A Life in the Wilderness, and never Knowing, when you could be Rumbled? Dowdall has a Bleak Future?

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Inside ‘isolation & despair’ of Ireland’s witness security programme as Dowdall to testify against Hutch, Crime Editor

  • 8:09, 9 Oct 2022
  • Updated: 8:09, 9 Oct 2022

A PARTICIPANT in Ireland’s Witness Security Programme has spoken of a “life of isolation and despair”.

In an interview with The Irish Sun on Sunday, the witness provided a rare insight into their life since testifying against a group of dangerous criminals.

Former Sinn Fein Councillor Jonathan Dowdall and dad Patrick
Former Sinn Fein Councillor Jonathan Dowdall and dad PatrickCredit: Collins
Dowdall is set to testify against Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch
Dowdall is set to testify against Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch

They spoke to us after it emerged last week that former Sinn Fein councillor Jonathan Dowdall, 44, would testify against Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch at his forthcoming trial for the ‘Regency Hotel murder’ of 34-year-old David Byrne on February 5, 2016.

Speaking via a friend, they revealed how life in the programme causes “immense stress” to the witness and their family.

Our latest revelation comes after we told on Friday how two of Dowdall’s relatives had been officially warned by gardai their lives were in “severe” danger.

The witness said: “The programme can tear families apart and the Dowdall family better have a strong bond because they are going to need it.


Chilling gangland threat to Dowdall's innocent relatives after Hutch trial move

“Life as they previously knew it is now over and they’d better prepare for not seeing many of their relatives for years.

“There’s also a stigma attached to being in the programme and his innocent relatives could suffer from intimidation because of his decision. It’s important to keep going and to be mentally strong in this process.”


The witness also said: “They also should prepare for being moved from place to place and constantly looking over their shoulder every time they go for a walk.

“Even though I did the right thing, it never leaves you.

“He should also know that if he were to ever return home he could be thrown off the programme.

“There is a sense of isolation and a feeling that life is over because everything has changed in an instant over a decision to do the right thing.”

At present, there are around 30 people in Ireland’s Witness Security Programme, which is run by the Gardai’s Crime and Security section.

They include people from Ireland but also individuals from other countries who have testified in their homeland.

Once Dowdall made the decision to testify against Hutch, he would have met Gardai to provide testimony.

He will then meet with representatives from the Garda programme before providing statements on his knowledge of events surrounding the killing of Byrne.

In recent times, brave witness Joey O’Callaghan has spoken of his life in the programme after helping to convict Brian Kenny and Thomas Hinchon for the murder of Jonathan O’Reilly in 2004.

In a previous interview with the Irish Sun, Joey, whose book The Witness written with Sunday World Investigations Editor Nicola Tallant was a bestseller, told of his ongoing trauma.


Unlike Jonathan Dowdall, Joey had no criminal convictions after agreeing to testify.

Joey, whose multi-award winning podcast The Witness also outlined his pain, said: “I never received any psychological help and I was only in the programme for a year.

“I was told never to contact my family or my daughter again. I knew all along good would overcome evil.

“I did this for the greater good and the right reasons because they took someone’s life. I still have to wear a bulletproof vest after all these years.

“There have been numerous attempts on my life and I have received six Garda Information Messages warning me of threats to my life in the last five years.

“When I entered the programme I was brought to a safe house and I was told to put a wardrobe against the door for security.”

At present, O’Callaghan remains in hiding and there are fears for his safety with Hinchon and Kenny both due for parole in 2023.

Kenny was recently sent back to Dublin’s Wheatfield Prison after he was caught dealing drugs in Loughan House open prison.

This is part of the probe into the Regency Hotel shooting in 2016
This is part of the probe into the Regency Hotel shooting in 2016Credit: PA:Press Association
Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch
Gerry ‘The Monk’ HutchCredit: Paul Sharp – The Sun Dublin

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