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Scariff protesters reject ‘anti-mask’ label

A MEMBER of a small group, who engage in weekly demonstrations in Scariff, has taken issue with the characterisation of their protests as ‘anti-mask’.

In a letter to The Champion, Seán MacLeod denied the group are showing disregard for frontline workers and rejected suggestions that they are an intimidating presence for older people. The letter follows widespread condemnation of the group’s activities by the local community, a furious debate on social media, and a counter-demonstration highlighting the importance of the public health guidelines.

While the protests have been peaceful, The Champion understands that local Gardaí are keeping the situation under review and have advised people that they must not breach the Covid-19 restrictions.

In an email, Mr MacLeod said: “I would like to assure you that it is not the intention of anyone standing in the square to upset or intimidate anyone and also to say that many of us standing in the square are in the ‘vulnerable’ group of people over 70 and one lady is even over 80 years of age.” The correspondence added that the protest group’s membership includes medical and other frontline workers in the retail sector.

Mr MacLeod acknowledged that some of those demonstrating “do not agree that masks are effective and feel that they are more of a health concern,” and believe the pandemic response from government is “disproportionate’. “We stand there each week out of a concern for the country, for the economy, for mental and physical wellbeing, for education, for the Constitution of Ireland, for open and reasonable debate and above all, for a future that our children can enjoy in love and happiness,” the letter concluded.

Deputy Michael McNamara, a Scariff resident, who was Chairperson of the Special Oireachtas Committee on Covid-19 Response told The Champion he understands that the situation may be the subject of a complaint to Gardaí. “In that case, it would be highly inappropriate for me as an elected representative to try, in any way, to intervene in this issue.”

Since the end of last year, a group of up to 10 people been gathering in the centre of the East Clare town at weekends, carrying placards with phrases including, ‘Breathe again, masks do nothing’ and ‘I am here for your freedom too’.

About Fiona McGarry

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 NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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