'Humiliated' rural crime fighter quits after snub
A campaigner who started a wave of protests over rural crime has quit the group he helped to found in a row over a meeting with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
John Tully (53) helped start the Save Our Community group in his village of Littleton, Co Tipperary, after a crime wave in which almost every local business or farm had been raided by thieves.
His move sparked meetings across the country among rural communities fed up with the lack of resources available to tackle criminal gangs.
But last night Mr Tully went public to confirm he had left the group after a fall-out over a meeting with Ms Fitzgerald in early December.
He claimed he had been due to be part of the delegation meeting the minister but was told on the morning of the meeting that he had been dropped from the team.
"I was told that I couldn't raise issues around Garda management and the judiciary but for me they are the very essence of the problems facing rural communities," said Mr Tully, whose shop has twice been raided by thieves.
"The problem isn't local gardaí; the problem is the resources, their management and what happens when gardaí do catch criminals and those criminals walk free from court."
Mr Tully said he felt "humiliated" at being left out of the meeting and admitted losing his temper with group chairman Robert O'Shea afterwards.
"I said a few things to him that I probably shouldn't have said," Mr Tully.
"I was very angry at the time. When I started this thing it was about getting people to listen to us and the Irish Independent and journalist Paul Williams were there to give us a voice.
"We had a simple message which was that Garda management is not listening to the ordinary guard on the ground."
The businessman said he left the group in December after refusing to apologise to Mr O'Shea.
"I was told to say 'sorry' and I was told that I could no longer act as a spokesperson for the group and talk to the media so I walked away, but I will continue to speak out as and when I need to," he said.
Mr O'Shea confirmed the founding member of Save Our Community had now left the group. "It was coming for a long time," said the local farmer when asked why Mr Tully had left.
"There are 15 members on the committee and we run the body democratically. We decided a month beforehand what was to be discussed (with the minister)."
Garda management and the courts were discussed at the meeting and the subjects were raised by the minister.