Monday, January 02, 2006


The board of the Centre for Public Inquiry is to hold an emergency meeting today or tomorrow to discuss the withdrawal of its €4 million funding by Irish-American philanthropist Chuck Feeney. Paul Cullen reports.
The decision was prompted by claims by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell that the director of the centre, former journalist Frank Connolly, travelled to Colombia on a false passport together with a convicted IRA member in 2001.



'Connolly couriered Farc's 2.6m' SUNDAY IND (IRELAND) , June 19, 2005 JIM CUSACK

FORMER High Court judge Feargus Flood has declined to comment on his association with the 'Centre for Public Inquiry', which was described in the House of Lords last week as what "is widely believed to be Sinn Fein's intelligence-gathering operation in the Irish Republic".
It was also claimed in the Lords that Frank Connolly, brother of 'Colombia Three' member Niall, who runs the 'Centre' carried 2.6m back from Colombia as part of the Farc terrorist group's payment to the IRA for arms and explosives training.
Frank Connolly was questioned by gardai about his trip to Colombia on a false passport but was never charged. The investigation, however, is still "active", say gardai.
Asked if he had ever quizzed Connolly about being questioned by gardai, the former judge replied: "I know nothing about this and I don't propose to comment at all."
Mr Flood, who headed the planning inquiry in Dublin Castle until resigning in 2003, joined the board of Connolly's group in February. No information has emerged about the activities of the group, whose stated intention is to "promote a high standard of integrity, ethics and accountability across the public and private sectors in Ireland".
The American charity foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, which has given $4m to Connolly to run his 'Centre' over five years, said yesterday: "We do not discuss grantees with third parties."
The foundation, which is distributing the huge wealth of Irish-American businessman Chuck Feeney - who has personally funded Sinn Fein in the US - has given away hundreds of millions to groups in Ireland, Britain, Africa, the US and Vietnam. The $4m given to Connolly's venture is one of the largest sums given to a group in Britain or Ireland by the charity.
Until setting up the 'Centre' with Chuck Feeney's money, Frank Connolly worked as a reporter forIreland on Sundayand before that with theSunday Business Post. He is now described as "chief executive" of the group.
Speaking in the House of Lords on Tuesday night, Lord Laird of Artigarvin said: "I note that the former High Court judge, Feargus Flood, is happy to allow his name to be associated with the organisation. Yet he has refused to question the organisation's chief executive on why he travelled to Colombia on false passports with a well-known IRA member to collect GBP2m - a part payment to the IRA by Farc terrorists for providing training."
He told the House that he wished to point out to "Sinn Fein and its supporters that their activities and behaviour over the past couple of years have been beyond the democratic pale". He added: "Many of us hoped that SF would move towards being a party supported, backed and operated in a purely democratic way. We were frustrated in that rather naive wish.
"Recent events, including the Northern Bank robbery, have painted a nasty and unacceptable picture of Sinn Fein/IRA's methods of fundraising through theft and money laundering. In the past few weeks, I have outlined to your Lordships' House information about Sinn Fein/IRA's activities, which are now becoming known as 'white-collar terrorism'.
"Money is of no object to Sinn Fein and its supporters. Four million US dollars were recently forthcoming from well-meaning, if misguided, Irish Americans to what is widely believed to be SF's intelligence-gathering operation in the Irish Republic, the Centre for Public Inquiry."
Lord Laird was attacked by Sinn Fein's Alex Maskey, who claimed his statements were "scurrilous and unfounded".
Frank Connolly, whose brother Niall was arrested along with two other IRA men in Colombia in 2001 while also travelling on false passports, describes the reports of his visit to Colombia as "absurd and inaccurate".
Niall Connolly and two IRA engineers, Jim Monaghan and Martin McAuley, are currently on the run after skipping bail in Bogota. They were sentenced in their absence to 17 years for training Farc in mortar and bomb making.


