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Sinn Féin

'It's a good day when justice is served': Eoin Ó Broin responds to Dowdall sentencing

Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin says his party has been quick to distance itself from Dowdall.

SINN FÉIN TD Eoin Ó Broin has welcomed the conviction of former SF councillor Jonathan Dowdall, who was jailed for four years yesterday for facilitating the murder of Kinahan Cartel member David Byrne.

Speaking to reporters at Leinster House today, Eoin Ó Broin welcomed Dowdall’s conviction, saying that his party had moved to distance itself from the former member once it became known about his involvement in the Regency Hotel shooting in 2016.

Dowdall was a Sinn Féin councillor in 2014, but stepped down that year amid claims of bullying. In 2018, he was jailed - along with his father – for torturing a man they suspected of trying to defraud them, in January 2015.

Dowdall (44) – a married father of four with an address at Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7 – was due to stand trial today for the murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel, alongside his friend Gerard ‘The Monk’ Hutch. However, Dowdall pleaded guilty in advance of the trial to a lesser charge of facilitating the Hutch gang by making a hotel room available ahead of the murder.

Ó Broin commended the gardaí for the successful conclusion of the recent court case in which Dowdall was jailed, saying: “I think it’s good day when justice is served in that manner.” He did not comment on the ongoing court case. 

When asked by The Journal about how damaging the earlier case has been to the Sinn Féin party, Ó Broin said that “if the party had known at the time that Jonathan Dowdall joined the party or was selected as a candidate, what we subsequently learned, he would never have been in the party and he would never been a candidate”.

“We didn’t know those things at that stage. And I think most reasonable people accept that fact. I also have to say, we have been very, very quick to distance ourselves from him once those facts became public,” he added.

He said Dowdall was only a party member for nine months. 

“I think that’s a lesson for all political parties. That when you’re selecting people, for elected office, you have to do your due diligence,” said Ó Broin. 

Due diligence 

He denied that his party had not done due diligence before accepting Dowdall’s application to be a member of Sinn Féin.

“When anybody is joining a party, parties attempt to do due diligence to ensure it’s the kind of person you want in your party and representing your party.

“We don’t have the facility to do garda checks and those kinds of background checks,” he said, adding that it is the case that you have to “trust people that are telling us the truth”.

When asked about a €1,000 payment that Dowdall made to party leader Mary Lou McDonald’s constituency while he was a councillor, and whether Sinn Féin should now make a donation to a charity in the same amount, Ó Broin said his party “should do more than that”.

Sinn Féin should continue to represent its constituents, who he said are very often at the receiving end of organised crime and a lack of proper investment in community interventions. A charitable donation would be a “tokenistic gesture”, Ó Broin added. 

Libel cases taken by politicians 

Questions were also asked of the Sinn Féin housing spokesperson in relation to libel actions taken by politicians in his party. 

Speaking at Stormont yesterday, the Taoiseach said that there had been a number of cases taken by Sinn Fein.

“There has been a number of cases taken in terms of media, in terms of RTÉ, in terms of a number of other journalists and some politicians as well.

“In politics a lot has been said about us by Sinn Féin and we haven’t been out suing people or trying to shut down debate.

“I think part of it is shutting down the past and I believe that, particularly in relation to Mairia Cahill, there is no doubt, in my view, there has been a determined attempt to shut down that debate about how Mairia Cahill was treated. That’s the view I have.

“There are a number of other individuals outside of our party who have received legal letters as well.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was also questioned today about whether Sinn Fein is using legal threats as a strategy to stifle debate. 

“I know of at least three Fine Gael elected representatives who received legal letters from Sinn Féin figures,” Varadkar told reporters in Dublin today.

“Put it this way, it’s not unprecedented for politicians to sue. I’ve never done it, never issued a solicitor’s letter a day of my life, but it’s not unprecedented for politicians to do it.

“There is a risk involved. There are considerable legal costs in suing anyone, and there’s always the risk that you won’t be successful. There’s nothing new than that. But what seems different this time is it seems almost strategic,” he said. 

He said if anyone from Fine Gael decides to sue the media or sue another person, it’s a matter for them.

“We don’t advise people to do that and we certainly don’t pay any of their legal costs,” he said. 

Ó Broin denied his party’s involvement in its members’ libel actions.

He said any member of the party who decides to take a libel action does so individually, and fund it themselves. 

Politicians have a right to defend their good name in court, he said.

“I fundamentally believe people have the right to defend their good name. I also accept that our libel laws are outdated, antiquated, but if people feel they’re being libelled, if people feel their good name has been brought into question. I think they have a right to defend that,” he said. 

Sinn Féin also supports the reform of defamation laws in Ireland, he added.  


Ó Broin was also asked today about a coalition of non-governmental organisations from across Europe which state they are “united in recognition of the threat posed to public watchdogs by SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation)” being pursued by “wealthy and powerful litigants” as a threat to democracy.

The group has nominated Mary Lou McDonald for “SLAPP politician of the year” – an award it states is awarded to a “politician who has proven most reliant on SLAPPs and legal intimidation to respond to opposition, dissent, or efforts at accountability”.

When asked should McDonald win the award, Ó Broin said: ” I absolutely don’t, she’s not a bully, and I don’t think this award should be taken seriously.”

With reporting by Press Association 

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