The Frank Connolly Controversy

Over the last week and intensely at the weekend, the ‘Colombia-gate’ saga again reared its ugly head. Readers might remember the tale of 3 Irish men finding themselves in Colombia, bird-watching we were told, but arrested and tried for training anti-government marxist FARC rebels. They later popped up in Ireland, and the Colombian authorities are still seeking their return. One of the men, Niall Connolly, happened to be the brother of Frank, a high-profile journalist in Ireland. It is Frank that has now come to the fore in McDowell’s sights, an uncomfortable place to find yourself no doubt.

McDowell is making some very serious allegations indeed. He alleges that not only did Niall et al travel on false passports, so too did hack Frank Connolly. So thanks to limitless space I will quote the relevant piece from McDowell:

I am informed by An Garda Síochána that following the arrest in August 2001 of James Monaghan, Martin McAuley and Niall Connolly – who became known as the “Colombia Three” – the Colombian authorities had established that on April 10th, 2001, three people in possession of false Irish passports had earlier entered the Farc-controlled region in Colombia. The three persons who entered in April were subsequently identified as Frank Connolly, Niall Connolly and Pádraig Wilson.

Niall Connolly, who was identified as being part of both parties, is the brother of Frank Connolly and was described by the government of Cuba in August 2001 as the official Sinn Féin representative to the Cuban government and as resident in Havana.

The Garda authorities have informed me that they are fully satisfied as to the accuracy of the identification of all the members of both parties.

I do not propose to rehearse here the gravity of the charges against the “Colombia Three” but it clearly strains credulity to suggest that the two visits were unconnected.

This is all the more so when the persons on both trips had access to false passports which could only have been obtained in such quantities as part of a well- organised sinister enterprise. Niall Connolly, the brother of Frank Connolly, travelled on both occasions on a false passport.

I do not accept that the purpose of the visit on either occasion was to study the peace process in Colombia.

Pádraig Wilson was a known senior IRA member and has been convicted in Northern Ireland of explosives offences and conspiracy to murder, and of IRA membership.

James Monaghan was a known senior IRA member and has been convicted of numerous explosives and firearms offences, in this jurisdiction and in the UK, and of IRA membership.

Martin McAuley was a known IRA member and has been convicted of possession of a firearm.

On the basis of intelligence reports furnished to me, the visits appear to have been connected with an arrangement whereby the Provisional IRA furnished know- how in the use of explosives.

The consideration received by the Provisional IRA under the arrangement is believed to be the payment of a large amount of money by Farc, which finances its activities by its control of the cocaine trade in the area of Colombia which it controls.

I am aware that – despite the commitment of the Centre for Public Inquiry to “independently promote the highest standards of integrity, ethics and accountability” – Mr Connolly has proved very reticent in answering any detailed questions about the subject of his presence in Colombia.

A veritable plethora of allegations indeed. And how, you might ask, has Frank Connolly responded? On the News at One last Wednesday Frank was interviewed, where he did state certain things categorically, Sean O’Rourke interviewing:

SOR: Have you visited Colombia?

FC: No.

SOR: Ever?

FC: No.

SOR: And then so you’re saying the question of you being in Colombia in possession of a false passport, is irrelevant?

FC: Is false.

SOR: When you were being questioned by Gardai in relation to all of this did they show you any documentation or picture purporting to be your picture?

FC: Of course they showed me documentation and what I have said from that time onwards is that, iand this is 3 and a half years ago, it had nothing to do with me.

SOR: Did they show you a picture that was a picture of you?

FC: Well I’m not going to discuss firstly what happened in my discussions with the Gardai, but I think you could fairly make that assumption yes. And what I’m saying is that I have disputed and denied that I had anything to do with this alleged false passport.

SOR: Was it your picture?

FC: That I saw? That was shown to me? Absolutely not.

When asked specifically what he had been doing at the time he was alleged to be in Colombia, Connolly said:

When the DPP, if he ever does, decides to forward a case against me, I will deal with all the issues. I’m not going to be interrogated as if I was in a Garda station on an RTÉ programme.

