Anthony McIntyre 🏴‍☠️ A prison visit by Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív to Jonathan Dowdall has poked something of a hornet's nest in certain media circles where a search expedition has been sent out to find a storm in a tea cup. 

Dowdall has been described as having been involved in "the most notorious gangland murder in State history." If nobody else, then journalists at least would be expected to feel, not forget, that Veronica Guerin's murder best fits that bill.

Dowdall has become a toxic figure of late, emitting a social radiation that drives the great and the good to don protective suits at the mention of his name. Mary Lou McDonald has amplified the moral panic in her bid to distance her party from him, when in fact Sinn Fein is no more responsible for Dowdall that it was for Pearse McAuley.

Prisons house many people who have inflicted great harm. When TDs attend such penal establishments they are not visiting a care home for the elderly or an orphanage, where the residents are not there because of some law they fell foul of. The Pharisaic admonishment is more worthy of attention than the visit.

Ó Cuív's visit took place while Dowdall was serving a sentence in Portlaoise Prison for a physical assault on a man which included torture. They discussed standard fare matters. Dowdall, his sentence served, has reemerged in the headlines as a result of his conviction in relation to facilitating a murder at Dublin's Regency Hotel which led to a fatal spiral of inter-gang rivalry across the capital and sometimes beyond. But for Dowdall's more recent newsworthiness, it is unlikely Ó Cuív's visit to him during his fist spell of imprisonment would have been picked up on the radar.

Ó Cuív in explaining his decision to visit said:

The work I do is mainly concentrated on the republican movement and republican prisoners and I've been doing that work openly for years and I think there has been very good practical results from that work and one that in my view has saved a lot of lives.

He added that he:

doesn’t deal with gangland criminals. I've never visited them and I have no connection with them but I'm sure other people are doing great work with them.


Here, while Ó Cuív did say “everyone was blindsided” when knowledge came out about Dowdall's involvement in Regency Hotel slaying, he was not criticising those people who do visit gangland prisoners, but merely laying out that his particular focus is on republican prisoners.

There is a detectable unease amongst other TDs about visiting prisoners who have no republican connections. Fianna Fáil Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said:

Deputy Ó Cuiv would have a long-standing record of engaging with republican prisoners ... But had he known the background in relation to Mr Dowdall he wouldn’t have met him.

McConalogue does not explain why it is less odious to visit a prisoner convicted of subversion than one serving time for gangland crime. The public is left to figure out this hierarchy of unworthiness for themselves in a society that formally does not favour one type of violent activity over another.

Éamon Ó Cuív for three decades has proven a champion of prisoners' rights, not a cheerleader for their unlawful activity. It would be a serious indictment of any penal system in which the inmates were so demonised that elected representatives were reticent about visiting them, not as friends but in their capacity as public representatives. 

The virtuous grandstanding found a parallel in recent criticisms of John Finucane who represented someone alleged to have been associated with the KOCG. The old familiar refrain at play of identifying solicitors with their clients or politicians with the prisoners they visit. 

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre

Visiting Dowdall

Anthony McIntyre 🏴‍☠️ A prison visit by Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív to Jonathan Dowdall has poked something of a hornet's nest in certain media circles where a search expedition has been sent out to find a storm in a tea cup. 

Dowdall has been described as having been involved in "the most notorious gangland murder in State history." If nobody else, then journalists at least would be expected to feel, not forget, that Veronica Guerin's murder best fits that bill.

Dowdall has become a toxic figure of late, emitting a social radiation that drives the great and the good to don protective suits at the mention of his name. Mary Lou McDonald has amplified the moral panic in her bid to distance her party from him, when in fact Sinn Fein is no more responsible for Dowdall that it was for Pearse McAuley.

Prisons house many people who have inflicted great harm. When TDs attend such penal establishments they are not visiting a care home for the elderly or an orphanage, where the residents are not there because of some law they fell foul of. The Pharisaic admonishment is more worthy of attention than the visit.

Ó Cuív's visit took place while Dowdall was serving a sentence in Portlaoise Prison for a physical assault on a man which included torture. They discussed standard fare matters. Dowdall, his sentence served, has reemerged in the headlines as a result of his conviction in relation to facilitating a murder at Dublin's Regency Hotel which led to a fatal spiral of inter-gang rivalry across the capital and sometimes beyond. But for Dowdall's more recent newsworthiness, it is unlikely Ó Cuív's visit to him during his fist spell of imprisonment would have been picked up on the radar.

Ó Cuív in explaining his decision to visit said:

The work I do is mainly concentrated on the republican movement and republican prisoners and I've been doing that work openly for years and I think there has been very good practical results from that work and one that in my view has saved a lot of lives.

He added that he:

doesn’t deal with gangland criminals. I've never visited them and I have no connection with them but I'm sure other people are doing great work with them.


Here, while Ó Cuív did say “everyone was blindsided” when knowledge came out about Dowdall's involvement in Regency Hotel slaying, he was not criticising those people who do visit gangland prisoners, but merely laying out that his particular focus is on republican prisoners.

There is a detectable unease amongst other TDs about visiting prisoners who have no republican connections. Fianna Fáil Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue said:

Deputy Ó Cuiv would have a long-standing record of engaging with republican prisoners ... But had he known the background in relation to Mr Dowdall he wouldn’t have met him.

McConalogue does not explain why it is less odious to visit a prisoner convicted of subversion than one serving time for gangland crime. The public is left to figure out this hierarchy of unworthiness for themselves in a society that formally does not favour one type of violent activity over another.

Éamon Ó Cuív for three decades has proven a champion of prisoners' rights, not a cheerleader for their unlawful activity. It would be a serious indictment of any penal system in which the inmates were so demonised that elected representatives were reticent about visiting them, not as friends but in their capacity as public representatives. 

The virtuous grandstanding found a parallel in recent criticisms of John Finucane who represented someone alleged to have been associated with the KOCG. The old familiar refrain at play of identifying solicitors with their clients or politicians with the prisoners they visit. 

⏩ Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre

1 comment:

  1. Alex Comments

    I met with Éamon Ó Cuív as a remand prisoner in Maghaberry, along with other Fianna Fail and left TDs. The purpose of the visits were to discuss conditions inside the prison. As republican prisoners we were acutely aware of the ideological chasm that existed between us. Notwithstanding this fact, I found him to be easy to converse with on all matters. He listened attentively as we aired our grievances, and offered his thoughts on how the situation might be resolved. He never shied away from posing difficult questions. His attitude was non-judgmental if somewhat superior.

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