Mad Mullah in a BlueShirt

Posted By: March 08, 2005

Mad Mullah in a BlueShirt

We have received many requests for information on the Irish Minister of “Justice”, Michael Mc Dowell, who has been called The Mad Mullah by the Star newspaper.We have added the title ” in a BlueShirt” to better convey his Irish antecedents.

Mr. Mc Dowell, an early opponent of the peace-process, does not believe in due process and has notched up an incredible record of contempt for law and civil liberties.

Here is some useful readings on the man who has steamrolled Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, to flip-flop on the peace-process:


Irish Independent. Tuesday, February 8, 2005

The black and white world of Michael McDowell

He’s the poster boy for middle-class values and the bane of Sinn Fein; he’s arrogant, outspoken and quite possibly the most ambitious politician in Ireland. Sam Smyth profiles the ‘very, very clever’ Minister for Justice.

The Provos blame him for the latest crash on the road to peace while others credit Michael McDowell with bringing plain-speaking logic back to the process. Anywhere Sinn Feiners gather the Minister for Justice is feared and loathed. Yet he’s the much-admired poll-topper in his well-heeled Dublin constituency.

For two months now he’s been demanding that the Provos end their criminality, and that ultimatum prompted the IRA’s disengagement from the peace process on Wednesday. McDowell’s unwavering stance would surely have been in the minds of the authors of the IRA’s updated threat to the government on Thursday evening.

Yet every time they identify McDowell as the enemy, the Provos make new friends for the tough-talking minister. Silencing Shinner-speak’s “constructive ambiguity” and addressing the peace process logically in plain language has shifted middle-of-the-road public opinion significantly away from the Adams-McGuinness axis.

This totem of middle-class values, a saint in the latter day church of liberal intellectuals would also love to be Taoiseach, although that is as unlikely as him becoming an astronaut or a train driver. But his unbridled ambition in tandem with a keen intellect and unquestioned competence has delivered him to one of the senior offices of government.

Everyone who knows him – and many of those who don’t – has a definite opinion on Michael McDowell, including his colleagues in the Progressive Democrats where he is party president.

Others are wondering if Michael McDowell’s swashbuckling presidential style can be morphed into a leadership role in the PDs.

When asked if he would like to be leader of the PDs, McDowell is characteristically blunt: “There is no vacancy.”

Mary Harney says she has no intention of standing down. She means what she says; so does he.

Speculation that Mary Harney might consider resigning as party leader was quashed when she accepted the ultimate political poisoned chalice and signed up as Minister for Health. There have been tensions between them in the past but the party’s leader and the president now have a good working relationship.

It is difficult to see any circumstances where McDowell would challenge Harney for the leadership. However, one member of the parliamentary party said that if Mary Harney was run over by the metaphorical bus, McDowell is her obvious successor.

He is not universally loved by his party colleagues or other members of the government, although even those who dislike him respect Michael McDowell. And respect is a more durable currency in politics than affection.

“The parliamentary party is in awe of him when he addresses them,” said one of them. “He is very, very clever and they listen very carefully when he has something to say.” However, the confidence about his opinions and his certainty about everything else can irritate other colleagues: “Michael is never wrong. He just changes his mind to accommodate new information,” said one of his party colleagues with a tincture of sarcasm.

Liz O’Donnell was his principal rival, although Tom Parlon also thinks he has the right stuff to be leader of the PDs. However, according to one party colleague, Liz O’Donnell made two mistakes that have seriously impeded her chances in a future leadership contest: she declined a place in Government after the election in 2002 and made a bad judgement by criticising Michael McDowell’s uncompromising stand against the Sinn Fein last year.

Tom Parlon is a competent minister of state and a shrewd politician but his rural ambience is not the home of urbane PDism. He has made no secret of his goal but Tom Parlon’s ambition is not shared by many of his colleagues, in or out of the parliamentary party.

