19 December 2005

Harney backs McDowell

Irish Examiner

19 December 2005
By Harry McGee, Political Editor

TÁNAISTE Mary Harney yesterday accepted that Justice Minister Michael McDowell would be in a difficult position if his allegations about Frank Connolly were unfounded.
And Ms Harney also accepted that her Progressive Democrats colleague did not confide in her before leaking documentation about a false passport application to the Irish Independent.

However, in a strong defence of Mr McDowell on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, Ms Harney said he had been fully justified in the manner he released the information, given the “exceptional circumstances” of the allegations and of Mr Connolly’s position as the head of the Centre for Public Inquiry.

And the Tánaiste went further than Mr McDowell by making more serious allegations against the former journalist.

“Mr Connolly was involved as CEO of an organisation that was going to inquire into matters (of public interest) and at the same time that individual was in Colombia training FARC in technology know-how that had been acquired by the IRA,” she alleged.

Presenter Sean O’Rourke challenged this allegation saying there was no evidence to back it up.

In response, Ms Harney said that Mr Connolly had had an opportunity since 2002 to say where he was in April 2001, the period where it is claimed by Mr McDowell he travelled to Colombia using a false passport. Mr Connolly has refused to state publicly where he was during that month.

Pressed by O’Rourke on whether or not she would sack Mr McDowell if his allegations turned out to be groundless, Ms Harney accepted that if that were the case, it would pose difficulties for the Minister.

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