Around 80 of the State’s most vocal opponents gathered in Athlone last weekend in an effort to organise a unified front against the range of Government and EU initiatives to which they are opposed, but failed to do so on the day.
“We’re hoping to have a unified policy together for the next time, within the next few weeks,” said Pádraic O Conghaile of Glór na Tuaithe, who chaired the meeting.
He voiced his delight at the numbers who turned up, saying: “We were delighted with 80. We thought 25 would be powerful”.
O Conghaile and Glór na Tuaithe made the headlines when he paraded to Dáil Eireann on an over-sized toilet to protest over the forthcoming septic tank charges.
“What we’re trying to do is bring groups together from around the country, to have a broader voice to go to Dublin with. Nobody listens when there’s only 500 of you marching in Galway or Kilkenny. You need a national voice to get something across,” he said.
In the Shamrock Lodge on Sunday were speakers from 18 different counties on issues as diverse as turf-cutting, and the “anti-rural bias in the Dublin media”.
So strident were this particular strand of naysayers that one gentleman referred to representatives of the Parks and Wildlife Services as “the Black and Tans”.
The only political speakers who spoke at the meeting were three independent councillors from Co Galway, and one from Co Clare.
No party-affiliated politicians spoke, and only Cllr Paul Hogan briefly attended.
“This is a long-term plan to make us move into urban areas,” said O Conghaile, spokesperson for the Glór group, whose personal crusade is against septic tank charges and the imposition of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs ) in Connemara.
“Eight per cent of Connemara is an SAC. You can’t get planning. All the young people are leaving. You can’t expect us to be forced into the sea completely,” he added.
“The demise of rural Ireland is there for everybody to see. The de-population of rural Ireland is a big problem. They’re kind of forcing us into urban areas, and if this trend keeps going, there’ll be nobody left,” he said.
Another speaker went one further and told of how “the Germans have designated the west of Ireland as a wildlife reserve”.
Cllr Catherine Connolly voiced her frustration with the political situation in the country.
“I didn’t elect this Government, with 150 crooked members in the Dáil... I despair of the divide and conquer tactics this Government learned from the British,” she railed.
“Enough is enough, and they have to be told: ‘You’re not doing this in our name’,” she said.
Attendees argued about whether to put up candidates for election, and couldn’t agree.
There then followed fulminations against the household charge, Bord Iascaigh Mhara, windfarms, loss of sovereignty, the inability to amend the Constitution with a petition of 75,000, and the systematic and planned destruction of rural Ireland by “the clowns” in Dublin and Brussels.