In his defence, Connolly makes his own allegations. That McDowell leaked confidential Garda files to a journalist, that McDowell told Atlantic Philanthropies of the contents of the Garda files. That information was always leaked around the time of reports of the CPI being released. That with the launch of the CPI, the attacks on him began in earnest. That ultimately the Minister is interfering in due process.

Now to get this down to a 1000 word opinion piece.

11 thoughts on “The Frank Connolly Controversy”

  1. the Colombian authorities had established that on April 10th, 2001, three people in possession of false Irish passports had earlier entered the Farc-controlled region in Colombia.

    did the colombia 3 trial not demonstrate conclusively that the columbian authorities were a pack of liars? specifically, did the defendants not demostrate that they could not possibly have been in columbia (videos from dublin & belfast) at the time the authorites claimed? if that is the case, how the fuck can the gardaí or mcdowell cite ‘columbian authorities’ as sources for their belief that connolly travelled to columbia and thus represented a threat to the state, justifying the suspension of his constitutional right to due process? FFS!

  2. Actually, some of the key evidence seems to have come from the use of the forged passports in Paris so Enda you’ll also have to cast aspersions on Air France and the French authorities. And the CCTV footage from Bogota. Oh, and the fact that (according to the Sunday Independent) Frank Connolly’s own passport was used to travel to and from Paris on the dates in question (my personal favourite factoid that one). Connolly has set himself up as an arbiter of public probity. He could deal a hammer blow to McDowell’s political and quite possibly legal career if he were to demonstrate that he was not in Columbia at the time in question. To choose not to do so, citing higher moral ground, is a particularly weak response from a man dedicated to rooting out all that is wrong in public life. Of course, the obvious conclusion is that he cannot offer such proof – does anyone seriously believe he would hesitate otherwise?. Given our stringent libel laws (all of this was published long before McDowell raised it in the Dail)it is also peculiar that COnnolly did not seek redress for what would be a vicious libel if untrue. This also highlights the point that despite all the righteous indignation flying around about McDowells actions, the story was in the public domain since 2002 – in other words it was not introduced under Dail privilege.

  3. john m.,

    you got all that from the sindo? first i’ve heard of any mention of Paris or CCTV footage from Bogotá, but if it’s in the sindo it must be true, eh?

    the obvious conclusion is that he cannot offer such proof another conclusion is that frank connolly is taking his time to establish conclusively where he was in april 2001. i don’t know where i was in april 2001 and if i was frank connolly i’d take my time before responding. i find it curious also that justice flood is backing connolly to the hilt – i wonder why? or is he in the ‘RA too?

  4. of course maybe o’reilly’s rag has its sights on flood also – they must be pretty sore about the whole rennicks-filtzwilton lark. hopefully the mahon tribunal will finish the job.

  5. Perhaps Justice Flood has not developed amnesia yet. He still remembers the fundamentals of our justice system that – a man is innocent until proven guilty… very easy to see why he would back an innocent man.

  6. “He could deal a hammer blow to McDowell’s political and quite possibly legal career if he were to demonstrate that he was not in Columbia at the time in question.” said John M.

    I believe that Connolly’s silence is telling, and I also reckon that he has the proof he was nowhere near South America. Think about it… what’s the point in doing that now. All he has to do is wait until the elections and then, once and for all, expose McDowell for what he is, get the PDs out of power and end this McCarthyism once and for all.

    As for the Sunday “Provos Ate My Hamster” Independent, as long as the middle-classes keep buying it, there is nothing that can be done except ignore it for the disgusting, Volkischer Beobachter-like rag it is.

  7. Frank Connolly ducked questions on RTE by saying that he was not going to be interrogated as if he were in a Garda station. Sorry, Frankie, that just won’t do: haven’t you yourself made a living out of interrogating people as if they were in a Garda station – and if they declined to answer your questions, didn’t you make great play on this, as if they were hiding someting? See, Frank, you really cannot swing both ways!

  8. i think Frank Connolly has a lot of explaining to do after yesterday’s Sunday Independent(6/1/08) article by Eoghan Harris.I don’t think it’s fitting that a ‘journalist’ of such controversy should be trusted and hailed as a hack.

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