"We utterly reject 'thuggish' allegation"

Council candidates take exception to email arising from public meeting in Listowel on future of LNG

Dónal Nolan

Listowel Mayor Mike Kennelly is to seek legal advice on the contents of a letter sent to him and three others in which he and a fellow candidate in the forthcoming local election were accused of 'thuggish behaviour' - if its author does not retract the remarks.

Fine Gael's Mike Kennelly and Mike Foley were accused of thuggish behaviour by anti-LNG protestor John McElligott in a letter emailed to them - and which was CC'd to Fine Gael colleagues Minister Brendan Griffin and Aoife Thornton.

The accusation arose from their participation alongside up to 30 others in a show of support for the gas plant at a public meeting held in the Listowel Arms Hotel last Monday, February 25, by the Friends of the Earth organisation - attended by a similar number of delegates drawn from countries across Europe as well as local environmentalists. The email was headed 'Fine Gael election candidates called out on their thuggish behaviour towards international conference visitors in Listowel - all that was missing was the balaclavas' and accused Kennelly and Foley of frightening guests and 'intimidating' locals from participating in the conference.'

Both men utterly reject the accusations and, along with fellow LNG supporters who attended, say they acted civilly at all times, standing at the rear of the function room while the speakers addressed the meeting and engaging in a frank, but civil exchange of opinion with those opposed to the fossil-fuel plant during a Q&A session at the end of the meeting. "I am looking for Mr McElligott to withdraw his remarks accusing us of thuggish behaviour in the email he wrote," Mayor Kennelly said. 

"It was a public meeting and there was a protest by LNG supporters and I was one of them. At no point was there even a cross word exchanged with Mr McElligott or anyone else...no one got bullied or intimidated."

Mr McElligott told The Kerryman that the letter was private and that he would not be commenting further on the matter.

Friends of the Earth Ireland director Oisín Coghlan told The Kerryman that he was very happy with how the meeting went, including the contribution from the supporters.

"It was fair to say it was a little unnerving at first at the sight of the 20 people filing in at the back of the room but the actual meeting was really good," Mr Coghlan said. "Challenging and very genuinely-held views on all sides were voiced and it did get quite tense and emotional at times. I did invite the group to sit down, which they declined to do but as it went on they engaged in the debate and they were very respectful of the process." 

"It wouldn't surprise me if someone in the room found it intimidating but the supporters acted fairly and appropriately throughout the meeting."