Jim Dowson — The Man and the Controversy
A stalwart of loyalist street activism since the 1990s, Jim Dowson is perhaps the last person on planet earth that should be associated with Irish nationalism.
For those fortunate never to have happened across the name prior, in brief Jim Dowson is a veteran fundraiser and backroom operator among a variety of loyalist and right wing causes in Britain and the six counties. Noted for his hardline approach, as well as allegations of turning nationalist movements into personal get rich schemes, he has blazed a trail of organisational destruction his entire career, dogged by accusations of being a cynical conman all the while.
Recently, and to the concern of many, Dowson has sought to increasingly extend his operations south of the border, attempting to embed himself within the emergent populist scene in the Republic.
For those who know of Dowson and his track record, this is a source of grave concern. One lesson from recent history is that wherever there is Jim Dowson, there is trouble, and there appears to be a whole lot of trouble coming down the line for the nationalist right in Ireland.
Dowson himself has so far led an eventful political life cutting his teeth with militant loyalist street organising. He first came to prominence with his involvement with an Orange Flute band notorious for its glorification of the murderer Michael Stone, infamous for his grenade attack on a Catholic funeral killing 3 at Milltown Cemetery.
Continuing his association with the more fringe elements of loyalism, he would subsequently rub shoulders with the Willie Frazer of Love Ulster fame during the 2012 Belfast flag protests, backing the short lived Protestant Coalition that emerged from the demonstrations.
Before this, around 2007, Dowson commenced working for the British National Party in the role of chief fundraiser, becoming a key influencer of the then party leader Nick Griffin, and to some was a major contributor in the party’s implosion by 2011. While noted initially for his successful marketing initiatives, he earned the scorn of many BNP activists for the perception that he was turning the party into a personal cash cow all the while abusing the private data of members.
Among those accusing Dowson of financial impropriety were BNP official Michaela Mackenzie, who painted an ominous picture of the malevolent schemes employed by Dowson for his own personal gain. Some of the allegations levelled by Mackenzie against Dowson included requisitioning party funds for his own business ventures, as well as serious data breaches with party membership details.
In 2010, leaks revealed substantial financial transfers from the BNP to a handful of Dowson businesses, fueling allegations that the Scottish marketing man was bleeding the party as it crashed and burnt electorally.
Departing the ailing BNP to its own demise, and with various accusations of groping hanging over him, Dowson has since been the marketing brain behind a soup of far-right start ups, the notoriously clownish Britain First among them. Similarly Dowson appears to have had some degree of influence on the early English Defence League (EDL) before he was denounced by the group for his untrustworthiness.
Post-BNP it would appear the general modus operandi for Dowson in the UK and elsewhere is to establish astroturfed pump-and-dump right wing organisations, flogging costly merchandise, and putting on quickfire fundraising in the process. After enough time these organisations eventually fold or implode in a storm of controversy, with Dowson leaving the scene soon after.
One of Dowson’s seemingly larger moneymakers is the rather zany ‘Knights Templar International,’ a supposed fraternal order of Christian patriots where members recreate the rituals of the deposed 14th Century medieval order, and somehow in the process combat against the incursion of Islam into Europe. Examining their website, one sees that its primary purpose appears to be selling inordinately priced goods, included among them being metal shields in the region of £350 as well as knight’s regalia.
On some of the weekly livesteams that he hosts for the organisation, Dowson can be seen to gloat about the products and membership he flogs to members of the public in the hopes of providing spiritual sustenance.
Registered as a private company with Dowson as a director, the Knights Templar International has been blacklisted by the nationalist government in Hungary for representing a legitimate security concern, with Dowson himself being deported from the country. More worryingly, Dowson has allegedly involved himself, according to a 2018 BBC report, in assisting Balkan-based militias.
Lately, Dowson has been framed by the media as a sort of Svengali figure for the global far-right, operating a nexus of right wing groups and clickbait sites to maximise his influence. Regardless of any liberal hysteria Dowson is dead centre of what appears to be an international marketing empire stretching from Belfast to Belgrade encompassing multiple social media outlets and political ventures in the process.
Unusual for anyone involved with dissident right wing politics, Dowson also enjoys a successful (and what appears to be unencumbered) business life outside of politics through his marketing firm Midas Consultancy. With some media reports listing him as a millionaire, and a variety of business interests under his belt, Dowson appears to live rather comfortably, despite dabbling in politically dissident politics that have left others professionally destroyed.
Whatever about the veracity of certain claims against Dowson, many of which he would dispute, his background in hardline loyalism makes him entirely immiscible to the world of Irish nationalism and certainly a figure to be ostracised wherever he casts his shadow.
Siol na hÉireann — Dowson in Free State?
A feature of the nascent nationalist right in Ireland has been the prominence of YouTube as a platform, birthing a generation of social media personalities in the process. While generally positive for the energy given to the movement, this trend has generated an anarchic playing field with various actors jostling for prominence and funds.
Among those in the milieu is the Donegal based activist Niall McConnell, originally operating under the moniker ‘The Irish Patriot’ before founding his own umbrella organisation Siol na hÉireann (Seed of Ireland) earlier this year, around the time of his unsuccessful run in the February election.
Initially performing a useful function interviewing and networking with a variety of right wing personalities in Ireland, as well as doing strategic confrontations of liberal politicos at public events, it has gradually become self-evident to many that McConnell has fallen under the spell of Jim Dowson.
In 2019, Dowson became a regular feature alongside McConnell on his YouTube channel with the duo venturing to the European Parliament together with former BNP leader Nick Griffin, meeting an assortment of far-right groups.
