Mad Mullah Claims to Be Republican

Posted By: March 29, 2013

I am a republican who believes in a united Ireland, says McDowell

Irish News. February 9, 2005

By Valerie Robinson Southern Correspondent

Michael McDowell’s official title in the Irish government is minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, but he has adopted the unofficial role of Sinn Fein’s most strident critic. He tells Southern Correspondent Valerie Robinson that it is time Ireland put political violence behind it

MICHAEL McDowell has earned a reputation as the most outspoken Irish government minister in relation to the peace process, as well as the role Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA have to play.
Since his appointment as minister for justice, equality and law reform, the Dubliner has launched a series of blistering attacks on the republican movement, accusing both the IRA and Sinn Fein of benefiting from criminal activities and failing to adhere to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement.
In response, Sinn Fein has repeatedly accused the minister of “electioneering”, as its support has grown on both sides of the border, and of efforts to “demonise” the party.
However, Mr McDowell remains unrepentant, arguing that there is no place for a party in Irish society that “mixes politics with violence”.
During an interview with the Irish News at his St Stephen’s Green office, the minister is keen to stress his northern family and political roots, a mix of Catholic and Protestant lineage.
His great grandfather William McDowell was editor of the Belfast Morning News, a predecessor of the Irish News, in the nineteenth century before moving to Dublin to work on the Freeman’s Journal.
His grandfather was Eoin MacNeill, born in Glenarm, Co Antrim, co-founder of the Gaelic League and founder of the Irish Volunteers.
MacNeill also served as minister for finance and education in the first and second Dails.
Conceding that his family’s past must colour his political outlook, the minister said: “I am almost 100 per cent Northern Ireland and I would say a good 50 per cent Presbyterian.”
His family had mixed experiences in the six counties, one branch, the Moores, who were Catholic, are recorded as having their Ballymena home “ritually stoned” every July 12.
The minister is also a cousin of famous Belfast author Brian Moore who died in 1999.
Mr McDowell, a barrister by training, saw his own political career resemble a graph of peaks and troughs, from the central role he played in helping Des O’Malley found the Progressive Democrats in 1985, to the loss of his Dail seat in the 1989 general election after just two years.
He was made chairman of the party and regained his seat in 1992 but lost it again in 1997. Two years later, he was appointed attorney general, a post in which he served until his re-election to the Dail in 2002, when Taoiseach Bertie Ahern appointed him as justice minister to replace John O’Donoghue.
During his time on the PD frontbench he has also served as spokesman for Northern Ireland and foreign affairs.
He describes himself as “a republican who believes in a united Ireland. I don’t believe in the border. I believe the only way to live up to the philosophy of the Good Friday Agreement is by bringing about unity by consent. The logic of the tricolour is to reconcile the orange and the green.”
It seems apparent that Mr McDowell also believes that his strong northern links give him a keen insight into the ‘northern debate’, perhaps giving him an edge over other political colleagues whose roots are firmly planted in the Republic.
That may explain his unrelenting belief that Sinn Fein is skating on very thin ice when in the face of criticism it claims to be a democratic party.
“The problem is that it is a central belief of the Provisional movement that the IRA’s army council is the body discharging the power of government of the Irish people,” he said, arguing that republicans have been given “every possible accommodation” to make the transition he said, to full democracy, but have remained wedded to their own beliefs.
Recently, he rejected the IRA army council’s view of itself as the “supreme lawful authority” in Ireland as a “fanciful” notion, claiming they are trapped in a “time warp” that offers no opportunity for progress.
He has also refused to accept the argument that Sinn Fein’s leaders act as a “conduit to harder-line people”.
It is these kind of statements that has led Sinn Fein to claim that its critics, specifically the justice minister, think only of “short-term political gain”, insisting that voters don’t fall for “cheap shots”.
The Northern Bank robbery has once again focused attention on both sides of the border on Sinn Fein’s relationship with the IRA.
With the taoiseach publicly naming the Provisionals as the chief suspects behind the Belfast raid and basing his allegations on security information from the gardai and the PSNI, the peace process has been brought to a grinding halt, with claims and counter-claims flying in both directions.
The Cabinet yesterday considered the report of the International Mon-itoring Commission (IMC) on the robbery. It is widely speculated that the report, which is due to be made public tomorrow places full blame on the IRA for the raid and recommends sanctions against Sinn Fein.
However, Mr McDowell has said that political sanctions are not the way
to go, instead he believes “very strongly in the sanction of political opinion”, with voters having the most decisive say.
Referring to comments by the Catholic Primate of All Ireland Dr Sean Brady, he said: “There is no longer any mandate for the use of violence or the threat of violence.”
In a homily last week, Dr Brady said “no warped moral logic can ever regard activities such as armed robbery, racketeering and maiming as anything other than gravely contrary to the common good and therefore criminal, sinful and a constant threat to justice and peace”.
Mr McDowell said that Sinn Fein’s past successes at the polls were based on voters’ belief that the IRA would “give up violence”, but now they are “wrecking the Good Friday Agreement by their failure to deliver on that commitment”.
He rejected the suggestion that the Irish government was in danger of alienating republicans by coming down hard on Sinn Fein, adding: “There is no question of us coming down hard on anybody. The government is doing the exact opposite.”