McDowell, a founder of the party 19 years ago with Des O’Malley and Mary Harney, is very proud that the PDs punch way above their weight. They have had a much greater influence on public policies – from the lower taxes that propelled the prosperity of the ongoing economic boom to the Good Friday Agreement – than the much larger Fine Gael and Labour parties.

Old Fine Gaelers believe he is their lost leader and many of them canvassed for him against their own candidate in the general election when he topped the poll in June 2002. And his blue blood credentials provoke a curious blend of admiration, envy and contempt from the Fine Gael party across the floor of the Dail.

Yet McDowell’s great strength is also his Achilles heel. A politician driven by principle and moral certainty is susceptible to charges of arrogance. And being right most of the time is not an endearing quality to others make occasional mistakes.

He has a good relationship with the Taoiseach, the ultimate pragmatist whose consummate wheeling and dealing skills are the opposite of the principled advocacy espoused by McDowell. “Everything in Michael’s world is absolute, black and white, right or wrong and anyone who disagrees with him or challenges his view is seen as an enemy,” said one veteran McDowell-watcher.

Yet the Minister for Justice can play rough when the occasion demands it. He gave as good as he got in his ongoing battle with the Star, the tabloid where he is known as the “Mad Mullah”. He described their criticism of him as “methane from the pond life of Irish journalism” thus extending the shelf-life of their row.

McDowell has impressed colleagues with his management of the prison service and his plans to reform the Gardai will be easier to judge when the current investigations into the force have all been completed.

Fianna Failers who saw him seize the anti-Sinn Fein initiative from Fine Gael after Enda Kenny raised the possible release of Garda Jerry McCabe’s killers, say they do not think McDowell would have been so prominent if Brian Cowen was still Minister for Foreign Affairs. Yet even FFers give McDowell’s hard line on Sinn Fein some of the credit for the government parties’ recovery in the opinion polls after their disastrous results in the local and European elections.

The Labour Party see him as a class enemy but like him because they know that if the circumstances changed, McDowell could be just as coruscating and offensive to Fianna Fail as he is to them.

However, like the government he serves in, McDowell’s own performance as a minister has been weakened by a weak opposition. Joe Costello, the Labour spokesman on Justice, has made no impact and Fine Gael’s Jim O’Keeffe has not had enough time to fix McDowell in the crosshairs of his parliamentary attack.

Oratorical skills honed in the Four Courts have made McDowell one of the handful of speakers worth listening to in the Dail and he clearly enjoys the cut and thrust of the chamber. And many of his adversaries are surprised to find McDowell good company in the bar and helpful in his office.

Sinn Fein reserve a special place in their hate parade for him but even his most trenchant opponents believe the Dail and Irish public life in gerneral would be much poorer without Michael McDowell.


The Editor
The Irish Echo
Saturday, January 22, 2005

Dear Editor,

Anne Cadwallader’s fine article ,”Minister attacks new North paper” ( January 19 -25) made truly alarming reading. It explained how the Irish Minister of Justice, Michael Mc Dowell ,launched an extraordinary verbal attack on the new Irish newspaper that is to be published in Belfast next month, Daily Ireland.

Ms. Cadwallader explained : ” Unashamedly supporting a united Ireland, and expected to take a strongly nationalist editorial line, the paper was compared to Nazi propaganda last weekend by the Irish minister for justice, Michael McDowell”

Out of all Mr. Mc Dowell’s extremist statements — and there have been so many since he became justice Minister — this may well be the most shocking. Can you imagine outgoing Attorney General, John Ashcroft, for all his faults, ever issuing such a irresponsible rant against a legitimate American newspaper? It would , quite rightly be seen as an egregious abuse of power, and he surely would be held accountable.

But there’s another reason why I find Minister Mc Dowell’s outburst so distressing : one of the precious dividends of the Irish peace process was that it, in my mind, ended the Irish Civil war mentality of government officials in Southern Ireland. I felt so many of them seemed to be out to prove that their fathers or grandfathers were on ” the right side” in the Civil War.

