From top: James Wray, William McKinney; Senator Michael McDowell
On RTÉ Radio One’s Marian Finucane show.
Former Minister for Justice Senator Michael McDowell voiced his thoughts on the prosecution of Soldier F.
Soldier F is to go on trial next year for the murder of James Wray and William McKinney and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell during Bloody Sunday in the Bogside area of Derry in 1972.
Mr McDowell’s comments yesterday followed the former Minister for Justice reportedly making similar comments while speaking at an event last week to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Association of Retired and Commissioned Officers.
Mr McDowell was on the radio programme’s panel with Justine McCarthy, Political Correspondent for The Sunday Times, Mary C Murphy, a senior lecturer in politics Department of Government and Politics UCC, Diarmaid Ferriter, historian at UCD and Conall MacCoille, Chief Economist at Davy.
The barrister made his comments just after the panel had been discussing the potential political consequences of Spain’s Supreme Court ruling last month that the remains of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco should be exhumed from the state mausoleum, where his remains have been buried since his death in 1975, and reburied next to his wife in a graveyard outside Madrid.
Michael McDowell: “This is the point that I was raising in the week, I was asked to speak to retired army officers here. It sounds very dangerous.”
McDowell: “But in any event, it was a very enjoyable occasion. But in the course of my remarks, I said to them, you know, there is a sense in which you have to make a very cold choice as to whether you run a line across this page of history and say ‘we’re not going behind that again’, ‘we’re not going back there’.
“I mean Solder F.”
Marian Finucane: “Yeah.”
McDowell: “On trial for something 47 years ago when you know and I know, Marian, you’d had people in this studio who’ve done far worse things and…”
Finucane: “Eh no…”
Finucane: “Anyone who has been in this studio has assured me that they haven’t and that they were never a member of the IRA and that’s a fact.”
Finucane: “They told me.”
McDowell: “They told you…well I mean…”
Justine McCarthy: “I think for, to be fair to the relatives of the people who were killed on Bloody Sunday, there is nothing worse than to have somebody shot dead, an innocent person.”
McDowell: “I know there isn’t but I really do think, you know, we faced that in the civil war here. And on the day of the handover to Fianna Fáil, the Minister for Defence said ‘destroy all records’ to do with the executions and all the rest of it.
“By far, I think it was Desmond Fitzgerald who signed that order to the armed forces. He was saying we’re drawing a line under that and they didn’t go back under that. The army switched its allegiance to De Valera’s government and…”
Diarmaid Ferriter: “Well a hundred years on, that civil war legacy is still a delicate issue. So if it’s only 45 years…”
McDowell: “Or in America, they’re still fighting their civil war. The question I’m saying, I don’t believe, I have to say, in all, of this notion of a truth commission. You’ll never find out the truth about most things that happened in Northern Ireland. The people who did the terrible deeds will never put there hands up and say ‘I did this’.”
Later the panel were discussing the situation facing the Kurds in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.
McDowell: “You’ve the crass ignorance of Donald Trump, you know what I mean. First of all, he claims to have won the battle against IS single handed. Then he had to acknowledge that they did most of the fighting for him. Then he lets them down with this telephone deal with Erdogan. Then he justifies that by saying the Kurds, god help them, were no help during D-Day invasion in Normandy…I mean to have a buffoon like him…”
Diarmaid Ferriter: “But it’s also the power that it’s giving to Putin as well…”
Finucane: “You may not like Mr Trump, Michael McDowell…”
McDowell: “I don’t.”
Finucane: “But he was elected under their system whether you like it or not.”
McDowell: “I agree with you, he was elected and I would accord him the respect that that involves but I would regard him as an absolutely shameful character. And I really think he’s a standing insult to the American people.”
Ferriter: “There’s another headline today, suggesting he’s going to tweet his way to a second term which is…”
Finucane: “Well, you see, I know there is a complete bias among our listenership, not universal because they get very annoyed at about, how, when anti-Trump stuff is said. His supporters think he’s kind of god.”
McDowell: “So did Adolf’s and Joe Stalin’s.”
McCarthy: “Somebody said the other day that the only member of the army that President Trump admires is Col Saunders.”
Listen back in full here