11 December 2005

Kiberd labels McDowell a ‘bully’ and ‘yellow’

Sunday Business Post

**Via >>Newshound

By Simon Carswell
11 December 2005

A board member of the Centre for Public Inquiry (CPI) has launched a verbal assault on Minister for Justice Michael McDowell for his Dáil attack last week on the centre's executive director, Frank Connolly.

Broadcaster Damien Kiberd, a former editor of The Sunday Business Post, said McDowell sought “to deprive Frank Connolly of his right to earn a living as a journalist and by extension to support his wife and children'‘. Kiberd said: “Like most bullies he [McDowell] is completely yellow.” However, a spokeswoman for the minister said that he stood over what he told the Dáil last week.

McDowell claimed that Connolly travelled to Colombia with his brother Niall and Padraig Wilson, a convicted IRA member, in April 2001 on a false passport.

Three months later, Niall Connolly and two other Irishmen, later to become known as the Colombia Three, were arrested in Colombia while travelling on false passports.

McDowell said last week in a reply to a Dáil question that both parties had been involved in a “well-organised sinister enterprise'‘ in which the Provisional IRA provided explosives training for Farc guerillas in return for large payments of money raised from the cocaine trade.

Connolly, a former Sunday Business Post journalist, has vehemently denied McDowell's allegations, accusing the minister of joining “a witch-hunt'‘.

This weekend, Kiberd said: “The minister's office confirmed to the Irish Examiner in an article last Friday that there was no possibility of a prosecution being taken against Frank Connolly.

“Therefore, the minister has no evidence to sustain a criminal prosecution against Connolly and has created a lynch mob to destroy him.

“Effectively, the minister's behaviour seeks to deprive Connolly of his right to earn a living as a journalist and by extension to support his wife and children. This is not an isolated case.

“The minister also accused Daily Ireland of being a Nazi organisation. They sued him and he said he would see them in court. When they got to court last week, the minister advanced what is known as the Pinochet defence - he said he should be immune from prosecution.

“Like most bullies, he is completely yellow. I regard the whole thing as completely outrageous.”

In response to Kiberd's comments, a spokeswoman for McDowell said: “The minister stands over every word of his statement to the Dáil last week.”

Kiberd edited The Sunday Business Post while Connolly worked as a reporter at the paper.

Atlantic Philanthropies, the charitable trust founded by Irish-American philanthropist Chuck Feeney, said last week it was ceasing its €800,000 a year funding to the CPI.

The board of the CPI will meet this week to discuss the withdrawal of Feeney's funding. The CPI employs five people, including Connolly, and may have to close unless it finds other funding.

The decision of Atlantic Philanthropies to withdraw funding arose after McDowell raised concerns about Connolly earlier this year and the minister's comments in the Dáil last week.

The CPI, which is chaired by retired High Court judge Feargus Flood, was set up to investigate matters of Irish public importance. It has so far issued reports on a planning matter in Co Meath and the Corrib gas pipeline in Co Mayo.

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