Unwilling to speculate on the outcome of the upcoming Westminster elections, the minister said he was not in favour of a “first past the post system”, favouring instead the proportional representation system that “gives minorities fair representation”.
The PR system has ensured that the political landscape in the Republic is not exclusively dominated by Fianna Fail and Fine Gael to the benefit of parties such as the Progressive Democrats and Sinn Fein.
Mr McDowell stands firm in his assertion that he is acting on “very good information” when he accuses the Provisionals of involvement in criminality – a claim that continues to spark a furious reaction from Sinn Fein.
In an interview with the Irish News last year, Sinn Fein MEP Mary Lou McDonald, accused her party’s accusers, particularly Mr McDowell,
of trying “try-ons or political tactics”.
She insisted that Sinn Fein did not tolerate crime, adding that if there was any evidence of criminal activity then those responsible should be “prosecuted through the normal channels”.
But the minister pointed out that there had been a series of major robberies throughout Ireland that have been linked to the IRA by gardai or the PSNI.
He also repeated a claim that a number of major crimes in the Republic, including the theft of “high value goods” were organised last year by the “adjutant of the IRA’s Belfast brigade”.
“I went public on that and got the usual rubbish but that criminality stopped when it came under the spotlight.”
Describing the murder of Robert McCartney outside a Belfast bar and the subsequent attacks on PSNI officers in the Markets area as “sinister”, the minister said: “This kind of thing is not acceptable north or south of the Border. The only way to stop it is if people say that it is unacceptable.”
“Republicans are not being forced into a corner. Robbing banks or high value goods isn’t putting them in a corner. Breaking young men’s legs or shooting them in the hands must stop. [Punishment attacks] are not a cultural thing, they are criminality.”
The gardai and the PSNI have
developed a “very good” working relationship in recent years, working together to tackle cross-border crime, he says.
Mr McDowell and the Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy will be in Belfast later this month to sign a protocol for the transfer of officers between the two forces.
The joint PSNI and Garda investigation into the 1998 Omagh bombings
has yet to see the bombers brought to justice.
Investigators and relatives suffered a blow when the conviction of Dundalk man Colm Murphy was quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal. He is currently on bail awaiting retrial.
It has also been marred by the news last month that two Garda detectives involved in the early investigation into the bombing are to be tried for perjury.
Mr McDowell refused to comment on either case as they are due to come before the courts but said he remained “hopeful” that the bombers would one day be brought to justice.
“I hope they will be brought to justice but as time goes by it becomes more difficult. It was a horrific crime and I have to congratulate the gardai for their actions in preventing equally large bombings.
“Dissidents operate on the same basis as the Provisionals – that all of this is justified, that it is wrong but not criminal to blow 30 people apart.”
He went on to criticise the claim by Sinn Fein representative Mitchel McLaughlin that the IRA’s 1972 murder of widowed mother-of-10 Jean Mc-Conville was not a crime, as “lunacy”.
And he stressed that the IRA killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, gunned down during a botched robbery in Co Limerick in 1996, would not be freed from prison early.
The controversial non-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin, set up at the beginning of the Troubles, looks set to continue during Mr McDowell’s term as justice minister or “as long as there is a significant paramilitary presence in Ireland that is willing to intimidate jurors and witnesses”.
Mr McDowell believes that it is now up to voters to decide the future of Northern Ireland and the peace process, saying that they must “stand up for democracy” and heed the words of Dr Brady if a lasting resolution to the Troubles is to be secured.