FARC fallout: Billionaire saddened over cutting anti-corruption funding
Resource type: News
Irish Examiner |
THE billionaire backer of an Irish anti-corruption office has admitted he was sad to pull its funding when it got caught up in a controversy surrounding alleged IRA training for Colombian guerrillas. In a rare interview to be broadcast today, Irish-American philanthropist Chuck Feeney, 77, spoke for the first time about the demise of the fledgling Centre for Public Inquiry (CPI) in 2005. It closed after then Justice Minister Michael McDowell used Dáil privilege to make allegations against its director Frank Connolly, to suggest he travelled to Colombia on a false passport in April 2001. Mr Connolly was never charged in relation to this. Mr Connolly’s brother Niall was among three men jailed by the Colombian authorities for allegedly training FARC guerrillas. After representations from Mr McDowell, Mr Feeney’s foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, subsequently withdrew €800,000 in funding for the office. In an interview to be broadcast at 9.10 this morning on RTé’s Conversations with Eamon Dunphy, Mr Feeney agreed the closure of the office was a disappointment. “I can only agree with you [that it was sad]. What we were seeking to achieve there was running into problems because of accusations of different people,” said Mr Feeney. “(Otherwise) we’ve had such good luck, we’ve done more than a thousand grants in Ireland, and so there’s one that didn’t come out the way we thought it came out.” The CPI was established in early 2005 with a promise of €4 million in funding for four years to probe political and corporate corruption. He said he still considers Mr Connolly, who now works for the Daily Mail group, to be a “very fine investigative reporter”. Mr Feeney made his money in duty free shops, but for 20 years he has been giving his fortune away. In the recorded interview with Mr Dunphy, he said he is particularly excited about his involvement in cancer research. “The best is yet to come, we are slowly understanding where you can get the best bang for the buck. I would love to see a solution to the problem of cancer – cardiovascular is a bit of a different problem, but cancer, we can find a solution for that,” he said.