The fire-bombing of the car of a TD who has spoken out against the far right and anti-asylum seeker rhetoric has been condemned as an “attack on democracy”.
Sligo-Leitrim TD Martin Kenny’s car was set ablaze in the driveway of his home, in Augahavas, near Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, at around 2.30am on Monday. He and his family were asleep inside at the time.
Earlier in the week, Mr Kenny, Sinn Féin’s justice spokesman, received a death threat after speaking out against those on the far right who are “whipping up hysteria” about asylum seekers.
Mr Kenny first highlighted concerns when locals in Ballinamore protested outside an apartment complex earmarked for 130 asylum seekers. He had supported proposals to accommodate asylum seekers in the area.
Mr Kenny had warned of a “far-right ideology that is being peddled in this country” about asylum seekers and told the Dáil that “fear-mongering discussion about being overrun has become common and acceptable language”.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar condemned the firebombing as an “attack on democracy”.
He said: “In a democracy, there is no excuse for violence or vandalism to pursue political aims. Ever. Indeed, it is an attack on democracy itself. I totally condemn this act.”
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said he was “appalled” by the targeting of Mr Kenny’s car.
“In a democracy, we deliberate and debate — there is no place for violence,” he said.
“An attack on an elected member is an attack on all of society. It is an attack on democracy. I am asking anyone with information to please contact the gardaí.”
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald condemned what she said appeared to have been a “very deliberate and targeted attack” at Mr Kenny’s home.
“An attack on the home, or property, of an elected public representative is a deeply serious and sinister development” said Ms McDonald. “It represents an attack on the democratic system itself.
“This despicable act is a reflection on nobody but the criminal thugs who perpetrated it. Thankfully, no member of the Kenny family was injured, but it could easily have been different.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the attack was “sinister and shocking”.
Gardaí in Mohill, Co Leitrim, are investigating the attack and have asked anyone in the area between 12am and 3am who may have witnessed suspicious activity, or who has dash-cam footage, to contact them.
The Ballinamore Community Group, which has been protesting peacefully outside the apartment building where it was planned to accommodate asylum seekers, denounced the incident, but said it would continue to demonstrate.
The arson attack follows protests against direct provision accommodation in Oughterard, Co Galway, last month, while earlier this year, the Shannon Key West Hotel in Roosky on the Roscommon-Leitrim border, which had been due to house asylum seekers, was twice set on fire.
Mr Kenny contacted gardaí last week when he received a death threat via text that claimed he was a “traitor” and which indicated he should be “executed”.
“I have been texted and I have been getting emails and some of them are very nasty,” said Mr Kenny.
He also made a passionate plea in the Dáil, telling his fellow politicians that they have an obligation to stand firmly against racism.
“It has become acceptable for some people to talk about asylum seekers being dumped in a town. The word ‘dumped’ insinuates something is of no value. We only dump rubbish,” he said.
He said he had “personal experience” of local elected representatives “whipping up hysteria, demonising people and standing as a bulwark against reason and civil discourse in favour of domination and superiority”.