Taoiseach heckled as bid to help Mitchell backfires
Published 11/10/2011 | 05:00
Enda Kenny's efforts to revive Gay Mitchell's presidential bid backfired yesterday when they ran into a storm of protest on the campaign trail.
Mr Kenny accompanied the struggling Fine Gael candidate on a tour around Co Galway, but his presence gave protesters an opportunity to vent their fury at government policies.
In Ballinasloe, gardai were forced to clear a path for the Taoiseach when turf cutters and members of the Roscommon Hospital Action Committee staged a protest.
After a couple of hours of canvassing without incident in Galway city, the first signs of trouble for the FG team arrived at Tuam Mart in the afternoon.
Up to 200 members of the Irish Turf Cutters and Contractors Association heckled both men as they canvassed farmers.
Independent TD Luke 'Ming' Flanagan led chants of "no turf, no votes", as Mr Mitchell and Mr Kenny attempted to make their way through the crowd.
Mr Kenny stopped to engage with the protesters who made no secret of their anger at EU plans to restrict their access to bogs across the country.
Association chairman Michael Fitzmaurice insisted that Gaeltacht Minister Jimmy Deenihan could no longer be trusted to deal with the issue of turf-cutting rights.
Mr Fitzmaurice said: "We had been working with the Peatlands Council and trying to find ways of relocating farmers who were affected by the restrictions on cutting on up to 54 bogs when Jimmy Deenihan went behind our backs."
He was referring to Mr Deenihan's signing up to new restrictions on behalf of the government under the EU Habitats Directive.
"He is to meet two groups in south Galway, but it will be after the presidential vote and that will be no good to us now," Mr Fitzmaurice added.
Earlier, Mr Kenny said: "Remember, for 14 years nothing was done about this. Ireland signed on for certain conditions and did not implement them.
"We were quite likely to be the subject of serious fines by the European Union and that's a matter of neglect -- it was never dealt with.
"Now what we have to do here is deal with this in a rational way and in a way that I hope when the minister meets with these groups, that they can discuss it in that fashion."
Gardai had to clear a path for Mr Kenny as he tried to formally open the constituency office of newly elected TD for East Galway, Paul Connaughton Junior.