Shortly thereafter, McConnell started to take a rather noticeable turn, constantly seeking more and more money for projects ranging from ambiguous food drives, to running a newspaper, to flogging merchandise at marked up prices on his website. To the concern of many, the funds raised allegedly did not equate to the end products and that money was being pocketed, with McConnell refusing to provide public accounts for projects. Even more worryingly, those who have donated even just once appear to be met with near daily scripted emails looking for funds.
After an election campaign in Donegal where he garnered 0.7% of the vote, incurring criticism for his fundraising efforts, as well as from his apparent printing of his posters in the UK at a Liverpool printers, he announced the formation of his own political party Siol na hÉireann.
While self styled as a political party, it is in fact a registered business free from the basic auditing that goes with political operations in Ireland by the Standards in Public Office. McConnell has stated on numerous occasions he has no intention to register the group as a political party, preferring instead to work outside the system in his eyes.
When confronted earlier this year with accusations of grift and alleged irregularities in funding, McConnell entered a period of crisis, resulting in him sending legal letters to various individuals and posting the names, hometowns and even work details of certain opponents. Almost incredulously, McConnell also commenced fundraising on his website to raise funds to sue his opponents.
It should be noted by the author that McConnell denies any and all allegations of financial impropriety despite the allegations and evidence levelled against him by some.
As of the time of writing, it would appear that McConnell’s legal threats have not advanced beyond the point of legal letters sent to a variety of individuals, most of which seem to have never spoken openly about the activist.
It would also appear that he potentially commenced broadcasting for a period from the same location as which Jim Dowson hosts his weekly Knights Templar livestream as suggested by similar backgrounds.
Perhaps the biggest smoking gun is the fact the Siol website is a template for other Dowson linked organisations. Indeed some of the fundraising schemes employed by McConnell mirror those used by other Dowson linked organisations.
Similarly McConnell’s fundraising efforts appear to mirror exactly the fundraising campaigns of other Dowson linked groups, right down to vending more or less the same products, for the same causes in websites that look almost identical.
For those interested in seeing how closely McConnell’s website resembles that of other Dowson linked organisations readers may be interested in examining Siol’s website versus that of the British Freedom Movement particularly the emphasis on donations.
The last few months has seen a marked change in the organisation towards a form of half-baked republican Marianism, almost consciously orienting itself towards a more older and confessional market. Per usual, there appears to be a rather aggressive emphasis on fundraising front and centre in all operations.
While Dowson has a certain degree of plausible deniability regarding Siol, it is rather clear that his fingerprints are all over the organisation even if he rejects being at centrestage as he has done before with other groups.
Regardless of the merit of the allegations of grift against McConnell, there appears to be truth to claims that he has been integrated into the wider and dark empire of Jim Dowson incorporated. Aside from collaborating with a loyalist with a proven background in sectarian politicking from his work in Belfast, this puts McConnell directly in league with a figure notorious as acting as a wrecking ball to nationalist movements, and haunted by an alleged history of swindling.
Loyalists Bearing Gifts
While Ireland is likely some years off a considerable electoral breakthrough by the nationalist right, the regime press has nevertheless prepped a particular narrative to combat it in advance. Drawing on the usual motifs of ‘dark money‘ and ‘fake news‘, liberals increasingly seek to tie Irish nationalism down with the accusation that it is allied with political loyalism.
While nothing could be further from the truth, the actions of Niall McConnell will inevitably assist the regime narrative when the group eventually flounders leaving wreckage in its wake. It is more than fair to say that Siol will have a short lived political shelf life, reaching a certain artificial media induced life before crashing per the model in other Dowson projects. The fact it has reached a size to be of concern is worrying due to near transparency of Dowson’s involvement as well as claims of financial mismanagement.
One can state with confidence that eventually, if Siol capsizes and dissolves under the strain of mismanagement, there will be a fury of media pieces painting an intricate conspiracy of ultra-loyalists and international far-right cliques trying to nurture a populist movement in Ireland.
This publication has pondered over publishing this article for some time, hoping that McConnell would fade into irrelevance or be consumed by a firestorm of incompetence. Energy spent dealing with factional disputes is wasted energy. However, the looming catastrophe of Siol means it’s worth registering the collective disgust of the nationalist movement before the mainstream press indicts the general right in Ireland for financial grift and being in league with loyalism.
To be clear, alliances with loyalism. nevermind a character like Jim Dowson, are inherently verboten for any nationalist. Those who territorially claim a portion of this island for a foreign state are no friends of any nationalist or any nationalist movement, and those foolish or even avaricious enough to rub shoulders with the strongmen of loyalism should immediately and totally be marginalised from the movement even without evidence of financial impropriety.
Like the proverbial Genoese plague rat, Dowson seeks to transfer the nasty habits of grift into the field of Irish nationalism from the carnage of the British far right. While nationalism in Ireland is riding something of a crest of street and online level popularity, the opening for grifters is also expanding, and Dowson likely senses blood in the water.
For McConnell himself, what was once a promising young asset to the anti-globalist cause in Ireland has been compromised through alliances with loyalists and very clear financial cupidity. His political career will probably die with Siol, likely being left to deal with the carnage if and when Dowson decamps. Whether he knows the personal hole he has dug himself is another matter.
A collective fatwa is needed against Siol, and wherever Dowson spreads his orange tentacles for fear of contaminating nationalism with the same miasma that has infected Britain of aimless right wing junk organisations hoovering up money and going nowhere. If you are involved in dissident right wing politics in this country, expect one thing — poverty.
Those involved or even donating money to McConnell are advised in the strongest possible terms to get out before the music stops, or at least to start asking questions about where their money goes. One however can only do so much for the gullible.
While most people on the right are aware of what Siol actually represents as little more than a marketing front for the loyalist Dowson it is paramount that this collective disgust is made formal for when McConnell’s political obituary is written by a media seeking to poison the well on nationalism in general.