same themselves.


Opin: FG Sacrifices Government To Score Points On McDowell

LET me say this so simply that it can be flung back in my
face by Fine Gael. By failing to support the Minister for
Justice in his campaign to flush out Frank Connolly, Fine
Gael has lost any chance of forming the next Government.
Frankly, I feel a lot safer with Fianna Fail in the coming
struggle with Sinn Fein.

Let me recap my three main reasons for regarding last week
as a mortal blow to Fine Gael's standing with a middle
Ireland which is secretly scared stiff of Sinn Fein. First,
Fine Gael sacrificed its core value - the security of the
State - for the sake of scoring a few petty points over
Michael McDowell.

Second, Fine Gael showed supreme political stupidity in
giving up its position as chief critic of the Centre for
Public Inquiry - which Senator Brian Hayes had won for it
as far back as last February. Third, it showed supreme
media stupidity in helping Sinn Fein shift the media agenda
away from Frank Connolly - who had already targeted Fine
Gael supporters.

In case Fine Gael cannot figure out where it went wrong,
let's look at how the mass media came to shift the critical
focus of the Centre for Public Inquiry story - from Frank
Connolly to Michael McDowell.

The CPI story stretched over two weeks. The first week most
of the media accepted that Frank Connolly was a funny bunny
with questions to answer. But last weekend the balance of
media was shifted by two crucial interventions. The first
was a letter to the Irish Times from Dermot Walsh,
Professor of Law in Limerick University, which strongly
defended Connolly and strongly attacked the Minister

Professor Walsh's lynchpin letter was sent from his home
address rather than from Limerick University. The language
left little doubt where his sympathies lay in relation 'For
a week, Sinn Fein had kept radio silence, in itself proof
that it had a problem'

to this controversy. Remarking that police states
habitually discredit political opponents, he made the
following significant charge: "That, of course, is exactly
what the Minister for Justice did some months ago with his
allegations against the Sinn Fein leadership."

And in the teeth of all available evidence, he endorsed the
CPI which he described as "an independent body working to
expose corruption, to maintain the higheststandards of
transparent, democratic government, and by implication, to
preventthe current slide into apolice state".

The second crucial intervention came the following day,
Sunday December 11, from Jim O'Keeffe of Fine Gael who
cannot resist a phone call from RTE or the Irish Times, and
who pleased the 400 paid-up members of the politically
correct media brigade (but frightened a million voters) by
telling the ever eager Irish Times that there wasn't "an
obvious question of the security of the State here". From
Monday, December 12 onwards, RTE News made Walsh and
O'Keeffe the foundation of a fundamental shift in focus
from Connolly to the Minister.

For a week, Sinn Fein had kept radio silence - in itself
proof that it had a problem. But now, bucked up by Walsh
and O'Keeffe, it felt safe in putting out a statement
calling for McDowell's resignation. By Tuesday, December
13, RTE and the Irish Times were on the same wave-length.
Carol Coulter in the Irish Times marked the media shift.

"When this controversy first broke, much of the attention
focused on Mr Connolly, the allegations against him, and
the manner of his response. The Minister's defence of his
actions has widened the issues at stake . . ." That day
there was only one letter in the Irish Times and it was
attacking McDowell.

By last Wednesday, Sinn Fein spin doctors were smiling.
Fine Gael failed to see that the Connolly issue was a code
for whether it could stand up to Sinn Fein in government.
Instead of backing the Minister for Justice - which would
have looked statesmanlike - it tried to have it bothways by
criticising both Connolly and McDowell. This meant it
muddied the media waters, compromised its core values and
confused its core supporters.

Finally, Justice Flood found his voice. When the
controversy first broke, Paul Cullen of the Irish Times had
reported that Flood was "palpably upset". But now, a week
later, Flood had found his voice and was complaining about
a "drumhead court martial". So what caused the the change?

Had Flood received fresh evidence showing that Frank
Connolly was a living saint? Or had he simply sensed the
shift in the agenda of RTE and the Irish Times from Frank
Connolly as a funny bunny to Frank Connolly as a martyr to
free speech?

Before I go, let me say a word about Dermot Walsh, whose
lynchpin letter to the Irish Times last Saturday week did
so much to change the media agenda. Professor Walsh has
form when it comes to full-blooded intervention. Five years
ago, on Friday, April 7, 2000, the Irish Times carried a
front page story from the Saville Inquiry, where security
documents were cited charging Martin McGuinness with firing
shots on Bloody Sunday.

