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regency hotel

Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall sentenced to 4 years for facilitating murder

David Byrne was murdered at the hotel on 4 February, 2016.

LAST UPDATE | 17 Oct 2022

FORMER SINN FÉIN councillor Jonathan Dowdall has been jailed by the Special Criminal Court for four years for facilitating the Hutch gang in the notorious murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne, as part of the first convictions in the long-running investigation into the Regency Hotel shooting.

Dowdall is currently being assessed for the Witness Protection Program after agreeing to testify against his friend and former co-accused Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch.

Jonathan Dowdall and his father Patrick Dowdall, who both facilitated the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available ahead of the murder, won’t commence their custodial sentence for two weeks so they can “settle their affairs” and “contact various professional persons”.

Both men will stay in protective custody for the next two weeks before commencing their sentences before they are presented to the Governor of Portlaoise Prison.

Sentencing the 44-year-old at the non-jury court today, presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt noted that the former electrician knew that he was assisting a serious criminal organisation and that he had received and followed instructions to obtain the hotel room at the Regency Hotel.

“He gave a key card to another member of the criminal organisation and made a room available to a leading member. The consequences of the assistance were particularly grave,” he added.

Jonathan Dowdall, Mr Justice Hunt said, had also appeared to continue the association with the same criminal organisation on 7 March 2016.

The three-judge court found that the former Dublin city councillor, with an address at Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, had also journeyed to meet with a man in north county Dublin and travelled with the same man to Northern Ireland.

Referring to a submission by counsel for Jonathan Dowdall that no “injustice” would be done by giving his client a suspended sentence due to exceptional circumstances of the case, Mr Justice Hunt said that “regrettably” the court could not accept this.

“The offer of assistance to the prosecution does not justify a wholly suspended sentence,” he said.

The judge said that the “extraordinary additional factor” was Jonathan Dowdall’s decision to make a statement to gardai and give evidence against others.

“It is not part of our function to assess the relevance of this,” he added.

However, the three-judge court accepted that this decision had put Dowdall and his family “in peril” and that their lives had been “upended”.

Mr Justice Hunt, sitting with Judge Martin Nolan and Judge James Faughnan, sentenced Jonathan Dowdall to four years imprisonment.

Co-accused and Jonathan’s father Patrick Dowdall (65), of the same address, was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in facilitating the murder of Mr Byrne.

Passing sentence on Patrick Dowdall, Mr Justice Hunt said that the senior man had made no attempt to conceal or disguise his actions. The court accepted that Patrick Dowdall would be “caught up” in the aftermath of his son’s decision to turn State witness.

These are the first convictions in the investigation into the Regency Hotel shooting.

jonathan-dowdall-court-case Armed Gardaí outside the Criminal Courts of Justice this afternoon PA PA

A previous sentencing hearing on October 3 was told that Room 2104 in the Regency Hotel was booked in the name of Patrick Dowdall on February 4, 2016, one day before Mr Byrne’s murder. Patrick Dowdall’s mobile phone number was also on the hotel’s system, while a credit card connected to a family member of the Dowdalls had been used to secure the booking over the phone.

Jonathan Dowdall, the court heard, had driven his father to the hotel on the evening before the attack and a phone associated with the 44-year-old had used a mast at the hotel.

When questioned by gardai Patrick Dowdall admitted booking the room but claimed he had cancelled it. However, CCTV showed Patrick arriving at the Regency Hotel at 7.20pm on February 4, paying for the room in cash and receiving two key cards from reception. He then got into the lift, used one of the key cards to enter the hotel room and left the room minutes later.

Patrick Dowdall and Jonathan then went to give the key cards to a known member of the Hutch criminal organisation.

On 7 March 2016, a month after the shooting, Jonathan Dowdall travelled north of Dublin and met the person to whom the room key cards had been given. They drove together from Dublin to Northern Ireland while surveillance gardai recorded their conversation.

The father and son were brought into court this morning by two plain clothes gardai through the jury entrance rather than the cells or the public entrance. The Dowdall family is now in protective garda custody as there is a “severe risk” to the defendant and members of his family.

A significant security operation took place at the Criminal Courts of Justice building on Parkgate Street today, where members of the Garda Armed Support Unit and Garda Emergency Response Unit were present in the building.

Sadie Byrne and James ‘Jaws’ Byrne were in court to hear the sentence imposed on the Dowdalls, who facilitated the murder of their son David during the Hutch Kinahan feud.

Earlier this month at the men’s sentence hearing, defence counsel Michael O’Higgins SC, defending Jonathan Dowdall, said his client was being assessed for the Witness Protection Program (WPP) after giving a statement to gardai that implicated another or others in the murder of Mr Byrne, which was of benefit to the prosecution.

The three-judge court heard that following Jonathan Dowdall’s arrest in April 2021 in relation to the murder of David Byrne, he said he wanted to speak to someone about the Witness Protection Program and indicated that November that he was willing to make a statement to gardai about his knowledge of the Regency hotel shooting.

Jonathan Dowdall was interviewed by gardai and they then set about checking the information supplied by him. A formal statement was not taken from Jonathan until the last week of September this year.

Dowdall gave what was described in court as a “sincere and genuine” statement to gardai and had made himself available as a witness to give evidence in the upcoming trial of Mr Hutch, who is charged with Mr Byrne’s murder. That trial is due to start tomorrow.

