Dowdall in the dock | 

Jonathan Dowdall tells court he is ‘not a rat’ and denies ‘drinking tea’ with slain IRA man Alan Ryan

He said he was “sorry for what happened” to slain Kinahan gang member David Byrne and told the court: “I don’t care if I’m killed, nobody will touch my children.”

Andrew PhelanIndependent.ie

Former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall has told the Special Criminal Court he is “not a rat” but he is prepared to give evidence against Gerard Hutch’s brother Patsy if needed.

The ex-politician said he had come forward to tell the truth about the Regency shooting and if required would testify against Patsy Hutch who had been like a “second father” to him.

He said he was “sorry for what happened” to slain Kinahan gang member David Byrne and told the court: “I don’t care if I’m killed, nobody will touch my children.”

Dowdall’s remarks came at the end of his third day of evidence in the trial of Gerard Hutch over the gangland murder of Mr Byrne at the Regency.

Today, Dowdall also said it was "unfair" that comments he had made about Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald were being used to "drag down a political party."

He told the court he believed he was "set up” over the Regency murder when he got involved in booking a room at the hotel the night before the shooting.

Dowdall told the Special Criminal Court he believed a paramilitary-connected gunman was put in the hotel room intentionally to “tie it back to me and my family.”

Gerry 'the Monk' Hutch and Jonathan Dowdall

He denied putting Gerard Hutch “in the frame” for murder in an attempt to defend himself.

Dowdall (44) was being cross-examined on his third day of evidence in the trial of Mr Hutch, who is accused of the 2016 murder of David Byrne at the Regency Hotel in Dublin.

Dowdall began giving evidence on Monday, when he alleged Mr Hutch confessed he and another man shot Mr Byrne.

Kinahan gang member Mr Byrne was killed when five raiders – three disguised as ERU gardaí with assault rifles, along with an armed man in a flat cap and another gunman dressed as a woman – stormed the hotel.

The attack at a boxing weigh-in on February 5, 2016, fuelled the Kinahan-Hutch gang feud.

Mr Hutch (59), of The Paddocks, Clontarf, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to the murder.

Dowdall had also been charged with Mr Byrne’s murder but before the trial started he instead pleaded guilty to facilitating the killing, by helping his father Patrick to book a room in the Regency for use by the attackers. The murder charge was withdrawn.

Dowdall has made two main allegations against his former co-accused.

Jonathan Dowdall is giving evidence in the Regency murder trial

The first is that when he drove his father Patrick Dowdall to hand over the Regency room keys the day before the attack, it was to Mr Hutch. The court has heard the room was later used by the raider in the flat cap, the late Kevin Murray.

The second allegation Dowdall made was that three days after the shooting, Mr Hutch met him in a park and confessed that he and another man had shot David Byrne.

Today, Brendan Grehan SC cross-examined Dowdall on his decision to come forward to give evidence, saying it was a "bargain" with the DPP to get his own murder charge dropped.

“I don’t care if I’m killed, nobody will touch my children,” Dowdall said. “If down the road I’m required to come into this court and give evidence against Patsy I will do that.”

“Gerard was the one that got the cards, Patsy got me to book the room and I met Gerard in the park - that is the gospel honest truth,” he said.

“I’m not a rat,” he said and added that if he was required to do anything else by the court “I will be here no matter how much it destroys my life.”

“It’s nothing to do with me getting a murder charge dropped,” he said.

“I f**ked up what I done with Alex Hurley and it’s my fault I got involved in this,” he said in a reference to his separate conviction for torturing Mr Hurley.

“I’m sorry for what happened to David Byrne and I’m sorry for anything I said on it to offend that family or anybody else, but I was not involved in that murder.”

Dowdall also spoke about what he had said about Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald while he was talking to Gerard Hutch, heard on a garda surveillance tape.

"I'm not involved in Sinn Fein at any level," he said. "I made comments about Mary Lou, it was very unfair on a personal level."

“The provisionals is (sic) connected to Sinn Fein. This is being used, what I did, to drag down a political party and I think that's very unfair," he said.

