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Irish Times: Protest rally told Burke deal to blame for imprisonments

Irish Times: Protest rally told Burke deal to blame for imprisonments

“It was clear “the wrong people are in jail”, Mr Garavan said, to applause.”

Monday 18 July 2005

Lorna Siggins, Marine Correspondent

Jul 18, 2005

The deal done by former finance minister Ray Burke with oil and gas exploration companies was the main reason for the continued imprisonment of five north Mayo men, Frank McBrearty jnr said at the weekend.

Mr McBrearty, who says he and his family are still awaiting an apology from the State over their treatment by Donegal gardaI, was speaking at a rally in Ballina, Co Mayo, in support of the five Rossport residents.

Earlier, there was loud booing when the rally host, Mayo TD Dr Jerry Cowley (Ind), announced that Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour Party leader Pat Rabbitte had both been invited but had not turned up.

However, Mr Rabbitte would attend a rally in support of the five Rossport men planned for Dublin next Saturday afternoon, Dr Cowley confirmed later.

Micheal O SeighIn, Willie Corduff, Brendan Philbin, Philip McGrath and Vincent McGrath are spending their third week in Cloverhill Prison over their opposition to the Corrib gas onshore pipeline. They are due back in court next Monday.

Mr McBrearty said questions had to be asked about the 1987 and 1992 changes to the Finance Act which benefited exploration companies, but it was clear from the Morris tribunal that the State was not able to investigate itself.

Some kind international body would be warranted to carry out an investigation into some of the practices of government here. Referring to the Fianna Fail election slogan, “A lot done, more to do”, Mr McBrearty said that in his view Bertie Ahern’s slogan was “A lot covered up, more to cover up”.

Mr McBrearty said his family knew what the families of the five Mayo men still in Cloverhill Prison were going through. “Indian chiefs said prepare for war if you want peace. This State tried to divide and conquer, and is doing it now in Mayo,” he said.

It was time for “people power” to give a clear signal to the “Fianna Fail mafia” and the Progressive Democrats. “As builder Tom Gilmartin said, they make the mafia look like monks,” he added, to loud cheers.

The Labour Party has called for an expansion of the new safety review, announced by Minister for Marine Noel Dempsey last week, to examine an offshore terminal option for the Corrib gas project.

The Fine Gael leader has so far declined to clarify his party’s position, although his constituency colleague, Michael Ring (FG), supports an offshore terminal.

Dr Cowley said Mr Ring had sent his apologies to the Ballina rally as he had to attend a graduation in Wales.

Mary Corduff, wife of one of the five men who addressed the rally, recalled that her husband, Willie, had missed a family graduation as he was in jail. Mrs Corduff relayed a message from her husband, requesting that the campaign be fought “fairly, quietly and peacefully”.

BrId NI SheighIn, daughter of Micheal O SeighIn, was critical of media reports claiming that “one party” was trying to take over the campaign against the onshore pipeline. The campaign involved the “ordinary people of Ireland” and she had received letters of support from Derry to Cork.

Ms NI SheighIn also questioned the Garda presence at the Shell sites at Bellanaboy and Rossport. She did not wish to criticise individual gardaI, but the Garda SIochana appeared to be trying to “intimidate the people of Erris, and get the idea into the media that we are crazy loons trying to sabotage the project.”

Also speaking at the rally were Pat O’Rourke of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association, John Healy of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association, Maura Harrington, spokeswoman for Erris residents and Mark Garavan of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.

It was clear “the wrong people are in jail”, Mr Garavan said, to applause.

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