Fianna Fáil TD Eamon Ó Cuív would not have made a 2020 visit to former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall in prison if he had known about his situation, Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said.
He said Mr Ó Cuív has a long-standing record of engagement with prisoners but he highlighted how the Galway West TD has said himself that had he known about Dowdall’s “situation” he wouldn’t have made the visit.
The senior Fianna Fáil minister was asked at a press conference if it was appropriate for TDs to visit prisoners and he said it is “where people can be helpful”
But he added: “In this particular instance Deputy Ó Cuív himself has said that had he known the context in relation to that particular individual he wouldn’t have been visiting.”
At the same event Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she did not know the context of the visit which made the question hard to respond to.
She said: “I know Eamon Ó Cuív obviously has been doing a huge amount of work engaging with prisoners over many years... he has been engaging to try and bring about positive results in a number of different areas particularly around subversive prisoners.”
The questions were prompted by an Irish Daily Star report outlining how Mr Ó Cuív visited Dowdall in prison in 2020.
Dowdall had been jailed at the time for kidnapping and assault over an incident where a man was waterboarded.
Earlier this month Dowdall was separately sentenced to four years in jail for his role in the preparations for the 2016 Regency Hotel attack where David Byrne was shot dead.
Dowdall had been due to stand trial for murder in relation to the attack of February 5th, 2016.
However, he entered a guilty plea last month to the lesser charge of facilitating the crime by helping to book a room in the hotel.
The 44-year-old has agreed to give evidence against his former co-accused in the case, including Gerry Hutch.
Galway West TD Mr Ó Cuív did not immediately respond to Irish Times attempts to contact him for comment on his 2020 visit to Dowdall in prison.
The Irish Daily Star reported that Mr Ó Cuív has insisted he would never have made the visit if he had known about Dowdall’s involvement in the Regency attack.
He is quoted as saying: “Of course I wouldn’t have [visited him] because I don’t deal with people who are involved in gangland. I would have had no reason to.”