A MAN who threw dried cow dung at two TDs attending a public meeting in Gort last week has refused to apologise.
The meeting took place at O’Sullivan’s Hotel in Gort on January 4 to air public views on the recent grant of planning permission for a biogas plant close to the town centre. The gathering of around 400 people launched a fundraising campaign to mount a legal challenge. Since the meeting, more than €60,000 has been raised and legal representation secured.
The throwing of dung at Junior Minister Anne Rabbitte and Deputy Ciaran Cannon generated national headlines over the course of the last week, and a Garda investigation is underway.
The incident prompted the reissuing of safety guidelines to Oireachtas members and a national debate about the security of public representatives.
Farmer Joe Baldwin declined to speak to The Champion but told RTÉ’s Liveline he did not believe he had anything to apologise for. He denied any intention to cause harm to or to intimidate the public representatives.
“I didn’t bring that in there to hurt them,” he told RTÉ’s Katie Hannon. “I didn’t wind back my hand like a baseball player and fire it at them.”
He described the bags he threw as “two small little clear bags with zip seals” with “dry manure” in them. “No-one got dirtied or anything,” he added. “I said my few bits on the night. The main thing I said to the TDs was, would they stand up to the government?”
Mr Baldwin said he told the TDs, that “if you’re going to bring s**t into the town, here’s some s***t for you”.
Deputy Rabbitte said she was very disappointed at the incident and that she didn’t feel safe leaving the meeting. Deputy Cannon tweeted his response, saying he could understand why fewer people want to enter politics.
Following the meeting Gort Biogas Concern Group, the organisers of the meeting, condemned the incident. Spokesperson Ciaran O’Donnell described said it was “unfortunate” that someone would express themselves in that way. He added that it was a symptom of the frustration people are feeling at not being listened to.
A statement from the group said the meeting had heard a “valuable and forthright exchange of views”.
“The group is aware that a member of the public reportedly caused a projectile to be launched at public representatives in attendance,” the statement said.
“Gort Biogas Concern Group condemns in the strongest possible terms such an act. Such actions are wholly unacceptable in all circumstances and do not reflect or represent the views of the group or the local community.”
The group also thanked Deputies Rabbitte, Cannon and Seán Canney, as well as the other local representatives who attended the meeting last week.
Meanwhile gardaí in Galway are continuing to investigate all the circumstances around the incident and are appealing to any person who was at this meeting and who has not already spoken to gardaí, to come forward. Any other person who may have any other information in relation this incident should also make contact with Gardaí.
Gardaí can be contacted at Gort Garda Station 091 636 4000 or the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111. No arrests have been made at this time. Investigations are ongoing.
Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald.
Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti.
She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at The University of Galway.
If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 065 6864146.