Thus far, most of his intemperate outbursts and crackpot schemes have been attributed to an insatiable appetite for self promotion. Such an approach, after all, is virtually a requirement for the aspirant leader of his junior government coalition party, the Progressive Democrats.
But his latest suggestion, that the authorities should continue to prosecute people for IRA membership — despite the fact that the organization has stood itself down — borders on reckless.
“The IRA remains an illegal organization because its constitution is treasonable,” McDowell said on Irish national radio. He added that he expected the IRA to decommission all its weaponry soon.
If it remains illegal to be a member of the IRA, one must presume that anyone remaining in the organization, even for the sole purpose of cooperating with the de-commissioning body headed by General John de Chastelain, risks a jail sentence.
McDowell’s motivation for adopting this position is not clear. It is possible that he is locked in the past, unable to grasp that the war in the North is over and we must all move on.
Or he could be so cynical as to be willing to risk the peace process so that he can pose as a hard man to some of his old Fine Gael constituents in south Dublin.
Or perhaps he is simply a unionist — all of his public statements would indicate so. There would be nothing wrong with that, except that one might expect an Irish minister for justice to uphold the Irish Constitution, and with it the quest for reunification.