Mr O’Higgins said the decision to give a statement to gardai had placed a “very, very heavy burden” on Dowdall and his family, that his client was facing a “pretty grim” future and that he would never again live in Ireland. “In effect it’s like taking your life and standing it on its head,” he added.

dublin-8-dublin-city-ireland-june-11th-2021-criminal-courts-of-justice-on-parkgate-street Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The lawyer also said his client’s agreement to testify had “very dark consequences” for the Dowdalls and that his life was “effectively over”. Mr O’Higgins added that his client would be living in “permanent exile” and have to spend his life looking over his shoulder.

Two weeks ago at the men’s sentence hearing, Detective Sergeant Patrick O’Toole told the three-judge court that while Dowdall had known the Hutch family since he was 15-years-old and occasionally borrowed money from them, he was not a member of any criminal organisation and had not benefited from the activities of the Hutch crime gang.

The court also heard that on the night of 4 February, a man identified as the now deceased Kevin Murray, who was wearing a flat-cap, was captured exiting a taxi and going straight up to the hotel room. It was clear Murray, who had known paramilitary connections with the IRA, had a key card, the court heard.

The court has heard that “one of the garda views was that Mr Murray was there to attract attention on the basis that if gardai applied resources to the investigation they would be misdirected in a paramilitary direction”.

Mr O’Higgins suggested it was also the garda view that the criminals behind the Regency attack asked Jonathan Dowdall to assist in order to lead gardai to believe that republican paramilitaries were behind the attack.

Hutch trial

Jonathan Dowdall, with an address at Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, was due to stand trial for Mr Byrne’s murder alongside Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch (59) but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of facilitating the shooting at the Special Criminal Court.

Mr Hutch, last of The Paddocks, Clontarf, is due to go on trial tomorrow charged with murdering Kinahan gang member David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in Whitehall, Dublin on February 5, 2016.

On September 28, Jonathan Dowdall and his father Patrick Dowdall, also of Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7, both admitted facilitating the murder of Mr Byrne as part of the Hutch-Kinahan feud.

Both men pleaded guilty to participating in or contributing to activity intending to or being reckless as to whether such participation or contribution could facilitate the commission of a serious offence by a criminal organisation or any of its members, to wit the murder of David Byrne, by making a room available at the Regency Hotel, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 for that criminal organisation or its members, within the State on 4 February 2016.

Jonathan Dowdall, who served as an elected Sinn Féin councillor in the north inner city ward in May 2014 and resigned less than one year later, had been charged in April 2021 at the non-jury court with the murder of Mr Byrne (34), from Crumlin, at the Regency Hotel in Whitehall, north Dublin. The State dropped the murder charge against Jonathan Dowdall on October 3.

Along with his father, Patrick Dowdall, Jonathan has now pleaded guilty to the less serious charge of assisting a criminal organisation, namely by booking a hotel room used by one of the gunmen.

Mr Byrne was shot dead at the hotel on the Swords Road, Co Dublin, on 5 February 2016 after five men, three disguised as armed gardaí, stormed the building.

Previous conviction

In June 2017, Jonathan Dowdall was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment and Patrick Dowdall eight years imprisonment by the Special Criminal Court for physically and mentally torturing a man they both suspected of trying to defraud them.

They had both pleaded guilty at the non-jury Special Criminal Court to falsely imprisoning Alexander Hurley and threatening to kill him at Jonathan’s family home on January 15, 2015.

However, the Dowdalls successfully appealed their sentences before the Court of Appeal in April 2018 and Jonathan Dowdall was resentenced to 10 years imprisonment with the final 25 months suspended and Patrick Dowdall to seven with the final three years suspended.

Gardai had attended Jonathan Dowdall’s home on foot of a search warrant for an unrelated matter, where a USB stick was discovered, analysed and found to contain a video of a person, Mr Hurley, being detained and assaulted.

Mr Hurley had come into contact with the Dowdalls when he responded to an online ad for Jonathan’s motorbike. He attended Jonathan’s home on January 12, 2015 where he examined the bike and tried on some motorcycle clothing.

Three days later, Jonathan Dowdall invited Mr Hurley to dinner in his home and picked him up outside the Rotunda Hospital.

On arrival, Mr Hurley was forced into a garage attached to the house and tied to a chair with cable ties by Patrick Dowdall.

He was then questioned at length in relation to alleged acts of dishonesty carried out by him. The Dowdalls were “convinced” Mr Hurley was attempting to obtain Jonathan Dowdall’s bank details with a view to accessing the account and defrauding him and that he was not genuinely interested in a motor bike.

Footage recorded on a mobile phone was shown to the Special Criminal Court and Court of Appeal of Jonathan Dowdall wearing a balaclava and holding a tea-towel to the man’s face before pouring water over his head, in what is commonly known as waterboarding. Patrick Dowdall was heard threatening to pull off Mr Hurley’s fingers one-by-one with a pair of pliers.

A ten minute video clip of what occurred, “taken by a young woman also present”, was shown to both the Special Criminal Court and the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal found that what took place in the garage over a two hour period was “truly appalling and shocking”.

Mr Hurley was told he would be chopped up and taken to Northern Ireland, that he would be buried in the mountains, his head burnt at the stake and that a pliers would be used to remove knuckles from his hands.

The Dowdalls told Mr Hurley that they were members of the IRA and that Jonathan Dowdall was a close friend of two prominent Sinn Féin politicians.

He also heard the Dowdalls and a third person discussing aloud what they were considering doing to him including feeding him to dogs, chopping him up and placing him in cellophane bags and storing him in the boot of a BMW.

Following his release, Mr Hurley was threatened that he and his family, including his parents, would be dead within 48 hours if Gardai were alerted.