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Sinn Féin condemn Garda destruction of human rights billboard in Lifford

10 August, 2004

Sinn Féin Donegal Councillor Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has described the destruction of a "Free the Castlerea Five" billboard by Gardaí in Lifford, Co Donegal last Friday evening (06.08.04), as a "politically motivated act."

Speaking this morning, Councillor Mac Lochlainn said:

"On Friday evening at approximately 6.15pm, members of the public witnessed a marked Garda van stop at the Lifford roundabout, where five uniformed Gardai proceeded to demolish a "Free the Castlerea Five" billboard with sledgehammers.

"Sinn Féin contacted the Road Section of the Donegal County Council yesterday morning, to ascertain whether they had authorised the removal. They responded by saying that they had made no such request to the Gardaí in Lifford or elsewhere.

"Let us be clear about this, Donegal Gardaí engaged in what can only be described as an unprovoked and politically motivated act by demolishing a billboard which had been erected approximately a year earlier. During the past year, there has been no contact between the Gardaí and those who erected the billboard, to say that it was causing a problem and their clear intention was to destroy it rather than remove it intact.

"People will be concerned, but not surprised, by this latest act by the Gardaí in Donegal. The demolition job in Lifford comes against the backdrop of revelations from the Morris Tribunal and reinforces the perception that the Donegal Gardaí are a law unto themselves. Local people have also commented that it is ironic that the Gardaí were able to muster five officers armed with sledgehammers to smash down a billboard when their presence in the area at other times leaves much to be desired.

"I am calling upon the Gardaí to publicly state their reasons for taking a sledgehammer to the billboard. Local people reported that the officers carried out their task with much relish. This recent act will further undermine the credibility of the Gardaí in the eyes of Donegal people." ENDS

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