Jonathan Dowdall, who this week pleaded guilty to abetting the murderous attack on the Regency Hotel in 2016 that led to the escalation of the Hutch-Kinahan feud, was a councilor at north inner-city Sinn Féin for less than a year.
He was elected in May 2014 and resigned in February 2015 but “was never a politician,” say those who sat with him on Dublin City Council at the time.
While he has no political background, Dowdall has said publicly that he grew up around members of the Hutch family, some of whom he “proudly” knows.
Some politicians and activists in the area say it was common knowledge that he had crime ties during his time on the council.
Others dispute this.
Although he had some ties to gang members, he hadn’t previously had much dealings with Sinn Féin. It is believed he came across the party through meeting an activist abroad who encouraged him to get involved.
In 2011, he donated €1,000 to Mary Lou McDonald, Vice President of Sinn Féin.
It is believed that this was one of his first steps within the party.
In 2013 he was involved in a Sinn Féin fundraiser for office boxes in Dublin city centre. Ahead of the tournament, which cost €20 tickets, party TDs and MLAs trained at the Corinthians Boxing Club, which was opened in 1998 by mobster Gerry Hutch.
A photo from a workout session at the gym shows McDonald posing in the front while Dowdall stands in the back.
A party spokesman said McDonald has “actively supported a number of boxing and other sporting clubs in the area and has participated in events in Corinthians as well as other local clubs in the past”.
He also bought tickets to a Sinn Féin dinner and other local event over the years.
McDonald kept a close eye on business in Dublin. Ahead of the 2014 local elections, Labor managed a young businessman named Darryl O’Callaghan, who was involved in sport and came from a well-known family. She needed her own version of O’Callaghan and Dowdall caught her eye.
Charming, popular and well known, Dowdall lived on Navan Road in Cabra and ran an electronics shop employing 12 people. He was married and had four children.
He owned several high-performance motorcycles and drove a Jeep and a flashy white BMW that was his trademark.
He gave the locals the impression that he was doing very well and that he was almost rare good news for the area.
McDonald took a liking to him, and Sinn Féin asked him to run fairly late in the process.
The party led three people in the area: Dowdall, Janice Boylan and Gaye Fagan.
Dowdall’s late addition to the ticket angered party members and campaigners for the other candidates.
There was some resentment when Fagan, considered a true community activist, lost a seat by just a handful of votes.
During his time on Dublin City Council, Dowdall seemed lost. He did not often speak in the Council Chamber and gave the impression to colleagues that he did not really understand how the Council worked.
Any sources who spoke to the Irish Independent and knew Dowdall said at the time that he had “no politics”. Some of his former colleagues on the Council recall that he spoke to him only a few times.
“He liked the idea of walking around with an open chest and being able to say he was a council member,” a source said.
His achievements as a politician are small.
Sinn Féin pushed for five Garth Brooks concerts to be held at Croke Park that year and Dowdall, along with SF Cllr Séamas McGrattan, submitted a motion to the council for the chief executive to step in and allow the concerts.
He has been known to speak out on issues such as local employment in the area and housing.
He was able to get in touch with local voters better and campaigned for more apprenticeships for young people.
He told local radio station Near FM before the election that if he had €1 for every time a young person handed in a CV at the door, “I could shut down the company”.
However, fighting within Sinn Féin around Dowdall continued.
“Everybody knows everybody downtown,” Dowdall told Joe Duffy’s live line in 2016.
“I sponsor football teams, boxing teams and of course I know members of the Hutch family, some of whom I’m very proud of.”
Others were unhappy that he even got the chance to walk.
In September 2014, after nine months as a council member, he said he had been bullied by party members and had left Sinn Féin.
In January 2015, he waterboarded a man who came to his house hoping to buy a motorcycle.
Dowdall threatened his life and told him he was a member of the IRA.
A little over a month later, he officially resigned from his position as city councilor
After being convicted in 2017, McDonald distanced Dowdall from Sinn Féin, saying he left the party “several years ago”.
“He subsequently worked with and supported a political opponent of Sinn Féin in the Dublin Central constituency.”
A party spokesman said Sinn Féin was unaware of its involvement in crimes until the 2016 raid on the Garda.
“Of course, had we known about his involvement in the crime, he should not have been a member of the party, let alone a public representative,” the spokesman said.
“Jonathan Dowdall has been convicted of a series of horrifying and serious crimes following a protracted and successful Garda investigation.
“Mary Lou McDonald commends the Gardaí for their work and their continued and unwavering support in fighting the scourge of organized crime in their constituency.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/the-charms-of-jonathan-dowdall-ex-sinn-fein-councillor-with-no-politics-and-links-to-gangland-42031400.html The ‘charm’ of Jonathan Dowdall – ex-Sinn Féin councilor with ‘no politics’ and gangland ties