12 December 2005

McDowell urged to resign over Colombia claims


12/12/2005 - 11:48:18

An Independent TD today called on Justice Minister Michael McDowell to resign after he linked journalist Frank Connolly to an alleged IRA plot to sell terrorist know-how to Colombian guerillas.

Calling on the minister to stand down, Dublin North Central TD Finian McGrath said he had abused his position in the Dáil and his role as a member of the Cabinet.

“He has trampled on the rights of a citizen,” Mr McGrath said.

“He has abused Dáil privilege. I asked him a question about the Centre for Public Inquiry he refused to answer about the centre, but used the opportunity to take out someone he disagreed with politically.

“Not only should he resign he should first of all apologise to Frank Connolly, and secondly to the citizens of the state for abusing his position, and if he had any honour and dignity then he should resign.”

McDowell has insisted he was protecting the security of the state by claiming in the Dáil that Frank Connolly travelled to Colombia on a false passport.

In a written reply to a Dáil question tabled by Mr McGrath, the minister claimed that Mr Connolly was linked to an IRA plot to provide Farc terrorists in Colombia with bomb-making information in return for cash.

Mr McGrath has lodged a complaint over the matter with Ceann Comhairle Rory O’Hanlon TD. And he said he would raise the matter with the Committee for Procedures and Privileges to decide whether Mr McDowell had abused his position as a minister.

The experienced journalist, who now heads the CPI, has denied he ever visited the Latin American state and accused the minister of joining a witch hunt against him and the CPI.

But following the allegation American businessman Chuck Feeney pulled the plug on a multi-million dollar funding programme to keep the CPI running.

Mr Feeney’s investment engine, Atlantic Philanthropies, issued a statement which said it could no longer financially support the watchdog, which has published reports on Trim Castle and the Corrib Gas project.

Mr McGrath accused the minister of breaching the fundamental principles of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

And in a further criticism of Mr McDowell, who is President of the Progressive Democrats, the Independent TD said it was part of a broader campaign by the party to discredit the CPI.

“They seem to have a problem with a body funded by Chuck Feeney investigating sleaze and corruption in Ireland,” he said.

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