Storm of criticsm over McDowell statements
Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness has described
Dublin's Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, as the
"Minister for Smear".
Mr McGuinness was responding to extraordinary allegations by Mr
McDowell that Mr McGuinness, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and
Kerry North TD Martin Ferris are current members of the Army
Council of the Provisional IRA.
Reacting to Mr McDowell's comments, Mr McGuinness said Mr
McDowell's comments were a "grossly disgraceful abuse".
He said: "I was a member of the IRA many many years ago, and I
outlined all of that to the Bloody Sunday tribunal.
"I am not a member of the IRA, I am not a member of the IRA army
council. I am one of the leaders of Sinn Fein."
Asked about Mr Adams and Mr Ferris, he said: "They're not
members of the IRA army council."
He also accused Mr McDowell of being hostile to the peace
process. "People like Michael McDowell have decided that a
window of opportunity exists to attack our party, to criminalise
our party in the best tradition of Margaret Thatcher."
He told a republican rally in Belfast that they faced a huge
challenge to withstand the "avalanche of propaganda" against
The most immediate challenge was the local and expected
Westminster elections in May and, whenever "others come to their
senses", to rebuild the peace process.
He said that following Garda raids and arrests last week, a
media "kangaroo court" immediately went into operation even
though only one person was charged, and of the several arrested
only one was a Sinn Fein member.
He described Mr McDowell as the "so-called Minister for Justice,
a minister that I describe as a Minister for Smear, for
Allegations and for By-passing Justice, challenging my
credentials, Gerry Adams's credentials and Martin Ferris's
The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, appeared at odds with Mr McDowell
when he subsequently stated that neither he nor Minister
McDowell had "personal knowledge" of who is on the IRA Army
And a Fianna Fail councillor yesterday said she thought the Mr
McDowell should resign after making the accusations without any
Councillor Ryan said she did not support any criminality but
that there was criminality in Fianna Fail.
She said she was not a member of Sinn Fein but was a republican.
"My own party should be working towards the end of partition,"
Meanwhile, the publisher of a Belfast-based newspaper has begun
libel proceedings against Mr McDowell after the Minister
described the 'Daily Ireland' as a "Provo front" and compared
to a Nazi propoganda sheet.
Speaking on Irish radio Mr O Muilleoir said he took the
Minister's remarks about the newspaper very seriously. "They are
scandalous, they are rubbish, they are defamatory," he said.
"So we instructed our solicitors today after his most recent
outburst to start libel proceedings against the Minister about
his claims," Mr O Muilleoir said.
The following is a joint statement from Sinn Fein President
Gerry Adams MP, Martin McGuinness MP, and Martin Ferris TD
issued in response to Mr McDowell's comments.
Sinn Fein is totally committed to the peace process and to engaging
with the Irish government in these difficult times to find a way
Despite our anger at attempts to criminalise our party and its
supporters we have been measured in our comments. We have asked others
to do likewise as we are conscious that a protracted war of words
among Irish nationalists is deeply damaging to the overall process.
However given the seriousness of Michael McDowell's outburst on the
national airwaves on Sunday we have taken the unusual step of issuing
a joint statement in response.
We want to state categorically that we are not members of the IRA or
its Army Council. Our involvement in the peace process is as leaders
of Sinn Fein and as elected representatives for West Belfast, Mid
Ulster and Kerry North respectively. As part of this, in the past we
have met with the Army Council to put propositions regarding the peace
Sinn Fein's contribution to this process has been substantial and we
will continue to play our part.
For some time now Michael McDowell has been unable to distinguish
between his role as Justice Minister and President of the Progressive
Democrats. He has made countless unsubstantiated allegations against
our party and its leadership.
Recently the Irish government accused Martin McGuinness and Gerry
Adams of withholding information and of conspiring to rob the Northern
Bank in December. We challenged the government to stand this
accusation up and they failed to do so.
And then at the weekend Michael McDowell made his unfounded and
serious allegation that we -Martin McGuinness, Martin Ferris and Gerry
Adams - are members of the IRA Army Council.
For Minister McDowell to do this is an abuse of his office.
If his view is shared by the Gardai then the only way this issue can
be confronted is for us to be charged with IRA membership.