A pre-emptive strike?

Mary Raftery and Kevin Myers provide quite different takes on the McDowell CPI affair across the op ed pages of today’s Irish Times. First of all Raftery (subs needed):Raftery:

…it could be argued that any Minister would be justified in using Dáil privilege to expose matters of public interest, much in the way the media does (without privilege, of course) on a regular basis. The argument that the absence of a court conviction precludes him from comment is clearly untenable.

However, as far as the media is concerned, evidence is required to substantiate an allegation. What is most disquieting about this case is that the evidence, such as it is, was not laid before the Dáil by the Minister, but rather emerged as a leak provided to Sam Smyth, an Independent Newspapers journalist.

It did not go through the official channels of the Department of Justice press office. The document in question – the false passport application – was given to Sam Smyth personally by Michael McDowell. Furthermore, the passport-sized photograph accompanying the application was not supplied to Smyth, despite his request for it.

Intriguingly, she hints (but does not argue directly) at a possible motive:

…the Centre for Public Inquiry was in the process of investigating the purchase sanctioned by the Minister of lands at Thornton Hall in north Dublin for a replacement prison for Mountjoy, according to sources within the centre. While Michael McDowell stated in the Dáil that he was not aware of this, sources within the centre state that an FOI application had already been made to his department for the release of all relevant documentation.

  • Briso

    The first paragraph continues:

    “What he was given was a blown-up, A4-sized photocopy of the photograph, which he has described as a “grainy, hieroglyphic type of thing”. You could make out the face, just about, Smyth told me, and it looked a bit like Frank Connolly, but he couldn’t swear to that in court.

    Connolly himself has stated categorically that the photograph attached to the passport application in question is not of him. He has also denied all of the other accusations against him, although he has refused to answer questions as to where he was on the dates that it is alleged he was in Colombia.”

    The second section continues:

    “The Minister has reacted with an extraordinary degree of vitriol to criticism of his purchase of the Thornton land. When RTÉ’s Prime Time forensically dissected the issue, Michael McDowell took the unprecedented step of writing individually to each member of the RTÉ Authority to express his extreme displeasure. He was told to forward the matter to the appropriate body for investigation – the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. To date, he has not done so.

    Any Minister faced with a threat to the State clearly has a duty to act. However, Michael McDowell’s actions here are tainted with a paucity of evidence, and secretive leaking of documents.

    The security of the State deserves better.”

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    A very forensic destruction of the hysterical pronouncements of those inside and outide of the Dail.