That, in part, led to many of them having a terrible attitude to the North, which , I have always believed, was one of the main reasons why the conflict just kept spiralling… Just consider the bad old days of Jack Lynch, Dessie O’Malley,Conor Cruise O’Brien and Garret FitzGerald. If those guys were still in power in Southern Ireland, there would be no peace-process today.

The then Irish Prime Minister, Albert Reynolds , God bless him, had the vision and patriotism to endorse the peace-process launched by John Hume and Gerry Adams in the 1990s . And since that time the Irish government has played an admirable and totally crucial role in the process… And I was so deeply grateful.

But now I fear the rantings of Minister Mc Dowell could drag us back to the bad old days, and that would break this Fermanaghman’s heart.

Father Sean Mc Manus


st widely read Irish American Newspaper

Irish Echo editorial: Put up or . . .

January 28, 2004

The allegations by Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell that Sinn Fein benefits from the proceeds of IRA racketeering, smuggling and robbery have cast an ugly shadow across the Northern peace process.

His claims, so far unsubstantiated, have further fueled unionist intransigence. The Democratic Unionist Party, quite rightly, points out that if members of Bertie Ahern’s coalition government harbor suspicions about the integrity of Sinn Fein and refuse to countenance sharing government with republicans, then they cannot expect unionists to enter Stormont with the party.

So far McDowell has refused to back up his claims with hard facts. As the minister whose job it is to preside over the administration of justice in Ireland it would not be too much to expect that allegations that appear to be party political in nature would be more firmly rooted in the rules of legal evidence. This is an extraordinary position for a justice minister to take. Not only this, but McDowell has apparently won the tacit approval of the taoiseach in pursuing this attack on Sinn Fein at a most crucial political time in the North.

Ahern went so far this week as to berate Sinn Fein’s chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, for daring to point out that planning corruption was rife among the Southern parties — not least Fianna Fail.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Ahern, while unable to clarify McDowell’s vague claims, said one Sinn Fein office in the North employed 18 people — more than any party in the 26 counties. Was Ahern attempting to undermine Sinn Fein and thus deflect legitimate criticism of his own party?

With members of Fianna Fail expected to be called before the Mahon Tribunal just before the onset of the European and council elections, Ahern may be hoping to dampen criticism from wherever it might emanate.

Ahern and McDowell would do well to clear up the issue of Sinn Fein finances once and for all. They are doing their own reputations little good by issuing cloaked statements about Sinn Fein without any apparent willingness to back them up. The Irish electorate is fully aware that it is an election year, both Euro and local. It will not fall for anything it suspects to be party politicking. Nor will it appreciate the pursuit of short-term political gain to the detriment of the Good Friday agreement in the North.

This story appeared in the issue of January 28-February 3, 2004


McDowell’s Northern Drama

Sunday Business

27 February 2005 By Pat Leahy

Is Michael McDowell trying to remake single-handedly the Northern peace process? In recent weeks, McDowell has been a whirlwind amalgam of propaganda supremo, chief of police, polit! ical leader and chief negotiator.

He has tormented Sinn FÈin and the IRA, attacking them as common thugs, as mafiosi wedded to a vast criminal underworld and unreconstructed political subversives, dedicated to the overthrow of the state.

Against them, McDowell stands by his principles and by the Republic. The fact that he has accepted Sinn FÈin’s bona fides at a time when criminal activity was taking place and worked closely with the party’s leaders in the past three years has tended to be overlooked.

Sitting in the D·il chamber watching Sinn FÈin deputies fume at him, McDowell has the look of a man who has waited all his political life for this role.

Lionised by editorial writers and columnists (showing ìleadership’ë and ìdecisiveness’ë, said the Irish Independent), he appears to many observers as if he is having the time of his life.

McDowell may be enjoying himself. But is he doing real and possibly lasting damage to the prospects of a settl! ement in the North, the return of self-government to its citizens and the establishment of political norms there?

His supporters say he is seeking much-needed clarity on issues that have been too long fudged, but are his outpourings counter-productive to the government’s stated aims? Is he weakening a republican leadership that wants to deliver a deal?