By Amen Dunphy
The director of the Centre for Public Inquiry accused Minister for Justice Michael McDowell of joining a witch hunt against him, over claims he was connected to an IRA plot to sell information to Farc guerrillas.Frank Connolly denied he had travelled to Colombia using a false passport, and said the allegations were made to detract from the centre’s independent inquiries on Trim Castle and the Corrib Gas project.Mr McDowell last night accused Mr Connolly of being linked to the IRA scheme to provide Colombian terrorists with bomb-making information in return for cash.In a written reply to a Dáil question by independent TD Finian McGrath, Mr McDowell claimed that Mr Connolly travelled to the Farc-controlled region of the war-torn country on a false passport in April 2001 along with convicted IRA member, Padraig Wilson.Mr McDowell said under Dáil privilege Mr Connolly also travelled with his brother, Niall, one of the Colombia Three, who re-appeared in Ireland in August after jumping bail in Bogota.But Mr Connolly said he was the victim of a campaign of vilification which had descended to a more vicious level since his appointment to the position of executive director of the Centre for Public Inquiry (CPI).“The Minister has done a grave injustice and damage to me. He has joined what has become a veritable witch hunt against me.“He has also done incalculable damage to the integrity of his own office.“It is patent to me however that the real target of the venom and mendacity which has been visited upon me is the Centre for Public Inquiry,” he said.Mr Connolly claimed the centre had been targeted by elements of Irish society who were hostile to a body established to carry out independent scrutiny.“On Saturday 26 and 27 last, in what was patently a considered and timed response to the publication of the report on the Corrib Gas controversy from those seeking to protect vested interests, the same false allegations were again published by Independent Newspapers concerning me.“Further, the Minister for Justice, Mr Michael McDowell, participated in the attacks and has now repeated the allegations under Dáil privilege,” he said.Mr Connolly accused the minister of trying to damage his position at the CPI, as well as attempting to destroy his reputation and career as an investigative journalist.He also said confidential documents had been leaked from a garda investigation file to a member of the board of Atlantic Philanthropies which funds the CPI, and to Independent Newspapers.“While it is difficult for me as one citizen of a state to defend myself when my character is attacked by a minister of government and a powerful newspaper group I will always defend my integrity,” he said.

Sunday, January 01, 2006


Never an unfawning word – and lavishly repaid
by Colin Murphy
Saturday, October 15, 2005

