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McDowell the Philosopher King


There is in my mind no better way of puttin it. Our lad has certainly played a blinder over the past weekend. I was listening to his interview today with Sean O Rourke on RTE, it was absolutely astounding to hear a Minister admitting to leaking a Garda document to the media. I reckon that a post is calling after soaking up news and a very enlightening Vincent Browne show which is well worth another listen here (its the 12 Dec show).

This morning I thought that McDowell had overstepped the mark in terms of our governmental approach. I was not alone. In the Dail he utilised the only possible manner of outing the information on Connelly while avoiding having to be accountable for his comments.

Ex-Justice Minister Nora Owen was in-situ on VB tonight and it was most illuminating. General advice in the Department is to never give out information in answer to a question which overlaps with a case open with the DPP or Gardai. Give general responses, answer the question but do not get personal was the thrust of the advice Owen said she received. I am guessing that a similar mandarin culture would inhabit Stephen's Green at this stage. If not then it certainly should.

McDowell answered Finian McGrath's question in a written answer. This is because McGrath stipulated, as is procedure, that he preffered a written answer. Own continued that an oral answer would have been stopped by the Ceann Comhairle before it got anywhere and has happened many times before. The written answer gets below the wire and delivers the allegations into the record unhindered.

There are allegations that McDowell didnt answer the question asked by McGrath which is itself breaching procedure, but a minor error, this raises a number of points at this stage. The first is that McDowell patently acted in an unorthodox manner in the way he fashioned his answer to McGrath. He cast aside procedural respect for due process, in doing so he also didnt answer the question asked. This suggests that it was McDowells intention to get the information out there in any circumstance. That much of course is implicitly accepted in his admission on earlier news that he intentionally gave documents from the Garda file (allegedly on a single forged passport application form) to independent newspapers and specifically Sam Smyth.

It is thus no surprise that over the course of the weekend Smyth has been most vocal in his siding with McDowell in this whole debate. His show on Sunday seemed to carry the heaby scent of Smyth on a tad of bias. Anyway, The point is that McDowell knowingly handed over material from Garda intelligence files to a member of the media. Again this underlines his intention to filter through to the public information pursuing to a case against a citizen of the Republic.

Mr Justice Morris through the course of his tribunal hearings often held hearings in private. This is because the evidence was to come from Garda intelligence and was deemed highly sensitive to public hearing. Even once the truth or falsity of the intelligence had been ascertained, Morris refused to allow the evidence to be made public since he felt, as with many in the judiciary, that Garda intelligence was too sensitive.

The law precludes the revelation of the reasons why the DPP chose not to prosecute so as to preclude a similar situation of trial by media. So McDowell took the matter into his own hands and released the information to the media. Following that he replied under Dail privelege to questions on the CPI insinuating the guilt of Frank Connelly.

The evidence points toward a situation where the DPP declined to prosecute. In this state, Connnolly's right to innocence remains intact. His presumption of innocence is a fundamental right to be observed and respected by citizens and actors in this state. That much is clear and undeniable. Through his actions McDowell has passed judgement outside of the court process, not on his character but on his guilt. The man has been condemned by Garda intelligence in public and also seen the substance of the allegations leaked to the media.

The leak would put any future action by the DPP, should new evidence come to light, into serious doubt because of possible compromise. McDowell is a barrister, he knows that. This whole issue seems more and more like a politically motivated witchhunt than any serious desire to preserve national security. Which brings us to our next point.

His defence, which only emerged following hostile headlines, of national security is as worrysome as his declaration of being above prosecution. The issue of national security is not one to be dismissed out of hand. It does seem slightly unapplicible to this case. The CPI may well have been a think tank operating with a Green line to its ethos. I for one dont particularly care. Its work would be considered in such light. The threat it posed to national security is clearly uncertain as there is no obvious sign of interference in the CPI by Sinn Fein or the IRA. We are all aware of Damien Kiberds Green credentials and to be fair the evidence does suggests a sympathy.

I remain unconviced that CPI would subvert Irish democracy by attempting to reveal sleaze and corruption. Unless, the obvious retort that sleaze and corruption is all there is to Irish democracy prove true. The Sinn Fein movement has indeed operated outside of the legitimate channels of this state, it seems. Similarly others in the republican community operate outside of the law. The CPI has not been proven to do the same.

McDowell ran off on a political tangent to bring down Connolly. It is clear that he is getting closer to the messianic personality many feared he could become. He is now projecting an image of McDowell as the Philosopher King. The sole arbiter of right and wrong capable of circumventing the courts to bring down a man, withholding his right to defence.

Connolly's choice to keep his powder dry may prove to be sharp but currently feeds the frenzy and nominal opinion certifying him guilty. Perhaps it is his calculation that by keeping information back, the flames will keep rising. Perhaps he is guilty.

As far as I am aware, the constitution doesnt provide for trial by media. Nor does it encourage a member of the executive, acting through the legislature to pass judgement on the guilt of a citizen arbitrarily.

Some may begin to call for McDowells resignation, party politics is like that. I wish to see a lesson learned by our political classes that our democracy, however shaky and imperfect, will not support blatant authoritarian tendencies by any minister. The mans behaviour is wrong. Simply wrong. Dangerously wrong.


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  1. Anonymous BHG | 3:25 a.m. |  

    McGrath sought a written answer? and got one, no plot there. But McGrath wanted to know about the leak and only today did we get confirmation that a justice minister is handing over (on request) to one newspaper, contents of a garda file.

    That newspaper stands aside from most in its coverage, and it clear to see what is happening here.

    Owen on VB2nite mentioned how Mary Harney knew too well as she said things about CJH and he got off as a jury could not be found after her remarks.

    It must be wonky justice if someone can prejudice a case in favour of the accused such that the case is stopped and all because of privilege..

  2. Blogger Cian | 12:28 p.m. |  

    No im suggesting that the outing of the information in this manner, against recommended practice in the department is part of a calculation.
    McDowell stands to gain more politically from such action as this than leaving the DPP with the case, which they may not even prosecute.
    The outing of the information now as with Harney is calculated to be more effective than moral.
    The issue of justice is secondary it seems to the political considerations.
    He may get off now, but the damage is done and McDowell has again been strong on republicans.

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