These questions were being asked in government circles last week, as opposition parties sought to exploit apparent divisions between Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and his minister for justice.

Some Fianna F·il backbenchers, never convinced as fans, were privately hostile.

Sources close to several Fianna F·il ministers said that while they sympathised with McDowell’s analysis – and shared his feeling of having been betrayed by Sinn FÈin – he should now ìshut up for a while’ë.

ìHe doesn’t realise that his statements are heard differently in the North than they are in the South,î said one insider.

Anoth! er well-informed source agreed: ìMichael doesn’t understand how different the North is. It’s not that what he’s saying isn’t understood in the North, it’s that it’s understood differently.î

Briefings from government sources appeared in newspapers, cautioning McDowell that Ahern viewed his continued outbursts as unhelpful.

These were widely assumed to have come from Government Buildings and with Ahern’s authority.

That the reports were followed by a stirring defence of his justice minister by the Taoiseach in the D·il last Wednesday doesn’t mean they were inaccurate or ill-sourced – it’s simply the way that Ahern often sends out messages.

Nevertheless, Ahern’s insistence that the government sings from the same hymnsheet couldn’t hide the divergence between his analysis and McDowell’s of the state of play within the republican movement.

McDowell disputes what he calls the ìhard men/soft men’ë picture of the republican movement, in which Adams a! nd McGuinness edge the IRA nearer and nearer to disarmament and ultimate disbandment in return for demonstrable political gains that they can ìsell’ë to the IRA.

Instead, McDowell insists that the republican movement is united under a single leadership comprised of Adams and McGuinness, and the rest of the army council.

But, in recent days, Ahern has explicitly expounded the ìhard men/soft men’ë version of the world. If, as the government (and others), repeatedly insists, the ìball is in Sinn FÈin’s court’ë, then the most important question of the process now concerns the internal dynamics of the republican movement. That the Taoiseach and his Minister for Justice should have such differing analyses on this question is alarming some high-ranking officials.

Last Wednesday, Ahern attempted to move beyond these questions with a masterful performance in the D·il, centring on his ìwhat matters is getting a deal’ë conviction. But can McDowell now be part of achi! eving that deal?

Definitely, said one government insider.

ìTo be honest, I think he’s setting up a good cop-bad cop operation. But there also another reason behind all this – McDowell can’t stay away from a microphone.î

Another said: ìFor God’s sake, you don’t always have to say what’s on your mind.î

In one way, McDowell represents everything that Sinn FÈin detests about the ìDublin Establishment’ë. When many Sinn FÈin leaders were in jail, on active service with the IRA or simply throwing stones at the RUC in Derry, McDowell was gliding from Gonzaga to UCD to the Law Library.

Sinn FÈin views him as the epitome of the Cumann na nGael/Dublin professional/Free State mentality which was content to abandon Catholics in the North to their fate, preferring to secure the gates of the fearful Southern state and their privileged place within it. McDowell views Sinn FÈin, at its worst, as simply a group of fascists.

There are undoubted class and cu! ltural elements to the current mutual antipathy between McDowell and Sinn FÈin. But McDowell’s distaste for the republican movement comes also from his sense that the party’s electoral advance in the South – funded and supported by the IRA – represents a threat to the democratic integrity of the state.

What would happen if it held the balance of power, backed by an intact criminal and subversive infrastructure?

ìMichael came late to the team,î said one veteran of the peace process. ìHe’s only been on board for awhile.î

McDowell was an early and bitter critic of Hume and Adams and of their talks that led to the ceasefires and the peace process.

He denounced them as having ìset back the inter-community peace process very significantly .. . . doomed to failure’ë.

He opposed the lifting of Section 31, the granting of a US visa to Gerry Adams and regularly castigated Albert Reynolds’ government for its gestures to republicans. At one stage, he criticis! ed Reynolds for using the word ìdemilitarisation’ë in relation to the North.

But since he joined the cabinet as attorney general in 1999 and subsequently became part of the cabinet’s decision-making processes as minister for justice, McDowell underwent something of a green awakening. Fianna F·il, which never had a comfortable relationship with him, was thrilled with its new pal and he developed a close relationship with the Taoiseach.