"Everyone knows Sinn Fein are the most hated," he said.

Dowdall said he made a distinction between provisional and dissident republican groups. He said neither was involved in the Regency attack.

"The provos had nothing to do with this, the provisionals as far as I'm concerned are gone, they are stood down, they are finished," he said. "Neither did any dissident group have anything to do with what happened in the Regency."

While being questioned about republican contacts, Dowdall said he knew former IRA member and convicted garda killer Pearse McAuley, but said he was not very good friends with him.

McAuley had been jailed for stabbing his ex-wife when Dowdall visited him in prison in 2015 and 2016. Dowdall said he probably visited him two to three times. Mr Grehan said prison records showed it was 14 times.

Dowdall initially said "definitely not" and this was "impossible" but eventually accepted that he did visit McAuley 14 times. He said he did not remember it being that many and asked if it was a crime to visit someone in prison.

"It's not a crime to visit people in prison, what is a crime is to lie on oath, it's a crime to say you weren't friendly with him and that you only visited him three times when you know full well it wasn't the truth," Mr. Grehan said.

Dowdall said Patsy Hutch had been “looking for a bit of help” while the family came under threat after Gary Hutch was murdered.

Dowdall went to Pearse McAuley and asked if he knew anybody who could help to try to stop the threats.

He said McAuley told him to contact a man called “Wee” but “told me not to get involved.” Dowdall said he did get involved because “Patsy was going to be killed” for something his kids were accused of doing.

He denied that he was ever a member of any provisional or dissident group and that he did not have heavy republican contacts but did know ex IRA men.

He said he had an interest in republican politics but it was ceasefire politics; the Good Friday Agreement.

"Everybody in the inner city knows ex-republicans, in certain areas" he said.

He said he had known of murdered Real IRA leader Alan Ryan who had shown up at Dowdall’s house once. “Heavies” were with Ryan and Dowdall himself had an ex IRA man with him.

This was discussed on the tape but Dowdall told Mr Grehan what happened was “boasted up.”

Mr Grehan asked him was the other man there to tell Ryan and his “heavies” to “back off.”

He said this was not the case. They had come to talk but he could not remember what about.

“It’s not every day the Real IRA do a house visit,” Mr Grehan said.

“You are putting me on trial here,” Dowdall said.

Mr Grehan said he was doing nothing of the sort but he wanted to know “how is it you are the go-to guy, the fella in the know, the cognoscenti, people who know things if people want to contact paramilitaries.”

“Other people know republican people better placed than me,” Dowdall said, adding that it was clear from the tape he did not know significant people.

He denied he became friends with the Ryans and he was never in Alan Ryan’s house “drinking tea.”

Dowdall said he was “sent up like a Gillie” to the north while the Regency was being planned in the background.

He said the people he met were “nobodies” and Gerard Hutch had more contacts than him with republicans.

Dowdall said he was not part of any republican movement but he helped people and he would never do anything like it again as long as he lived.

“I should have minded my own business… I should have never got involved in anything like this,” he said.

Mr Grehan said Dowdall had got involved at the behest of Patsy Hutch, who was like an uncle or a second father to him.

“I trusted Patsy,” Dowdall said. He then said “you keep pushing this all to Patsy.”

This morning, Brendan Grehan SC, defending Mr Hutch, resumed his questioning of Dowdall on his evidence.

Mr Grehan said in November last year, Dowdall’s solicitor had contacted the gardaí to say he had information about the Regency.

He asked Dowdall what else he was after went to the gardaí after six and a half years apart from a desire to talk to them and tell them the truth.

“When you find out that a room was used for something you knew nothing about to set you up in a murder you had nothing to do with,” Dowdall said.

“I had things I wanted to explain to the guards.

“You also wanted to get the charge of murder against you dropped,” Mr Grehan said.

“I wasn’t involved in a murder,” Dowdall replied.

Mr Grehan told him he had been charged with murder so “somebody else seemed to believe that you were.”

“Apparently it’s my fault I was charged with murder when I didn’t explain things,” Dowdall said.

The reason he did not explain things was because of the “danger to my wife and children and other family members".

