Thursday 20 July 2017

TD Mathews faces dressing down over anti-bailout protest

Fiach Kelly and Ralph Riegel

OUTSPOKEN Fine Gael TD Peter Mathews could be in line for another dressing down from the party hierarchy for attending an anti-bailout festival.

Mr Mathews also spoke at the longest running anti-bailout protest in the country, as groups from Ballyhea and Charleville in Cork marked their 100th consecutive weekly march.

The Dublin South TD was invited down by organisers, and addressed a meeting on Saturday night. He said he was invited down to mark the 100th protest, but he insisted he did not criticise Coalition policy.

"I wanted to just acknowledge that they had kept a tenacious argument going," Mr Mathews said, adding there was "no defiance of Government strategy" but that Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Finance Minister Michael Noonan needed to be stronger in their debt negotiations.

But sources said the Government Chief Whip's office tried to contact Mr Mathews in advance, and he is likely to be called in by Chief Whip Paul Kehoe this week. "I haven't heard anything about that so it would be a bit premature to comment," Mr Mathews said.

He was given a dressing down by Mr Kenny last year after playing a key role in an embarrassing Government defeat in an Oireachtas committee – but he has become increasingly vocal again in recent months.

And the Ballyhea and Charleville protestors are vowing to take their protest to Brussels. The first protest was staged in March 2011 and, rain or shine, marches have been staged every Sunday since then.

The first protest was organised by Ballyhea native and sports journalist, Diarmuid O'Flynn. It involved 18 people, mostly his family, friends and neighbours.

Yesterday, the turnout was buoyed by over 100 supporters who travelled from all parts of Ireland to show their solidarity with the north Cork protestors.

Almost 300 people marched as the organisers vowed demonstrations will continue "until the financial madness ends".

They insisted their 100th protest march was nothing to be happy about. "This isn't something we want to celebrate. The country is being robbed, we are being robbed and our children's futures are being robbed," Mr O'Flynn said.

He added that tens of thousands should be protesting about what has been done to ordinary Irish families.

Irish Independent

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