In an extraordinarily prompt opinion column (published the
same day), Professor Dermot Walsh mounted a determined
defence of Martin McGuinness which has resonance for recent
events. Referring to the allegation, Walsh wrote: "That it
appears alongside the assertion that Mr McGuinness has so
far failed to respond positively to an invitation to give a
statement would seem to lend some spurious credibility to
the allegation. However, when placed in context, and in the
light of the facts, the allegation loses much of its
superficial significance."

The loaded use of phrases like "spurious credibility" and
"superficial significance" signalled that Walsh was not
impressed by the allegations against Martin McGuinness.
Fair enough. But what are we to make of the following?

"Nevertheless, it is difficult to see how it could attach
much credence to the documents in the face of a simple
denial by Martin McGuinness."

From this I can only conclude that Dermot Walsh, Professor
of Law at theUniversity of Limerick, believes that a simple
denial by Martin McGuinness - who at that time was a member
of the IRA's Army Council, a subversive body which lives on
lies - must be taken at face value. Arising from this, let
me ask two questions. First, bearing in mind his benign
view ofthe veracity of Martin McGuinness, is Professor
Walsh, in the light of his academic position, sufficiently
sceptical about the IRA?

Second, if Professor Walsh's response is representative of
the Irish intelligentsia's response to the Raffia's threat
to Irish democracy, do you not, like me, feel a shudder
running down your spine this Sunday morning?

Eoghan Harris


Opin: The Big Rattling Skeleton In Frank Connolly's Closet

SO whose list would you like to be on? According to people
like Bobby Ballagh and the various other sneaking regarders
who have crept out of the closet in the last week or so,
the list you have to worry about being on is Michael
McDowell's. Ballagh and co are afraid of McDowell.
Personally, I'd rather be on McDowell's list than Frank
Connolly's list. With the ripening of time I'd say one
could really grow to regret being on Frank Connolly's list.

But this is how it is now. Apparently, we're not afraid of
the Provos anymore, we're afraid of the Minister for
Justice. And it's not the Provos who are arrogant, it's
Michael McDowell who is.

Amazingly, last week, the rentamob were in a frenzy about
the fact that the Minister for Justice is doing his job,
protecting us from terrorists who clearly haven't gone
away, and securing our safety.

McDowell has been brilliant on the issue. Inspirational. In
fact, McDowell has demonstrated more balls on this issue
over the last few years than the rest of them put together.

Let's try and look clearly at what happened on this

First, Frank Connolly set himself as an arbiter of public
behaviour, a moral watchdog for the nation. Pretty much
self-appointed, by the way.

Now, if you're going to stand in judgement over everyone in
public life, determining whether they have acted ethically
or not, then you're going to have to expect to have your
own ethical credentials looked into. If you're going to
hold other people up to scrutiny, then you're going to get
a bit of scrutiny yourself.

All of which seems to have come as some kind of a surprise
to Frank Connolly and his supporters.

Many of us would be reluctant to set ourselves up as whiter
than white and fit to judge everyone. We might get nervous
that bad behaviour or awkward secrets from our past might
come out - that joint you smoked in college or whatever.

Frank doesn't appear to have had any such worries. Which is
odd, considering that the skeletons in Frank's cupboard
were . . . how to put this, rather more dramatic than some
of yours or mine.

In fact, it turns out that among other foggy areas in his
past, Frank is apparently secretly in league with
international terrorists. It seems that he travelled around
on a false passport with senior members of the IRA. In
fact, according to the Minister for Justice, who I trust
more than I trust the Frank Connollys or the Bobby Ballaghs
of the world, it seems that Frank was involved in getting
massive amounts of money for the IRA in return for them
teaching Colombian terrorists how to kill people.

That's a pretty big rattling skeleton. It is also a
skeleton that's been rattling around for the last two
years, and one which Frank has yet to square away.

Neither has he chosen to sue this paper, which has carried
the allegation more than once. This despite the fact that
this country has some of the most punitive libel laws in
the world. Neither has he chosen to share with us where he
was when he wasn't - as he claims - in Colombia on the
false passport for which we have seen the faked forms.

