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Martin Kenny describes 'traumatic and difficult' experience after car set alight outside home

The Sinn Féin TD’s car was set alight outside his home yesterday morning.

Sinn Fein Justice Spokesperson Martin Kenny
Sinn Fein Justice Spokesperson Martin Kenny

Updated Oct 29th 2019, 7:30 PM

SINN FÉIN TD Martin Kenny has suggested that the leaders of a protest against asylum seekers in a Co Leitrim town are inadvertently inspiring individuals to carry out “crazy” acts beyond their control.

In his first interview since his car was set alight outside his home in Co Leitrim, Kenny said that the incident was not just about asylum seekers, but an attack on all of those who want a better society in Ireland.

The attack was condemned across the political spectrum, and gardaí are continuing to investigate the incident, which happened at around 2.30am yesterday morning. Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One News, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said an attack on a member of the Dáil was an act of violence against the democratic institutions of the State.

There is no suggestion that any of those involved in the protest were involved in the incident.

Speaking to Ocean FM, Kenny described the destruction of his car as “traumatic” and revealed that the vehicle was parked so close to his house that the heat of the flames cracked one of his front windows.

“We were fortunate; if it was closer to the house there could be a lot more damage done,” he said. “We are where we are…it’s steel and glass and plastic, they’re all replaceable.”

Kenny thanked the thousands of people who had offered their support to him and praised his family for their response to the incident, particularly his daughter, who expressed gratitude that the family did not suffer the same fate as 39 migrants found dead in the UK last week.

Speaking later to RTÉ’s Drivetime programme, Kenny described the experience as “traumatic and difficult” for his family.

“It could very easily have been the house going on fire,” he said. “We’re all safe and we’re all fine and we’re strong and we’re a united family and we’re not going to let this deter me or deter what the vision of a better place to live and for our communities is going to be.”

Threats

The Sligo/Leitrim TD also told Ocean FM that a number of threats against him have been made in recent weeks, and not just since he made comments in support of asylum seekers in the Dáil last Thursday.

“The threats and the nonsense online has been coming for a couple of weeks, and not just since I made those comments,” he said.

“But it’s important to say that there’s only one person…responsible for what happened here the other night and that’s the person who did it. They’re the only ones responsible for that. I want to make that clear.”

Kenny also took aim at those leading a protest against a proposed Direct Provision centre in nearby Ballinamore, describing ongoing demonstrations in the town as “regrettable”.

Although he accepted many protesters were reasonable, he called on those in charge to lead the protests more responsibly and realise the consequences of their actions.

“The handful of people who are at the head of that really need to look at what happens when you fire things up to a high level and what impact that has, and the consequences it has, which is beyond their control,” he said.

“These consequences are with other people who are crazy, and they’ll go off and do crazy things. We all have a responsibility to be reasonable.”

He later told Drivetime that there was “no evidence to link it” to the proposed Direct Provision centre. 

In a statement, local group Ballinamore community group condemned the attack in the strongest terms, but defended how demonstrations in the town were being carried out.

“The demonstration in Ballinamore has been conducted in a peaceful and respectful manner and it is our firm commitment that it will continue in the same way,” it said.

“Any other elements are not indicative of the community of Ballinamore.”

A forensic examination on Kenny’s car took place yesterday, and a spokeswoman for gardaí said that investigators expect to establish the cause of the fire later today.

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