He said it was “only natural” that he wanted to have the charge dropped because he was not involved in the murder.

“Why would I take the blame for murder when I wasn’t involved, to keep other people happy?” Dowdall said.

Mr Grehan put it to him that getting the charge dropped was always part of his motivation in talking to the gardaí.

“It’s only natural if you are not involved in a murder and you didn’t say certain things” that you would want to speak to the gardaí and clear it up, he said.

“I shouldn’t have been charged with murder.”

Dowdall said people had booked the room and put a person in the room “to tie it back to me and my family.”

“That was done intentionally,” he said.

He did not know the man who stayed in the room – Kevin “Flat Cap” Murray – who came down the next day, left in a taxi and “came back as himself.”

“You would want to be deranged to book a room for a situation if you knew something like that was going to happen,” Dowdall said.

He insisted he was “always going to speak to the guards but he could not do this while he was in prison.

He said there were “guards involved in the last trial that played a part in collapsing that trial.”

A prison van arrives at the Special Criminal Court today where Jonathan Dowdall continues to give evidence in the trial of Gerry Hutch, for the murder of David Byrne. Photo: Collins Courts

“I was not going to take the risk of speaking to anybody till I was sure that it was secure and safe to do so,” he said.

Mr Grehan put it to him it would only have been natural to want a murder charge dropped whether he had committed it or not.

Dowdall said there had been an option of getting a separate trial.

Mr Grehan said this came “late in the day as another bargaining ploy” by Dowdall when the DPP initially indicated the murder charge would not be dropped.

“I couldn’t defend myself as part of this trial, that is why I spoke to the guards,” Dowdall said.

Mr Grehan asked him if the natural way to defend himself was to put Gerard Hutch in the frame.

“I didn’t put Gerard Hutch in the frame, Gerard Hutch put himself in the frame,” he replied.

He said when Patsy Hutch asked his father to book the room, he asked him to wait in the hotel.

“That would have looked like my father knew Flat Cap,” he said.

Mr Grehan asked him if the original plan was to hand the key over to Flat Cap.

“That was what was suggested and I believe that was to try to connect Flat Cap Kevin Murray to my father and me,” he said. “How would that have looked?”

Mr Grehan said Dowdall’s account of the arrangement to hand over the hotel key cards had been all “Pasty Patsy Patsy” and then “suddenly looming out of the shadows, it’s Gerard” who turned up to get them.

“The Hutches are willing to throw somebody else under the bus, your client is willing to throw his own brother under the bus,” Dowdall said. “If it was Patsy who got the cards, I would have said it was Patsy.”

Dowdall said after he went to the gardai to “explain certain things,” he believed they would look into it and the charge would be dropped.

Mr Grehan asked Dowdall if he had expected the gardai to “forget about all that stuff” on the 10 hours of garda surveillance conversations between him and Mr Hutch on March 7, 2016, that it was a “mistake.”

He said he did not ask anyone to forget about it but he went through aspects of it and explained certain things.

Mr Grehan said Dowdall told gardai anything incriminating he said was “bravado, trying to impress Gerry, bullshit, talking rubbish.”

“I didn’t expect anything going to speak to the guards,” he said.

David Byrne’s parents Sadie and James 'Jaws' Byrne were in court again to hear Dowdall’s evidence.

Dowdall, an ex-councillor, is serving a four year sentence for facilitating Mr Byrne’s murder, while his father Patrick was jailed for two years for the same offence.

Before his evidence began, the court heard Dowdall was at severe risk and is still being assessed for the garda witness protection programme.

The non-jury trial is being heard amid heightened security at the Criminal Courts of Justice.

Two other men are also on trial with Mr Hutch. Jason Bonney (51) of Drumnigh Wood, Portmarnock and Paul Murphy (61) of Cherry Avenue, Swords, deny providing cars for the attack team. Mr Dowdall’s evidence does not relate to them.

Patsy Hutch is not charged with any offence.

The trial continues before Ms Justice Tara Burns, Judge Sarah Berkeley and Judge Grainne Malone.


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