And while he has continued to criticise Sinn FÈin and challenge the legitimacy of its claims to republicanism – most notably in a series of closely argued and rigorous speeches in the last 18 months – he has been an integral part of the government’s negotiating team. He has granted concessions in return for disarmament and ultimate disbandment of the IRA.

He was willing, for instance, to release the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe. And, during those negotiations, it doesn’t seem to have bothered him unduly that he was negotiati! ng with the men he said were members of the IRA’s army council.

ìOf course we knew we were dealing with guys from or close to the army council,î said one participant. ìIt was on that basis that we were dealing with them. We knew we were dealing with the right guys.î

But McDowell’s recent rhetoric is directly reminiscent of his Sunday Independent phase in the early to mid1990s. It’s almost as if he is playing out his own internal conflict about the peace process on the stage of public debate.

He’s hardly an obvious drama queen, but there’s more than a hint of him displaying an exaggerated sense of his changing convictions and analyses. For a master of rational argument, said those that know him, he was also quite an emotional man. With McDowell, it’s all on a heroic scale.

But the peace process is not a plaything, say some critics in government, concerned that his intemperateness is pushing events to where they assume a momentum of their own. The process ! has delivered enormous benefits to Ireland, both North and South, they argue.

It’s not a stage on which McDowell should play out his internal dramas.

There is little doubt that the events of recent weeks have effected a paradigm shift in the key relations of the peace process, one that has been singularly to the disadvantage of republicans.

But if the baby is thrown out with the bathwater, said the peace processors in government, republicans would be far from the only losers.


Mc Dowell Praised by KKK

South rejects KKK praise

Irish News. Friday, July 16, 2004

By Valerie Robinson Southern Correspondent

OFFICIALS in the Republic have angrily rejected media reports of praise from the Ku Klux Klan following the Irish government’s successful citizenship referendum campaign.

The state’s electorate last month voted to support the government’s motion for a change in the citizenship laws, restricting the rights to citizenship of babies born to non-national parents on the island of Ireland.

During the campaign, Justice Minister Michael McDowell rejected claims by human rights groups that the referendum would encourage racism.

In an article in Dubliner magazine this week, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke paid tribute to the justice minister for “trying to protect the people against immigrants”.

“The passing of this referendum is an amazing step for Ireland and the Irish people. Thank you, Minister McDowell, for defending the heritage of our mothers and fathers. The European world is being overwhelmed (by immigrants),” he said.

And the head of the far-right Afrikaner Resistance Movement Eugene Terreblan-che, said: “For our people in South Africa you are really an inspiration, I congratulate the minister on trying to protect the people against immigrants who they don’t want to be in Ireland.”

A spokesman for Mr McDowell last night accused the magazine of seeking quotes from people who “know nothing about the country or the referendum”.

He said: “The referendum was about bringing the Constitution back to the way it was before the Good Friday Agreement, to the same status as the 24 other European Union countries.”

However, Latif Serhildan, a Cork-based member of the Irish Refugee Council said he was not surprised that racist groups in other countries would single out the Irish government for praise.

“The minister for justice sent out signals during the referendum campaign that it was okay to tell immigrants to go home,” he said.

“Ordinary people follow the leadership of politicians. People I’ve met have been disappointed by the referendum.”

And Labour’s justice spokesman Joe Costello said his party had warned that the passage of the referendum and the consequent legislation, “could well send the wrong message about Ireland to the rest of the world”.

“The party accepted the outcome of the referendum and we have accepted too that for the majority of people who voted yes this was seen as a sensible change.

“But it is clear that for some, at least, the message that has gone out is that racist instincts were at play in that referendum campaign.”

Mr Costello said the fact that extremist groups in the US and South Africa welcome the removal of the right of Irish citizenship from non-national children born in Ireland was a “continuing indictment of the motivation behind the referendum in the first place”.

