McDowell urged to justify U-turn over IRA crime

20 December 2004
By Cormac O’Keeffe

JUSTICE Minister Michael McDowell was called on yesterday to provide more detail on the reasons for a dramatic turnaround in his view regarding the IRA’s involvement in crime.

Mr McDowell said over the weekend that IRA criminal activity had ended in the Republic and there had been no major IRA robberies since the summer.

The comments were in contrast to trenchant views which he expressed earlier in the year regarding the level of IRA involvement in crime in the South. Opposition politicians yesterday called on the minister to elaborate on his comments, which were reported in yesterday’s Sunday Business Post.

“I certainly would like more information,” said Labour Party justice spokesman Joe Costello.

“Is he saying that in every county in Ireland, all of a sudden, there has been a total cessation of all activities, when he was so adamant that so much crime was going on, that it was endemic a few short months ago?”

Fine Gael’s justice spokesman Jim O’Keeffe said: “It would be most helpful to have a more detailed account of the changes that have taken place. There would be a better sense of confidence in the people, in the light of record of the IRA heretofore and in light of the minister’s earlier comments. Any information that I have, that is available to me from around the country, is that a certain element of racketeering is still going on. I hope he’s correct. It would be everyone’s happy wish for the New Year that P O’Neill and all his minions would get their P45 for good and all.”

Throughout the year, Mr McDowell repeatedly spoke of how the IRA/Republican movement were involved in “serious and ongoing” crime in the Republic, including robberies on containers in Dublin Port.

In yesterday’s interview, Mr McDowell said criminal activity in the Republic had now stopped “as far as I know, in the run up to this particular set of negotiations” in the North. The minister, who receives regular briefings from Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy, said it was a very significant development.

“I have no evidence they have engaged in that kind of major robbery in the Republic from the summer onwards.”

He said the IRA Dublin Brigade had been stood down.

“A number of its members were shot in the ankles for diverting money from the movement. After that, it took over direct management of the ‘funding’ of its criminal operations through its Belfast Brigade.”

“I have said this not just about so-called policing of nationalist and republican areas of Northern Ireland, but about criminality of the worst kind, theft and robbery. It has been orchestrated by senior members of the provisional hierarchy on a sustained basis.”

‘There is a close connection between Sinn Féin and the IRA’

Dec 10, 2003: Michael McDowell said: “There is a close connection between Sinn Féin and the IRA and I have no doubt that senior figures in the IRA are at the moment, and have been for many years, engaging in criminal activities to fund the activities of the republican movement organisation.”

Jan 12, 2004: “What I am saying is that the republican movement is single and indivisible, and that is one of the problems that we have to overcome.

March 8, 2004: Mr McDowell said he had intelligence senior Republican figures were involved in “serious and ongoing” crime in Dublin Port. Crime in the port had been organised by senior figures in the Provisional movement in the past “and very recently as well”.

Dec 15, 2004: The minister accused the IRA of engaging in a “sustained campaign of criminality” since the Belfast Agreement.

Interesting site.
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