Tuesday 17 September 2019

'Take care that nobody gets killed, don't get caught' - fiery scenes as hundreds attend anti-eviction rally

  •  Up to 1,000 people attend rallying to support the family at the center of eviction row
  • Crowd advised to 'operate in secret' and 'take care nobody gets killed'
  • Politicians met with hostile reception
  • 'What if it was me? What if it was my family?' - MEP
Maura Harrington at a protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon
Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
Maura Harrington at a protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon Picture credit; Damien Eagers / INM
A protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
A protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Pádraig A'Tailliura Ó Conghaile holding a sign at a protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
A protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Sein Fein MEP Matt Carthy as he is interrupted by Maura Harrington, right, at a protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

AROUND 1,000 people rallying to support the family at the center of an eviction row that led to a vigilante mob attack, were encouraged to "operate in secret" but to "take care" nobody gets killed.

A significant number of those gathered today at the protest in Strokestown, Co Roscommon, were from outside the town and had traveled from around the country specifically for it. .

Most people attending the protest were entirely law abiding and simply wanted to show their support for the family at the centre of the eviction row.

The McGann family have publicly denounced the mob attack which saw them returned to their home and have appealed for calm.

Pádraig A'Tailliura Ó Conghaile holding a sign at a protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon
Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
Pádraig A'Tailliura Ó Conghaile holding a sign at a protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM

But there was angry rhetoric and repeated references to the War of Independence and the Black and Tans throughout today's meeting.

Among those speaking was Maura Harrington, a spokesperson for the Shell To Sea campaign.

"[Michael] Collins had one major criteria, you keep your operations in total secrecy.

"There is absolutely no point in getting hauled through the courts, a waste of your time and energy which could be put to better use," she told the crowd.

"Now I will make one impassioned plea that you take great care that nobody gets killed and I'll tell you why.

"Because the b******s aren't worth doing time for," she told those gathered to loud cheers. "Finally, don't get caught."

A protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon
Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM
A protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM

There was a significant garda presence around the town for the gathering, with senior officers monitoring proceedings.

Local Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy also spoke at the event, but was given a hostile reception and repeatedly booed and shouted down.

Mr Murphy was confronted as he left the stage and by-standers had to intervene as he was subjected to a barrage of abuse.

He told Independent.ie many who attended the meeting weren't actually from the area and some from the town had left for fear proceedings could turn nasty.

"I'm a local TD and I work hard for people here and people recognise that," he said.

"Quite a lot of people came up to me expressing sympathy, but this is public life nowadays.

"You've got to take it, I mean I was shaking quite a bit after it, I sort of expected this could happen.

"At least there was no violence," he said.

The TD said to believe in democracy is to allow people to talk. He said he wanted legislation to prevent family homes being repossessed with the farm and said the situation with the McGann's was badly handled.

"A number of people told me they were leaving town yesterday and going to relations or whatever. People were afraid," he said.

Cathaoirleach Roscommon County Council, Ivan Connaughton, also spoke at the event but was greeted with a hostile reception.

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy hit out at the banks and suggested the incident in Strokestown had galvanised people.

"What we have seen is those people who struggle with their mortgage payments... ask themselves this; what if it was me? What if it was my family?"

stown protest DE 22.jpg
Sein Fein MEP Matt Carthy as he is interrupted by Maura Harrington, right, at a protest against the Roscommon eviction in Stokestown, Co. Roscommon Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM

There were no members of the McGann family at the meeting.

One local said he attended because he was furious at what had happened to them during the eviction.

"The violence didn't start only at the weekend. The family was treated appallingly," he said.

"The banks can't be allowed to get away with it and we're here to say they won't be allowed to get away with it," he said.

Gardaí have been investigating the violence which erupted when around 20 masked men burst into the property at Falsk, in Strokestown, on the Sunday before last.

The attack had been well planned and prepared with the gang blocking off the roads leading to the house, and then making their escape across the fields to a location where getaway vehicles were parked.

Three of eight security workers were hospitalised after the attack – all have since been discharged. 

Gardaí are also probing the initial eviction at the same property where two minor assaults were reported.

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