Mr Costello called on the minister to ensure that when he is regulating citizenship that he also brings in reforms of the immigration law and ensures that all forms of exploitation and injustice are removed from the way in which immigrants and asylum seekers are treated.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties called on the government to take steps to counteract myths circulating about immigrants and asylum seekers.


McDowell should learn lessons from history

Sunday Business Post Sunday, March 06, 2005 – By Brian Feeney

Nearly 50 years ago, the British government arrested Archbishop Makarios, the Greek Orthodox primate of Cyprus, and exiled him to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.

Makarios was not only the spiritual leader of Greek Cypriots, but was also their political leader. He had been campaigning for enosis, or union with Greece.

In 1957, British intelligence bugged his phone and discovered that he was in league with Colonel Grivas, leader of Eoka, the military organisation fighting to expel the British from the island.

When Makarios refused to condemn Eoka, the British exiled him. The result was an upsurge in Eoka activity across Cyprus, requiring reinforcements of British troops. By 1958, Makarios was back negotiating with the British and, two years later, he was president of Cyprus.

No doubt a man of Michael McDowell’s erudition is well aware of the role Makarios played, and the similar roles of men like Menachem Begin, leader of the Irgun in Palestine.

The terrorist, pursued and imprisoned by the British, later became Israeli prime minister.

Makarios stood down Eoka after 1960. Begin stood down the Irgun after 1948. Only Makarios and Begin could have done that; the British had tried for years and failed.

So why is McDowell so anxious to out Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness as IRA leaders and undermine their capacity to negotiate politically on behalf of the republican movement?

McDowell must know that previous attempts anywhere in the world to push aside political people in a politico-military movement produced two inevitable consequences. First, the destabilisation of the movement, usually with an increase in violence.

Secondly, there is the eventual return of the political leaders, with their negotiating status enhanced.

Bertie Ahern has been anxious to avoid either of these consequences, with his refusal to identify anyone as an IRA leader and repeated statements of his desire for an “inclusive, comprehensive settlement” in the North. As an experienced negotiator, Ahern appreciates the danger of pushing your opposite number into a corner – particularly when he can deliver something you need.

The central fact, no matter how unpalatable it may be to the minister for justice, is that there can be no inclusive, comprehensive settlement without Adams and McGuinness.

They are both MPs and they are both going to be re-elected in May with increased majorities. Punters can get odds of 100-1 in the Belfast bookies against the SDLP’s west Belfast candidate winning 10,000 votes.

So if McDowell wants to discredit and humiliate Adams and McGuinness, who does he want to deal with?

What is his strategy to achieve an inclusive, comprehensive settlement – one, incidentally, to which DUP leader Ian Paisley has said he will sign up?

Thanks to McDowell’s self-indulgent grandstanding, few people recall the protocol signed at Hillsborough on February 21 by Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy and Chief Constable Hugh Orde, permitting secondment of gardai to the North and PSNI officers to the south.

Has McDowell really just found out, as a result of his intelligence briefings, that there is an overlap at the top of the republican movement between the military and political wings?

Why did he think successive Irish governments attached such importance to talking to Adams and McGuinness?

If they are not in charge, who is? And why is the government not talking to that person? Of course, it’s an unacceptably slow and frustrating process.

However, more than 800 people might be dead today if Adams and McGuinness had not delivered a ceasefire in 1994.

Republicans have accepted the amendment of articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution; they have changed their own constitution to enable Sinn Féin members to take seats at Stormont; they survived a serious split in 1997; and they have agreed in principle to decommission and stand down the IRA, though not yet in the precise terms McDowell demands.

Perhaps it has never occurred to the self-styled ‘Hammer of the Provos’ that Adams and McGuinness are better judges of the speed at which the republican movement can travel than he is.

Does McDowell really want to undermine their authority within a notoriously prickly organisation?

Does he want to boost men who take the traditional republican view that governments don’t respond to the force of argument, but only to the argument of force?

McDowell’s strategy seems to be to make life as difficult as possible for Adams and McGuinness.

If so, he should be careful what he wishes for, because he might get it.

