*Participants at the now concluded Scariff protests. Photograph: John Mangan
Mountshannon Community Council will not be removing an officer from an elected position despite an involvement in ‘truth-seeker’ demonstrations in the heart of Scariff.
Up until February, weekly demonstrations were held by a group of regularly a dozen people at the Fair Green in Scariff. They expressed their opposition to the mandatory wearing of face masks, a claimed attack on the Irish constitution and increased Government control.
A lecturer, a part-time teacher and other residents of East Clare and some from further afield took to the Fair Green every Saturday for one hour demonstrations for a period of four months. Nard Slabbers, an elected member of Mountshannon Community Council was also a regular participant in the demonstrations.
Nard previously helped to secure global media attention from BBC for East Clare through his involvement in Throne of GAAmes which was constructed from more than 150 hurleys, assembled with the help of local volunteers at the Iniscealtra Festival of Arts in June 2014. He had the idea for the project which was then sculpted by Mountshannon sculptor Paul Berg.
When The Clare Echo travelled to Scariff to speak with demonstrators in January, Mr Slabbers departed the group and returned when this writer and our photographer John Managan departed the scene. Eye-witness sources have verified this version of events at the location on January 22nd.
After The Clare Echo detailed Nard’s involvement in the protests and role on Mountshannon Community Council, a statement from the Community Council was issued. It mentioned the reference to the group and said it was seen “to infer a connection” with the Council and the protest. The statement added that its member did not speak with the publication or refer to an involvement with the Community Council.
Complaints and concerns from Scariff residents have been issued to the Community Council over the involvement of members with the now ceased protests. In responding to these worries, the Community Council said what members did as private citizens was their own affair.
One Scariff resident told The Clare Echo that the Community Council had been “very helpful and supportive” to the community during the pandemic while also publishing guidelines from the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). The individual said the actions of Mr Slabbers were “in direct contradiction” to this and called for his position to be considered. “When I saw a member of Mountshannon Community Council demonstrating against mask wearing and with a banner saying something like Vigil for Freedom I was amazed and upset”.
The Clare Echo contacted Co Chair and Acting Treasurer of Mountshannon Community Council, Joanne Dunphy Allen on Tuesday to query if any action had been taken following the matters raised by locals and if the Community Council asked for the demonstrations to be stopped.
However, Ms Dunphy Allen insisted she would be not making any comment further to the statement issued in January which criticised The Clare Echo.
Elected representatives in East Clare have expressed their view that the involvement of Nard should not prompt his exit from Mountshannon Community Council.
Clare TD, Michael McNamara (IND) told The Clare Echo he was not aware of the election process associated with Mountshannon Community Council. “If you don’t like what somebody is doing, run against them,” the Scariff native commented and noted that the public would get an opportunity to make their views known at any future election of the Community Council.
Cllr Pat Burke (FG) said Mr Slabbers was involved in the demonstrations in “a personal capacity” which had “nothing to do with Mountshannon Community Council”. He described Nard as “a fine member of the community”.
Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe Municipal District, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) had been a vocal critic of the demonstrations and believed they were of “no value to the town of Scariff”. He welcomed their decision to suspend protests, “it was creating division among people”.