8 December 2005 Edition

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Connolly hits back at McDowell

Journalist and Executive Director of the Centre for Public Inquiry Frank Connolly has hit back at what he says is a campaign of vilification against him. Connolly was reacting to controversial comments by Justice Minister Michael McDowell who claimed Connolly travelled to Colombia on a false passport and accompanied by a known IRA activist.

The journalist pointed out that since 2002 false allegations appeared in elements of the media, "chiefly those controlled by Independent News and Media" against him. He said the vilification campaign descended to a more vicious level since his appointment as Executive Director of the Centre for Public Inquiry which he says has been targeted by elements in Irish Society who are hostile to a body carrying out "independent scrutiny". The Centre has produced two well-received reports on Trim Castle and the Corrib Gas controversy.

In a statement Frank Connolly said: "On Saturday 26 and 27 last in what was patently a considered and timed response to the publication of the Report on the Corrib Gas controversy from those seeking to protect vested interests, the same false allegations were again published by Independent Newspapers concerning me. Further, the Minister for Justice, Mr Michael McDowell, participated in the attacks and has now repeated the allegations under Dáil privilege."

Connolly went on: "The Minister has purported to usurp the functions of an Garda Siochana and the Director of Public Prosecutions and seeks to destroy my reputation by publicly making charges of a criminal nature against me.

The Minister has sought to interfere with, if not jeopardise my employment as Executive Director of the Centre for Public Inquiry. By disclosing confidential information from Garda files to a member of the board of Atlantic Philanthropies, which funds the CPI, which is clearly insufficient to support a prosecution against me, he has intended to damage my reputation and my career as an investigative journalist.

"Furthermore, confidential documents from a Garda investigation file were copied to Independent Newspapers to the damage of a citizen, who is entitled to the presumption of his innocence and to the protection of his good name.

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