08 January 2006

Ahern backs Minister for Justice over false passport allegations


08/01/2006 - 16:39:58

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern tonight said the Justice Minister has his full support over revealing details about allegations that investigative journalist Frank Connolly had travelled to Columbia on a false passport.

Mr Ahern said Michael McDowell had made the cabinet aware of the facts surrounding the illegal use of a passport application.

“The Minister for Justice on this issue dealt with the case as he saw fit, he put information into a parliamentary reply. There is an issue of a fraudulent use of a passport. Those are the facts of the case and I don’t think anything that has happened has changed that,” Mr Ahern said.

He added: “What Michael McDowell did had the support of the cabinet throughout.”

The claim was made by Mr McDowell under privilege in a written answer in the Dail early last December. Mr Ahern has backed the Dáil claims that Mr Connolly flew to Colombia on a false passport in 2001 as part of an IRA plot to sell bombing know-how to Farc rebels.

Mr Connolly himself has strenuously denied the allegations and said the claims were part of a smear campaign against himself and the Centre for Public Inquiry.

The Taoiseach said he believed the passport issue was not linked to the Centre for Public Inquiry.

Mr Ahern said the facts Mr McDowell made public in the Dáil were from the Department of Foreign Affairs passport office.

“He was not using the information from garda files,” he told RTE Radio’s This Week programme.

Mr Ahern said the Justice Minister believed he should give all available information on the incident in reply to the parliamentary question.

The chairman of the CPI, former High Court Judge Fergus Flood, said Mr Connolly was told on December 16 in a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions that the decision had been taken on March 7 2003 not to prosecute him in relation to the false passport allegations.

In December, Mr Flood said Mr McDowell had unleashed a private and public blackening of Mr Connolly’s character.

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