Brian Feeney, a political columnist, is head of the history department at St Mary’s University College, Belfast, and author of Sinn Féin: 100 Turbulent Years.


Irish Examiner . Com June 25, 2004

McDaid: McDowell hurting FF campaign

By Ann Cahill and Fionnán Sheahan

MICHAEL McDOWELL’S repeated attacks on Sinn Féin are damaging Fianna Fáil’s chances of taking two seats in the North-West constituency, said Junior Minister Jim McDaid.

The FF European election candidate’s criticism Mr McDowell comes as an Irish Examiner/Questions & Answers opinion poll shows SF’s Pearse Doherty has surprisingly emerged as a contender for one of the constituency’s MEP seats.

The European election in the constituency (comprising of nine counties in Connaught and Ulster, and Clare) is wide open with five candidates fighting for three seats, the poll conducted by Lansdowne Market Research shows.

Mr McDaid and his FF running mate, sitting MEP Seán Ó Neachtáin, Fine Gael’s Jim Higgins and Independent Marian Harkin remain the front runners.

Accusing Mr McDowell of whipping up controversy over Republicans to serve the interests of the Progressive Democrats, Mr McDaid said the public castigations of SF have not been helpful in the campaign.

“It militates against me,” he said, adding that he has always recognised the efforts of SF to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

Expressing the view that Mr Doherty has considerable support, particularly in the border counties, Mr McDaid said he believed that Mr McDowell’s statements against SF were related to the upcoming elections:

“He tends to get wired to the moon at election time. He tends to get into a media frenzy, noticeably on behalf of the PDs, and does not care that he is affecting his coalition partner.”

The poll also shows, that despite just over a third of voters satisfied with the Government’s performance, FF’s support in the constituency for the local elections has actually risen to 45%.

But there is bad news for FG leader Enda Kenny as it shows local election party support in his own backyard has dropped to 24%.

SF should make significant gains in the local elections as its support has almost trebled from 5% in 1999 to 14% and the Green Party and PDs standing is also improved.

Despite a guarantee of at least one European seat in the constituency, the rivalry between the two FF candidates escalated yesterday.

Minister for Community Affairs Éamon Ó Cuiv, who is acting as Mr Ó Neachtáin’s director of elections, accused Mr McDaid of negative campaigning.

The row over a pre-arranged constituency divide has become increasingly bitter in recent weeks with the turf war spreading from Roscommon into Mayo counties originally allocated to Mr Ó Neachtáin.

Defending the geographical split, Mr Ó Cuiv said he felt it was fair and the public was not interested in listening to squabbling.


Ahern Tries to Distance Himself

Taoiseach says peace process threatens to unravel

Irish Times Tue, Feb 22, 05

The Northern Ireland peace process threatens to “unravel” within weeks unless Sinn Féin gets the IRA to agree quickly to end paramilitary activity and criminality and complete decommissioning, the Taoiseach has said, write Mark Hennessy Gerry Moriarty and Denis Staunton

Warning that the marching season begins in four weeks, Mr Ahern issued one of his strongest pleas yet to Sinn Féin to move quickly: “We are into an unravelling situation that is serious and that is going to continue to be serious from the knowledge that I have.”

However, Mr Ahern said Sinn Féin’s Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness would have signed up last December to end all IRA criminality but they could not get the IRA’s agreement.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell’s decision to identify Mr Adams, Mr McGuinness and Kerry North TD Mr Martin Ferris as members of the IRA army council has caused some irritation within the Government, with some figures labelling his action “a distraction”.

In Brussels, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, distanced himself from the assertion. He criticised Mr McDowell’s decision to make public the content of confidential Garda briefings. “These are issues that should not be vented in public.”

The Minister said it was “no surprise to anyone” that there was an intertwining in the leaderships of Sinn Féin and the IRA, but it was difficult to speak with authority on the leadership of a secret organisation such as the IRA. The confidence placed in Sinn Féin by the Government and by unionists was “severely dented”, and the Minister accused Sinn Féin and the IRA of opposing the will of the Irish people by refusing to abandon criminal activity.