Frank's defence of himself - denial, with no explanation,
of a completely scandalous story about himself - would
probably not satisfy Frank himself in his role as watchdog
and sword of truth. Frank's economy with the truth has
fallen far short of even his own lofty standards.

The next thing that happened was that the story got even
more definite legs recently when Sam Smyth, of this
company, put in a query about the story. The Government, in
the person of the Minister for Justice, did what we would
all hope he would do, and upheld the rule of law, the
freedom of information and the common good, by passing on
some documents to Sam Smyth that seemed to back up the
story about Frank Connolly's moral watchdog and his
dabblings in terrorism.

But then suddenly, instead of the associate of the gun-
running terrorists being the bad guy, the Minister is the
bad guy. It would be distasteful to use the phrase 'shoot
the messenger', but that's what happened.

To listen to most of the people whingeing on about Frank
Connolly's rights you would imagine he was some poor
innocent dragged from his bed and put up against the wall
and shot. They all seem to conveniently forget that these
are the Provos we're dealing with, that McDowell wasn't
just being arrogant for the sake of it, he was merely being
brave to match the appalling arrogance of the Provos.

So McDowell handed over supporting documents to Independent
Newspapers - and there is even a chance that the story
might not have carried far beyond that. After all, it had
been aired before and had appeared to die off again. But
never fear, help was at hand.

Enter Finian 'Leroy Brown' McGrath, the singing TD and the
kind of gobshite for whom they coined the phrase: 'With
friends like these who needs enemies?' Finian decided the
whole thing should be given a further airing and asked
McDowell about the 'leak' of the documents. And boy, did he
get an answer. Not the answer he wanted, but some answer
all the same.

McDowell laid it on the line concerning what he knew about
Frank Connolly - and then all hell broke loose.

So we get nonsense like Judge Flood suddenly becoming a
stickler for due process and courts, despite the fact that
he himself admitted that most of the dirt from his
tribunals (which was widely reported and circulated)
wouldn't stand up in a court of law.

He told Vincent Browne recently that: "The fact that you
draw a conclusion from the transcript at the moment does
not necessarily mean that you sustain the necessary proof
that would be required beyond reasonable doubt in court.
The tribunal was only a fact-finding body on the balance of
probabilities - that was the burden of proof."

And what does Judge Flood think that balance of
probabilities is about Frank? Because, onbalance, it looks
very bloody damning for Frank. If this was a tribunal,
Frank would be going down.

Indeed, if Feargus Flood was really that concerned about
the CPI, could he not have asked Frank Connolly to step
aside, in order to reassure Chuck Feeney and keep the
funding for the centre alive? He could have simply taken a
leaf out of Bertie Ahern's Ivor Callely book and said:
"Frank, you're becoming involved in too many controversies
and it is damaging the reputation of the CPI. Please step
aside in the interest of the greater good."

Others attacked McDowell on the basis that he was the one
who had stopped cops from sneaking information to
reporters, whereas this was exactly what he had done
himself. Except it's not.

McDowell took a decision to answer a question by making
information pertaining to that question known. He did it
openly, he said he did it and he stood over it. Rather than
a smear campaign, it was akin to Crimeline broadcasting
what the Gardai know about a crime or a criminal or a
suspected criminal, and provided video evidence.

It is a strange quirk of this country that most people you
hear banging on about civil rights and human rights are
people who generally have a sneaking regard for the Provos
- the people who have done more than any other group to
deny so many people their civil and human rights down the

In fact, Provos have given civil rights a bad name in this
country, much as they have given the Irish language a bad

And sure enough, Frank now reckons that his human rights
are being violated by all this stuff, as do his supporters.
Naturally, as usual, there is little or no talk about the
human rights of the victims of Colombian terrorism who have
been at the receiving end of IRA expertise. The focus has
been on the minor inconvenience of Frank Connolly having
his past catch up on him and the apparent human rights
violations therein.

Human rights, my arse.

No one has been hurt by this. Nobody has had their
Constitutional rights infringed. Frank Connolly's
reputation has been damaged - and rightly so, because it
has only been damaged to the extent that for years he posed
as one thing, but has now been exposed as what he really

And it was not Michael McDowell who did that.

It was Frank Connolly himself, when he accompanied the IRA
in their talks with Colombia drug terrorists on the sale of
IRA expertise in murder and mayhem.

I'm not shedding any tears for Frank Connolly this weekend.

Brendan O'Connor

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