Barry outraged over protest groups appearance in his constituency office
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Fine Gael TD Tom Barry reacted angrily on Friday last to the arrival into his constituency office in Fermoy of members of local anti-austerity groups while he was holding a clinic. Others, carrying placards, demonstrated outside.
Deputy Barry, in speaking about the incident to The Avondhu this week, freely admitted he'd exchanged angry words and even swore at them in the course of heated exchanges.
"I reacted angrily because it was such a shock. It happened during a constituency clinic and I was speaking with an elderly lady at the time on a confidential basis," he explained. He also admitted taking a mobile phone which was being used as a camera, from one individual. "OK they had points to make but that wasn't the way to do it. They upset the lady who had come in to speak to me confidentially," he said.
A spokesperson for one of the groups, made up of people from Fermoy and Mallow not affiliated to any group, as well as members of the Fermoy And District Campaign Against Austerity, said they had planned a dignified, silent protest to draw the TD's attention to their objection to the payment of debt which is not theirs, and to the resulting austerity measures being imposed on everyone. The spokesperson said they'd entered the TDs office quietly and stood silently away from his desk. She alleged that he became immediately confrontational. She also said that while Deputy Barry took one of the protestor's phones off him because he was attempting to take photographs, a member of his staff took photographs of them. During their exchanges she claims Deputy Barry repeatedly accused them of never having created employment for people, unlike him.
The Gardai were called and arrived at the office. It was agreed that a few members would be allowed to remain in the office to discuss issues with the TD and that the remaining members would protest outside the office. The four members who remained reported subsequently that the discussion was reasonable.
Denis O'Brien of the Mallow Campaign Against Household and Water Charges and the Fermoy And District Campaign Against Austerity, said he'd entered the TD's office unaware that the offices were laid out in such a way that people dropping in were striaght into his private office first and had to go through there to get to the waiting room. It had not been his intention to disrupt the deputy's clinic, he said. He was directed and went immediately into the waiting room.
After the Gardai were called it was agreed that three members of the Mallow group and one from the Fermoy group could stay to speak with the TD. Denis O'Brien too said the subsequent discussion with Deputy Barry was reasoned and civil, with the deputy promising to get answers for the questions they were asking and meet with them again to discuss the matters they raised.
In addition to the Anglo bond holders matter and the IBRC wind down, this group also raised the issue of the former sugar factory in Mallow, asking what plans there were for the site and criticising the closure of the plant. The ongoing dispute with Greencore over pensions for former workers was also discussed. Denis O'Brien finished by assuring Deputy Barry that his group would support the Government to run their country properly as promised but they would not pay penal taxes to bail out bondholders. He says Deputy Barry apologised for his earlier outburst and they shook hands, ending the encounter amicably.
Deputy Barry agreed that, after the initial confrontation to which he reacted angrily for the reasons he outlined, the discussions which followed were 'useful and constructive'.
The Fermoy And District Campaign Against Austerity Group meanwhile are holding a meeting this Friday night, February 15th in the CMWS Hall in Fermoy. All are welcome
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