Sinn Féin under pressure to clarify dealings with Dowdall prior to election – The Irish Times
Sinn Féin is under pressure to clarify the extent of its knowledge of any links between Jonathan Dowdall and criminality before his election as a councillor for the party in 2014.
Government figures said answers were needed after it emerged that Sinn Féin officials discussed a 2011 shooting incident at Dowdall’s uncle’s home with the candidate before the local elections that year.
Senior Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin confirmed on Tuesday that the incident was discussed with Dowdall at the time.
He denied that party officials repeatedly questioned Dowdall about allegations of criminal behaviour before the 2014 local elections, however.
He said: “This is one of a number of lies that Jonathan Dowdall clearly put before the court.”
Mr Ó Broin told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland: “It was Jonathan Dowdall who raised the issue of an attack on a family member’s home.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar later told the Dáil it is important “that we get more detail on Sinn Féin’s knowledge of Mr Dowdall’s actions”.
He added: “It’s clear from Eoin Ó Broin’s interview this morning that there was more than an inkling, that there was knowledge.”
Asked about Sinn Féin officials being aware of the gun attack on Dowdall’s uncle’s home, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said: “Sinn Féin need to clarify that point.”
Dowdall left Sinn Féin in 2015 and the party has consistently denied any knowledge of links between the Dubliner and crime before his subsequent convictions.
Dowdall was jailed in 2017 for serious offences involving the “waterboarding” of a man at his home in January 2015, an incident that occurred while he was still a Sinn Féin councillor.
He had also been charged with the murder of Mr Byrne but that charge was dropped in September 2022.
He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of facilitating the murder by the booking of a room in the Regency Hotel.
Dowdall was the main prosecution witness in the Special Criminal Court (SCC) trial of Gerard Hutch, who was acquitted of the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016.
Key parts of Mr Dowdall’s evidence were rejected by the three-judge court, led by Ms Justice Tara Burns and his pattern of lying was mentioned by her on Monday.
During the trial, the court heard recordings of conversations between Dowdall and Gerard Hutch.
This included an account given by Dowdall of meetings he had with Sinn Féin officials before the 2014 local elections.
In the recording, Dowdall suggests that Sinn Féin’s then director of elections in Dublin, Brian Keane, quizzed him about a 2011 shooting incident that occurred at the house of Dowdall’s uncle Jimmy.
On the tape Dowdall said Mr Keane was “was doin’ all the talking” and he told Dowdall that he was driving by Dowdall’s house in Cabra with someone who told him that Dowdall had “riddled” his uncle’s house.
During the recorded conversation, Dowdall said Mr Keane said it was his job to know “in case it comes out in the media”.
During the trial, it was suggested by the defence counsel for Mr Hutch that Dowdall had been involved in the shooting incident – that he had not personally “shot the shots” into his uncle’s house – but had got someone else to do it.
Dowdall denied involvement in the incident in his evidence to the court.
On Tuesday, Mr Ó Broin was asked about Dowdall’s suggestion in the tapes that Sinn Féin officials had repeatedly questioned him about allegations of criminal behaviour before the 2014 local elections.
The Sinn Féin housing spokesman insisted party officials did not do this, saying: “This is one of a number of lies that Jonathan Dowdall clearly put before the court.”
Asked why Dowdall would lie about it, Mr Ó Broin said: “You’d have to ask him about that.”
Mr Ó Broin said his understanding was that Sinn Féin’s director of elections “had a number of meetings with Jonathan Dowdall, as he would have had with all of our candidates”.
He added: “It was Jonathan Dowdall who raised the issue of an attack on a family member’s home.
“Jonathan Dowdall said that he had no information or knowledge as to who was involved and nor did we.”
Mr Ó Broin also said Sinn Féin “has no truck with organised criminals” and said Dowdall “should not have been a member of our party and had we known at the time, he would not have been in our party.”
Later, speaking in the Dáil, Mr Varadkar commented on the acquittal of Mr Hutch, saying “even though it was not the outcome that the State desired” it confirms the Special Criminal Court is “a place that people get a fair trial”.
The Taoiseach added: “By the way, I don’t think for a second that Sinn Féin is in any way responsible for [Jonathan] Dowdall’s actions. I know it can be difficult to vet candidates and I don’t believe in guilt by association.”
He suggested, however, that the party should offer “more detail” on its knowledge of Dowdall’s actions.
Mr Varadkar called on Sinn Féin to vote for the renewal of the legislation underpinning the SCC in June.
He also said it was important that a €1,000 donation made by Dowdall to Ms McDonald in 2011 be returned and that information on any other donations made by Dowdall to be disclosed.
Ms McDonald has previously said Dowdall may have also attended fundraisers before his criminal convictions but that returning the €1,000 donation or donating it to a community group would be an empty gesture.
Asked for a response to the comments from Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin, Sinn Féin said in a statement: “The party’s general secretary has clarified the facts pertaining to this matter.
“The party’s director of elections in Dublin met with candidates on a regular basis in relation to their local election campaigns.
“At one of these meetings with Jonathan Dowdall, he raised an incident at his uncle’s house in case it became an issue in the campaign.
“It was never raised or referred to again. Jonathan Dowdall said that he did not know who was involved.
“There was no suggestion that Jonathan Dowdall was involved in this incident. There was no suggestion that he was involved in any form of criminality at this stage.”
The statement added that “on the contrary” Dowdall had been working with “some of the largest companies in Ireland” and had been interviewed by a national newspaper about his business.
Sinn Féin said: “Had we known that he was capable of carrying out heinous crimes he would, of course, not have been anywhere near our party for a minute, never mind standing for election to the council – we would not tolerate this.”
The statement said that neither Mary Lou McDonald or then leader Gerry Adams were aware of any meeting or conversation.