Tuesday 21 May 2019

Protesters told to 'operate in secret' at rally in support of Roscommon eviction family

Warning: Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy speaks at the protest. Photo: Damien Eagers
Warning: Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy speaks at the protest. Photo: Damien Eagers
Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

Around 1,000 people rallying to support the family at the centre 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 yesterday at the protest in Strokestown, Co Roscommon, were from outside the town and had travelled from around the country specifically for it.

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

Most people attending the protest were entirely law abiding and simply wanted to show their support for the family.

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

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

Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy was booed. Photo: Damien Eagers
Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy was booed. Photo: Damien Eagers

"[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."

Crowd: Around 1,000 turned out for the protest in Strokestown. Photo: Damien Eagers
Crowd: Around 1,000 turned out for the protest in Strokestown. Photo: Damien Eagers

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 was repeatedly booed and shouted down.

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

He told the Irish Independent 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."

Cathaoirleach of 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?"

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

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.

Irish Independent

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