| 6.5°C Dublin

Is no cause too toxic for TDs who backed Real IRA terrorist?


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Donal O Coisdealbha is an exceptionally dangerous young man. This self-confessed member of the Real IRA has just been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison by the Special Criminal Court.

His downfall came when gardai found him in possession of explosive devices, improvised rockets and Semtex - all part of an advanced plan for an attack during the visit of Britain's Prince Charles in May last year.

As he begins his new life behind bars this week, O Coisdealbha can at least comfort himself with the thought that he has friends in high places.

Three Independent TDs - Mick Wallace, Clare Daly and Maureen O'Sullivan - all offered him moral and financial support by saying they were prepared to put up €5,000 that would secure his release on bail.

By doing so, they not only demeaned themselves, they brought Dail Eireann into disrepute and showed there is no case too toxic for their juvenile, attention-seeking, morally brain-dead style of politics.

Even one of the Special Criminal Court judges seems to have been surprised by the TDs' antics. During the sentencing hearing last Tuesday, Justice Isobel Kennedy described as "puzzling" a letter from Maur-een O'Sullivan that claimed there was nothing to be gained from keeping O Coisdealbha in custody.

Instead of admitting her mistake, however, O'Sullivan has actually doubled down on it by insisting that the would-be bomber she defended as a "fine, intelligent and hard-working man" will go on to live his life in "a positive, kind way".

Just imagine for a moment that the Real IRA's plan had succeeded. If Prince Charles had been killed or injured at Mullaghmore (where his beloved great-uncle Lord Mountbatten was murdered in 1979), it would have set Anglo-Irish relations back at least 30 years.

Just as Dallas is still best known as the city where John F Kennedy fell prey to an assass- in's bullet, Ireland's reputation would be tarnished in the eyes of the world.

At least one man might not have burst into tears at such a development. O Coisdealbha is the son of Jim 'Mortar' Monaghan, a veteran explosives expert who allegedly once sat on the IRA Army Council.

As his nickname suggests, Mortar believed that the best way to deal with political opponents was to put a bomb under them, and he escaped his own Special Criminal Court trial 30 years ago after a hole was blasted through the door.


Although Monaghan prefers to keep a low profile these days, he has recently been seen supporting his boy in court. He was also photographed at protests calling for his release with Maureen O'Sullivan and Clare Daly.

Did his presence not even start the faintest of alarm bells ringing in their minds? Have they no shame about campaigning alongside one of the most brutal and dangerous terrorists this country has seen?

In fairness to the three TDs, nobody is accusing them of having any time for political violence. By their own account, they got involved to highlight the length of time that some prisoners are being held before coming to trial.

If so, Wallace, Daly and O'Sullivan should start choosing their battles more carefully, because this has been the sort of irresponsible and self-indulgent crusade that gives Independent deputies a bad name.

Wallace and Daly in particular have form here. They recently took up the cause of Leon Wright, a 28-year-old criminal who is widely regarded by prison staff as Ireland's most dangerous inmate.

Wright already has 84 convictions, including robberies, firearms offences and random knife attacks, but when he was cleared of an assault charge last month the two TDs were in court to claim his human rights had been breached.

It is often said that lawmakers cannot be lawbreakers. They cannot cosy up to lawbreakers either - at least, not without some voters starting to wonder just whose side they are on.