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Unionists call for probe into allegations against Mary Lou McDonald made in Hutch trial

The court heard ex-Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall claiming party leader Mary Lou McDonald used the Hutch family for money and votes, in a secretly recorded conversation.

BelfastTelegraph.co.uk NewsdeskBelfast Telegraph

Unionists have called for a cross border police investigation into allegations made about Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald during the Regency Hotel trial.

Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch (59), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin is currently on trial for murder of a man who was shot dead during the February 2016 Regency Hotel attack.

Paul Murphy (61) of Cherry Avenue, Swords along with Jason Bonney (51) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock, who are also on trial, all deny the charges against them.

Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall, who has since turned state’s evidence, was secretly recorded claiming party leader Mary Lou McDonald used the Hutch family for money and votes.

“But youse were good enough Gerard to use for votes, youse were good enough to use for money,” he was heard telling Hutch in recordings played to the no-jury Special Criminal Court in Dublin.

Dowdall also criticised Ms McDonald for not going to the funeral of the murdered brother of the accused and "branding everybody as scumbags”.

He is also heard condemning the Sinn Fein leader for her comments about Pearse McAuley, a convicted garda killer and former IRA member who was jailed in 2015 for stabbing his then wife, Sinn Fein member Pauline Tully, 13 times.

Dowdall said Ms McDonald had “no reason to stand up and slate Pearse” and say his sentence was not long enough.

Mrs McDonald said previously that had she known about former Sinn Fein councillor Dowdall’s involvement in criminality, he would not have been “anywhere near” the party, adding that she was “profoundly shocked” to learn of his role in gangland crime.

Dowdall had also been accused of murder, but before the trial started, he instead admitted facilitating Mr Byrne’s killing by booking a hotel room for the perpetrators.

Ulster Unionist leader Doug Beattie, “This is such a serious allegation it must be investigated by both the Garda and PSNI even if the source is dubious or discredited. I shall be writing to both to ask if they will look into these allegations.”

The conversation between Hutch and Dowdall was bugged by Gardai

DUP MLA Emma Little Pengelly also said Mary Lou McDonald needs to provide answers about the allegations.

Dowdall was driving Hutch to Northern Ireland for an alleged meeting with republicans in the aftermath of the Regency Hotel shooting when their conversation was secretly recorded by a Garda audio device.

The Lagan Valley MLA said: “These claims were made by a former Sinn Fein councillor, someone we now know gave a personal donation to Mary Lou McDonald. The Sinn Fein president needs to explain why a conversation about her using a criminal gang for money and votes would ever even arise.

“This was a conversation between two individuals who weren’t aware they were being recorded or the comments would ever become public. They do however deserve to be investigated by all proper authorities and to be fully addressed by Mary Lou McDonald.

“Mary Lou McDonald and other Sinn Fein representatives have often criticised so-called ‘cronyism’ within the Irish political system. People will want clarity now on Jonathan Dowdall’s claim of Sinn Fein’s own alleged cronyism with gangsters.

"Everyone is aware of Sinn Fein cronyism with IRA criminals over many decades. That wasn’t just some loose association however, but represented a criminal gang having oversight of an entire political party.

“These latest claims however bring a new focus on Sinn Fein, and particularly given the recent attempts to draw a distinction between gangland criminals and the IRA. People within the Republic and in Northern Ireland have a right to ask whether gangland money is being used to influence politics,” she added.

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