Wednesday 13 November 2019

Cameraman escorted from public meeting by councillor


Cllr Paul McNamara
Cllr Paul McNamara

Lorna Siggins

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has criticised the treatment of a TG4 cameraman at a public meeting on Mayo's Achill Island earlier this week.

'Nuacht TG4' cameraman Fergus Sweeney was asked to leave the public meeting on Wednesday night, held to discuss proposed emergency accommodation for asylum seekers. He was subjected to jeers and taunts of "out, out, out" by a small but vocal number among 200 people.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Paul McNamara, who was chairing the meeting, informed Mr Sweeney he did not want him at the event and he was then escorted out by Mr McNamara. Cllr McNamara did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Sweeney said he felt "uncomfortable and threatened".

The meeting was convened to discuss reports the Achill Head Hotel at Pollagh near Keel was to be used for direct provision. However, the Department of Justice has said there is no long-term contract in place for a centre in Achill.

The department said it was "offered" and "booked" available beds in the hotel during the current low season, and said it is a short-term measure.

NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley said Cllr McNamara, as a public representative, "had no right to challenge Mr Sweeney's right to attend a meeting which was of enormous public interest".

"Mr McNamara's action are deeply disturbing. No public representative should seek to limit media access to a public meeting in this fashion," Mr Dooley said.

The issue of accommodating asylum seekers is "of national importance", Mr Dooley said.

Green Party European election candidate Saoirse McHugh has established a "welcome group" for asylum seekers if they are sent to Achill, while a former manager of Achill Tourism, Mr Seán Molloy, has called for compassion in the debate.

Irish Independent

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