Confidential police files – only friends need apply

It was reported in last Saturday’s Daily Irish Mail that there is no record in Department of Justice files of any written or verbal request from Irish Independent journalist Sam Smyth requesting information on Frank Connolly’s alleged false passport application.

Both Sam Smyth and Justice Minister Michael McDowell have stated that an official request was made for the information. Former Minister for Justice, John O’Donoghue was asked about the matter on last night’s The Week in Politics programme.

O’Donoghue was asked why the Department of Justice was refusing an FOI request from TG4 reporter Tomas O Mainnin to release the alleged photograph of Frank Connolly that formed part of the bogus passport application form.

O’Donoghue’s answer was unequivocal:

‘There is no such thing as Freedom of Information where Garda files are concerned”

Readers will remember that this is the picture that Sam Smyth said was so indistinct that he couldn’t swear that it was a photograph of Frank Connolly. The photograph and the file that accompanied it are the basis for McDowell’s claim that the authority of the State was being undermined and justified his actions that led to the destruction of the good name of an innocent citizen.

But how does O’Donoghue’s statement square with the facts of the case which are:

1 – McDowell handed over a confidential Garda file to a journalist who is also a close personal friend.
2 – The handing over of the file resulted in the destruction of the good name of an innocent citizen/journalist and the cutting off of funds to an organisation investigating corruption in Irish public life.
3 – Both men claim that the file was handed over only after an official request. It now seems that there is no record of any such request.
4 – McDowell has stated that the file was given to Smyth simply because he was the only journalist to ask for it but now the Department of Justice is refusing to hand over just the photograph from the file to a TG4 journalist.

And former Minister for Justice O’Donoghue says that this refusal is right and proper on security grounds?