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Thursday 29 September 2016

'If I was involved in crime, it would have come out' - Ex-Sinn Féin councillor denies he has any link to inner-city gangs

David Kearns

Published 11/03/2016 | 16:03

Gardai at the home of Jonathan Dowdall (inset)
Gardai at the home of Jonathan Dowdall (inset)

A former Sinn Féin councillor has categorically denied any involvement with criminality following a raid on his home by Gardaí.

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Jonathan Dowdall (38) says he was as surprised as anyone to see armed Gardaí units pulling up outside his home on Thursday, saying he managed to open the door “just in time to stop them bursting through”.

“I wasn’t cautioned or arrested at any point, and I’ve no idea what it was in relation to,” he told RTÉ’s Liveline.

Mr Dowdall said that between 10 and 15 armed Gardaí searched his home on the Navan Road, near Cabra in West Dublin. The former Dublin City Councillor confirmed reports that a luxury BMW and high speed motorbike, alongside documentation and other valuables in the home, were taken by officers.

Asked about the BMW by RTE broadcaster Joe Duffy, Mr Dowdall replied: “I like cars since I was a child… to this day I’m still breaking my arse to pay for that car… I’ve a loan for it like everyone else in the country.”

“I’ve got papers for all the cars… and I’ve up to date tax clearance,” he continued.

Denying any connections to “criminality or any crime organisation”, Mr Dowdall said if he had had any link to crime, “it would have come out doing the election”.

Mr Dowdall lives in the west of the city now, but hails from the north inner city and knows people who are related to Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch, many of whom have no links to crime.

Queried about his association with the Hutch family, the 38-year-old said: “You know how the inner city works, everyone knows everyone… some of them I’m proud to know, and there’s plenty others I’ve never met.

“Just because someone has the name Hutch doesn’t mean anything… Patrick Hutch is the father and has been a good friend of mine since I was a child.

“It’s been in the media all along that this man has no involvement in crime.

“I know that man, that man is a friend of mine… and this [raid]  is probably linked to that."

Gardai at the home of Jonathan Dowdall at 270 Navan Road. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Gardai at the home of Jonathan Dowdall at 270 Navan Road. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Mary Lou McDonald with Jonathan Dowdall
Members of the garda water unit outside the home of Jonathan Dowdall on the Navan Road. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

Responding to reports that Gardaí called in the Water Unit to examine a large aquarium at his home, the 38-year-old said that, as a hobby, he keeps Japanese carp fish.

“I grow them up and sell them on to some of my friends. It’s a hobby and [the aquarium] is something I built myself.

“It’s a pond,” he continued, saying he has no idea if Gardaí were forced to wade though it during their search.

The former Sinn Féin councillor alleged his wife came back to the family home yesterday evening only to find a Garda sitting in the house alone on the sofa watching telly with a machine gun beside him.

He claimed the future of his electrical business is now in doubt following the raid.

“There are at least nine electricians with mortgages who are probably going to lose their jobs now.

“I’m worried here… I’ve worked my arse off since I was 16 and now my whole life has been turned upside down.

“Like any business today, my company is always in overdraft. I borrow, which I’ve prove of, from the Credit Union down the road for the weeks I’m waiting for payment to come in… it’s not a cash business.

“I’ve been doing work for a particular company in the city centre and one of my staff members was greeted by a management figure [this morning] who put a paper in his face and asked ‘What’s all this about?!’

“I’m going to lose company over this [raid].”

The father-of-four was first elected to Dublin City Council in 2014. Serving the North Inner City, he left Sinn Féin and public office less than a year later.

Mr Dowdall, who operates Dowdall Electrical Ltd, trading as ABCO Electrical, said he was leaving the party in September 2014 for health reasons before later agreeing to stay on. He finally quit the party and the city council in February 2015.

He said he was bullied by unnamed party members but never lodged a formal complaint.

In an interview last year, Mr Dowdall, who is originally from the north inner city, said he was targeted by "a certain element within Sinn Féin".

"Bullying is allowed go on in certain parts of Sinn Féin," he said. "There were numerous attacks on myself from a certain element within Sinn Féin, and there were attacks on my team members."

Earlier today, Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald sought to distance the party from its former Dublin City councillor, saying he had “no political affiliation to Sinn Féin”.

"The person concerned, Jonathan Dowdall, left [the party] some time ago," she said.

"In terms of that particular Garda operation – I don’t know why it was carried out.

"I don’t believe that the Gardaí have made a statement on that matter but I would just reiterate that the Gardaí have to carry out their duties and of course people are entitled to due process and that is how it is."

Asked if she was concerned that the home of her former colleague, Mr Dowdall had been searched by Gardaí she replied:

"I’m very concerned as I’ve said that the Gardaí pursue matters in an appropriate and an efficient and an effective way but on the issue of Jonathan himself, he left Sinn Féin,"

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