“In 1998, in the first act of all-Ireland self-determination since 1918, the Irish people backed the Good Friday agreement. That agreement granted Irish people the legitimate expectation of an end to paramilitarism and criminality. That is clearly the will of the Irish people,” he said.

The Taoiseach said he believed Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness “genuinely” wanted the Belfast Agreement to be implemented fully. The December deal collapsed because of divisions in the Provisional republican community. “It is because SF went to the IRA, and the IRA would not allow them the movement. That is what happened,” said the Taoiseach.

The agreement cannot be implemented successfully “if the republican movement says ‘No’, if they tie the hands of the political leadership as they did in December. That is what they did the previous October and they did it the previous April. Three times,” Mr Ahern declared.

He warned that Sinn Féin could not be excluded from the Belfast Agreement, despite the discovery of the IRA’s recent criminality. A comprehensive peace deal cannot be agreed without republicans’ involvement, though they must accept fully peaceful means and the end of the IRA.

Sinn Féin will receive another blow today when the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, imposes sanctions on it following the Independent Monitoring Commission’s decision to blame the IRA for the Northern Bank robbery. In Belfast yesterday the Minister for Justice stood by his allegation that Mr Adams, Mr McGuinness and Mr Ferris are currently members of the IRA’s leadership.

The Taoiseach denied he was at odds with him. “I might have my own views about whether people are, or are not, on the army council.” Neither he, nor Mr McDowell had “personal knowledge” of the council’s make-up. “The Minister is Minister for Justice and he does receive detailed intelligence briefings as Minister for Justice, but intelligence briefings are one thing, there is another thing about hard evidence,” he said.


Mad Mullah Claims to Be Republican

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.


McDowell rejects criticism of poll by human rights body

Irish Times. Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Minster for Justice, Mr McDowell, has rejected as “weak and tendentious” claims by the Human Rights Commission that the citizenship referendum may breach two international treaties, writes Arthur Beesley, Political Reporter.

The Minister’s dismissal last night of the commission’s legal critique of the referendum came after it accused the Government of relying on “vague and anecdotal” evidence to justify the proposal.

The commission said it was not convinced the Government had demonstrated a reasonable and objective need for constitutional measures to restrict the citizenship rights of children born in Ireland to non-EU parents.

It also expressed concern about the Government’s failure to consult it about the referendum before the Cabinet decided to proceed.

The commission president, Dr Maurice Manning, said: “We reiterate our initial view that the proposed referendum may in itself raise issues relating to the protection of human rights and on a closer analysis of the detail of the proposed amendment, we believe that initial view to be justified.”

The commission is a statutory body set up under the Belfast Agreement to monitor human rights. Its membership includes influential legal figures such as the human rights lawyer, Mr Michael Farrell, and Prof William Binchy of Trinity College, Dublin. Ahead of a committee-stage debate on the referendum Bill in the Dáil today, the reservations outlined by the commission amount to one of the strongest attacks yet on the Government proposal.

But Mr McDowell immediately dismissed the commission’s claims and denied that the proposal would breach either the Convention on the Rights of the Child or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. A spokesman for the Minister said: “The Government when drawing up the proposal would have looked at that area. They’re satisfied that it is fully compliant with international law.

“International law doesn’t just apply in this country. It applies in the international community. And if that argument is correct it means every country in Europe is in breach of international law.”

The spokesman added: “What are we saying, that every other country in Europe is in breach of international law?

“The Minister considers that the argument is weak and tendentious.”

Despite this, however, the commission is to put more pressure on the Government over the referendum in a more detailed legal paper to be published before the weekend. This paper is also likely to address the possible implications of the proposed constitutional amendment on the Belfast Agreement.

The commission is concerned that the referendum may undermine the rights set out in the agreement.

However, it will not publish its findings before a meeting in Belfast today with the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which was also set up under the agreement.


Father Sean Mc Manus
Irish National Caucus
P.O. Box 15128
Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C. 20003-0849