A unionist MLA has hit out at a “wholly unconvincing” statement from Sinn Fein in which the party expressed horror at the fact one of its ex-councillors held a man captive and subjected him to a three-hour ordeal.
Jim Allister, TUV MLA, was reacting to a statement issued by Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald about Jonathan Dowdall – a former colleague who has pleaded guilty to crimes relating to the abuse of a man while being held in Dowdall’s garage.
The extraordinary case came to light on Friday, and after court reports of the criminal proceedings made it into the news, Sinn Fein issued a statement condemning their former member.
In it, Mary Lou McDonald said: “I welcome the conviction of Jonathan Dowdall in court today. The details of the attack perpetrated by him are deeply shocking.
“I hope the sentence delivered by the court reflects the seriousness of the offence and the trauma endured by his victim. Jonathan Dowdall left Sinn Fein some years ago. He subsequently worked with, and supported, a political opponent of Sinn Féin in the Dublin Central constituency.”
However, according to press reports from early 2015, Dowdall only left Sinn Fein after the incident.
Mr Allister, leader of the TUV, said: “This is but a snapshot of some of the horrors that active IRA/Sinn Fein people inflicted, mostly upon their own, through the years.
“This sort of activity’s the stock-in-trade of IRA/Sinn Fein – they’ve been doing it for decades, primarily to their own people.”
In that light, he said Sinn Fein’s efforts to “wash their hands” of Dowdall’s misdeeds were “wholly unconvincing”.
Dowdall, 38, and with an address at Navan Road, Dublin, and his father Patrick Dowdall, 59 and of the same address, both admitted to falsely imprisoning a man on January 15, 2015, and threatening to kill him.
Dublin’s Special Criminal Court was told the man – a convicted fraudster – met the pair after answering an advert about a motorbike for sale. The court was told Jonathan Dowdall believed the man was attempting to defraud him.
The court heard the victim was pushed into the garage by Patrick Dowdall and tied to a chair. During this time, he heard the Dowdalls talking about chopping him up and feeding him to dogs.
It also heard that Jonathan Dowdall put a tea-towel over the victim’s face and poured a bucket of water over his head – a manoeuvre known as ‘waterboarding’, which can recreate the sensation of drowning.
The court also heard that during the course of the victim’s ordeal he was told that Jonathan Dowdall was a “good friend of Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald”.
The victim was also told that he had been “stupid” for attempting to “mess with the head of the IRA”.
Dowdall, Ms McDonald and Mr Adams have all been pictured together in the past.
Extracts from press reports suggest Dowdall only left Sinn Fein in February 2015 – the month after the man was held captive.
A report on news site www.thejournal.ie says that whilst Dowdall publicly considered quitting in September 2014 he had ultimately opted to stay on.
Then when he did quit, his resignation took effect from February 15, 2015.
The Irish Independent likewise gives February 2015 as the date when he quit Sinn Fein.
Asked to confirm if he was indeed a party member at the time the crime was committed, Sinn Fein simply reissued the same statement from Ms McDonald that it had released on Friday.
The Dowdalls are expected to remain in custody until they are sentenced on May 19.