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.