The Irish Republican Prisoner Supporter’s Group released a statement in June 2017 Dowdall had been kicked off the wing for being a ‘criminal’
Dowdall and his father Patrick had just been jailed in 2017 for the water-board torture of a man they believe had tried to defraud them and began serving their sentences with republican prisoners who enjoy special privileges behind bars.
This came to an end, however, when the media highlighted how the Dowdalls had been allowed onto the E Block where there were about 40 inmates at the time.
The Irish Republican Prisoner Supporter’s Group released a statement in June 2017 confirming the men had been kicked off the wing.
“Criminals Jonathan and Patrick Dowdall have been expelled from E1 Republican landing in Portlaoise Prison. “Since news broke of their being placed on the landing it caused outrage within Republican circles.”
The statement said republican prisoners taken action “to protect and safeguard the integrity of republican POWs and the republican struggle itself”, although did not explain why the Dowdalls were allowed on the wing in the first place.
This week Deputy Ó Cuív defended his visit to Jonathan Dowdall, who is now serving a new sentence for his role in the gangland murder of mobster David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in 2016.
The political row over the TD prison visit to ex-Sinn Féin councillor Dowdall in 2020 has cast a light on the special status paramilitary prisoner enjoy behind bars.
Deputy Ó Cuív has continued to visit republican prisoners and has helped in negotiations over the refurbishment of the E Block, where the number of dissident republicans is now just 10, according to Sunday World sources.
The renovations centred around fire-safety and installing in-cell toilets in the wing which now has a reduced capacity of 70.
Because the work was being carried out by contractors, the prisoners had to be moved between landings as it progressed.
Sources say the republican inmates enjoy various privileges and contact with prison management is done through their appointed officer-in-command.
The senior men on the E Block are reported to be Edward McGrath and Mairtin Manning, a grandson of Dublin City Councillor, Christy Burke.
McGrath is one of three men on the wing serving life for their part in the murder of dissident republican Peter Butterly in March 2013, along with Kevin Braney and Sharif Kelly. Butterly was lured to a meeting and shot dead in car park of The Huntsman Inn in Gormanstown, Co. Meath.
Manning is serving a seven-year-sentence after his 2019 conviction for possessing four kilos of TNT and a live hand grenade.
Speaking to Galway Bay FM’s Keith Finnegan this week, Deputy Ó Cuív said:
“The work I do is mainly concentrated on the Republican movement and Republican prisoners and I’ve been doing that work openly for years and I think there has been very good practical results from that work and one that in my view has saved a lot of lives.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin Mr Martin defended Mr Ó Cuív, saying: “His motivations have always been very honourable and that needs to be said.”