Jonathan Dowdall spent €500 on lunch tickets for Sinn Féin fundraiser in hotel
Story by Gabija Gataveckaite, Fionnán Sheahan and Senan Molony • Yesterday 02:30
Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall bought four tickets to the value of €500 for a party fundraising lunch in the Gresham Hotel in July 2013, Sinn Féin has revealed.
This comes in addition to a €1,000 cheque he donated to Mary Lou McDonald in 2011.
The party has not specified how much Mr Dowdall paid for tickets to a dinner dance and a local event, which it says were the “only other monies” from him.
Separately, Sinn Féin has insisted that Mary Lou McDonald knew nothing of a gun attack that party officials discussed with Jonathan Dowdall before he was a councillor.
During the Regency trial, it was revealed top Sinn Féin official Brian Keane had discussed with Dowdall a gun attack on his uncle’s home in 2011.
The conversation took place shortly before the 2014 local elections, when Mr Keane was the Sinn Féin director of elections in Dublin. That put him in charge of all the candidates.
A spokesperson for the party said Dowdall had raised the incident, and it was “never raised or referred to again”.
“Jonathan Dowdall said that he did not know who was involved. There was no suggestion that Jonathan Dowdall was involved in this incident. There was no suggestion that he was involved in any form of criminality at this stage.
“Mary Lou McDonald was not aware of this meeting or conversation.
“Nobody, at any stage, raised any concerns about Jonathan Dowdall being involved with criminality with Mary Lou McDonald,” they added.
The spokesperson said Dowdall met Ms McDonald when he and his wife, who worked as a civil servant in the Department of Social Protection, attended an event before the 2011 general election.
Sinn Féin says no member of the Hutch family has ever given money to the party or to its politicians.
“Had we known of [Dowdall’s] involvement in criminality, clearly he would not have been allowed to be a member of the party, never mind a public representative.”
A spokesperson added that Ms McDonald was not aware of Dowdall’s involvement in criminality until his house was raided in 2016, more than a year after he had left the party.
Earlier yesterday, the heads of Government called on Sinn Féin to answer further questions on Dowdall.
Speaking in Belfast, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said it was “very difficult” to believe the lack of knowledge of what Dowdall was “up to at the time when he was elected Sinn Féin councillor in Dublin”.
“Sinn Féin need to clarify that point,” said Mr Martin.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was clear “that there was more than an inkling, that there was knowledge” of Jonathan Dowdall’s murky past.
Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe used Dáil privilege to describe Jonathan Dowdall as Mary Lou McDonald’s “good friend”.
Mr Varadkar said: “I believe it is also important that the €1,000 donation (from Dowdall to Ms McDonald) should be returned – and that information be disclosed on other donations made by Mr Dowdall to Sinn Féin, and that we get more detail on Sinn Féin’s knowledge of his actions.”
Party colleague TD Paul Kehoe said: “Deputy McDonald’s criminal councillor saw more of the Special Criminal Court than he did the Dublin City Council chamber.”
The former Sinn Féin local representative was jailed last year for facilitating the Regency gangland murder, he said. “That was the second time Dowdall was convicted.”
Mr Varadkar added that evidence “shows a clear and ongoing link or overlap between Republican paramilitaries and organised criminal gangs.”
Mr Varadkar said: “They are not worlds apart. In fact, they inhabit the same netherworld in my view.
“By the way, I do not think for a second that Sinn Féin is in any way responsible for Jonathan Dowdall’s actions.
“I know it can be difficult to vet candidates, and I do not believe in guilt by association.
“However, I believe that we would not have had many (gangland) convictions were it not for the Special Criminal Court.
“I call on Sinn Féin, and on the leader of Sinn Féin in particular, to affirm that they will vote for the renewal of the Special Criminal Court in June. There should not be an abstention, or a policy of not turning up,” he said.
“He was sentenced for waterboarding in 2015 while serving as a Sinn Féin councillor. He was convicted twice in the Special Criminal Court; not many criminals have achieved that feat.”
Public Expenditure minister Paschal Donohoe said Mary Lou McDonald’s position on Jonathan Dowdall was not credible.
Mr Donohoe, a constituency colleague to the Sinn Féin leader, asked whether Ms McDonald was “involved in the selection of that candidate” in the local elections in Cabra, whereby he became a Sinn Féin councillor, “or what role did she play?”
He pointed out that Mr Dowdall “was a public representative was involved in torture.”