16 December 2005

Laughing up his sleeve

Daily Ireland

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said yesterday he was ‘highly amused’ when questioned over his role in the Frank Connolly saga

Connla Young

Journalist Frank Connolly has broken his silence on the Michael McDowell controversy just hours after the Irish justice minister said he now finds being questioned about the saga by the press amusing.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Ireland last night Centre for Public Inquiry (CPI) head Frank Connolly says he's heartened by the number of messages of support received from colleagues and the public since the storm broke over allegations by Michael McDowell that he took part in an IRA mission to Colombia.
Mr Connolly, who has denied ever applying for a false passport, as alleged by Minister McDowell, or travelling to Colombia to meet with Farc rebels, says the campaign against him has become “Kafkaesque".
“I'm like a butterfly in a tsunami at the minute but it's clear that there's an awful lot of support out there.
“Messages of support, by phone, text and email, have been coming to me personally and to the centre over the past few days.
“A quick look at the letters page of the Irish Times shows that the public knows this is a witch-hunt by Michael McDowell. This is an issue of human rights and the public sees it that way."
Mr Connolly said he may issue a comprehensive statement in coming days.
The board of the CPI yesterday issued its first statement since the controversy broke in the Dáil.
Centre chairman Fergus Flood has already said that he's keen to meet with American philanthropist Chuck Feeney whose Atlantic Philanthropies decided on December 7 to cease further funding for the investigative body. It's believed Mr Feeney, who declines press interviews, is in Ireland this week.
Mr Connolly's remarks came just hours after Mr McDowell told a Dublin radio reporter he was amused that journalists should continue to question him about the Connolly affair. The minister for justice also endorsed an article in yesterday's Irish Times by Kevin Myers which supports his position.
“I read the papers the same as your self, I am not discussing this issue here today. Listen, I am highly amused by people asking me now to deal with issues when they were all screaming at me about talking about this issue. One recommendation to all of you, read Kevin Myers, put it up on your wall, and memorise it."
Mr McDowell continues to stand by his claims despite reports that a private investigation company hired by Chuck Feeney to look into Mr Connolly's background gave the former Sunday Business Post journalist a clean bill of health.

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