Journalist Sam Smyth has fawned on Michael McDowell for a decade-and-a-half. Coincidentally, he has been in a position to publish several 'scoops' connected with the Department of Justice
Profiling the newly-appointed Minister for Justice in June 2002, in the Sunday Tribune, Sam Smyth described him as "an ideological powerhouse as a founder of the PDs" and as being "determined to seize control and make major changes" in the Department of Justice.
"He is an outstanding lawyer, a gifted advocate and probably the most successful Attorney General in more than a generation, according to the Taoiseach whom he served," wrote Smyth.
As the grandson of Eoin MacNeill, McDowell "was born to achieve high office and wield and broker the enormous power of the state," he said.
"A classic economic and social liberal, he will not back off on one of the most sensitive issues facing his society: a police force many believe is out of control and urgently in need of reform and accountability."
According to unnamed "friends" cited in the article, McDowell had "never courted cheap popularity and often championed unpopular causes.
"Although he lives in some comfort in Ranelagh, McDowell has never been drawn by the potential multi-million incomes available to top lawyers and has sacrificed a personal fortune to follow his political beliefs."
A year later, writing in the Irish Independent following McDowell's announcement of Garda Síochána reform plans, Smyth wrote:
"All of Michael McDowell's earlier life was a preparation for the mission he outlined yesterday: A root and branch reform of the Garda Síochána... Privately the opposition admit that McDowell is the best equipped, both from the perspective of family history and personal disposition, to take on what is regarded as perhaps the most sensitive issue facing the state."
Then in February this year, Smyth profiled McDowell again, for the Irish Independent.
"This totem of middle-class values, a saint in the latter day church of liberal intellectuals would also love to be Taoiseach", he wrote, and "his unbridled ambition in tandem with a keen intellect and unquestioned competence has delivered him to one of the senior offices of government."
Smyth continued: "Even those who dislike him respect Michael McDowell. And respect is a more durable currency in politics than affection."
Smyth cited an unnamed PD source as saying: "The parliamentary party is in awe of him when he addresses them... He is very, very clever and they listen very carefully when he has something to say."
Smyth wrote, "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 who make occasional mistakes.
"Oratorical skills honed in the Four Courts have made McDowell one of the handful of speakers worth listening to in the Dáil 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."
Prior to being given a copy of the bogus passport application at the centre of the Frank Connolly-Colombia story by Michael McDowell in November, Sam Smyth had broken a number of stories
connected with the Department of Justice.
In June 2005, Sam Smyth wrote a story in the Irish Independent detailing the contents of a letter from Donegal investigator Billy Flynn to Nora Owen, then Minister for Justice in the Rainbow Coalition government.
That letter was evidence that Flynn had in 1997 alerted the then Minister for Justice, Nora Owen, to the ill-treatment of Frank McBrearty Jnr and Mark McConnell at the hands of Donegal gardai.
The story also revealed that Flynn had written to the Attorney General and Chief State Solicitor and three public representatives, including Joan Burton, then a junior minister.
This information backed up claims by Michael McDowell that the members of the Rainbow government had been aware of the McBrearty affair and had failed to deal with it. McDowell had previously said ministers in the Rainbow government were partly responsible for the McBrearty affair, and Nora Owen had rejected this the previous week.
In February this year, Smyth broke the Phil Flynn story, in a front-page article in the Independent claiming that Flynn was "linked to a Cork-based finance company at the centre of the investigation" into money seized by gardaí the previous day in Cork in an operation on an alleged money-laundering operation.
In April 2004, in the midst of the debate leading up to the citizenship referendum, Smyth wrote an article in the Independent revealing records of a 2002 meeting between Michael McDowell and two of the three masters of Dublin maternity hospitals in the Department of Justice.
"The detailed correspondence and records of meetings fully support Mr McDowell's claim that the Dublin maternity hospitals were urgently and deeply concerned about the increasing numbers of pregnant non-national women turning up to give birth", Smyth wrote.


Name: Michael McDowell

Profession:Senior Counsel Member of the Council of Kings Inns since 1978Called to the inner bar in March 1987

Address:Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform94 St. Stephen's GreenDublin 2

Born:Dublin, May 1951

Married:Prof. Niamh BrennanThree sons: Hugh, Ross and John

Education:Pembroke School (Miss Meridith's)Gonzaga College, SJUniversity College Dublin - BA Economics and PoliticsKing's Inns Dublin Barrister-at-Law

Friends: Yes one, Independent Journalist Sam Smyth

Michael is a Grandson of the famous Irish Freedom Fighter (Terrorist to some) Eoin MacNeill, co-founder Gaelic League and founder of the Irish Volunteers, who served as Minister for Finance and Education in the First and Second Dails. Michael is a TD since 1987 but has lost his seat on a number of occassions. Michael is admired by Northern Irish Unionists like Ian Paisley for his hatred of Sinn Fein and its leader Gerry Grisley Adams yet in the past Michael has defended murders like Malcom McArthur. In recent times Michael has caused a national outcry by leaking confidential information to journalist and long time friend Sam Smyth of the Irish Independent newspaper.


Hi Im Eamon Dunphy and Iam taking time out from writing Roy Keanes new book to tend to this urgent matter of Michael McDowell and the Provo Passports For Sale Scandal. Iam a legendary Irish TV commentator who once called Mick McCarthy "a boil on the arse of humanity".
We will also be reporting on all things Michael McDowell with additional reporting by leading journalist Frank(I was never in Columbia) Connolly. Please feel free to send in your comments and also send in details of any relevant topics you think should be covered.