Limerick councillors vote on McCabe issue

Two members of Limerick City Council have abstained from a vote on a motion which called on the Government to deny early release to the killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe.

Two members of Limerick City Council have abstained from a vote on a motion which called on the Government to deny early release to the killers of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe.

The Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Michael Hourigan, called the special meeting amid overwhelming opposition in the city to the contentious proposal that the slain garda's killers could be released under the Belfast Agreement.

Fifteen members of the 17-strong council backed the motion this evening which called on the Taoiseach "to honour previous assurances given to the family of the late Detective Garda Jerry McCabe".

Two independent councillors, Cllr Gerry McLaughlin and Cllr John Gilligan, abstained from the vote.

Cllr Gilligan said he had serious reservations about the way the meeting had been called and he said it appeared to have been a "solo-effort" by Fine Gael members to turn the matter into a poltical football.

"For anyone to exploit this matter for their own political purposes is very disingenuous," he said.

"I believe it is wrong for Limerick City Council to put down preconditions on how an agreement should be reached. If the peace process had been discussed here at Limerick City Hall it would have died long before it ever got off the ground. In the long term everyone has to make difficult political decisions. There can be no preconditions to a peace agreement and I am abstaining from this motion."

Former Irish rugby international, Cllr Gerry McLaughlin, who pointed out that he was a close friend of Jerry McCabe's injured colleague, Detective Garda Ben O'Sullivan, said his decision not to support the motion had been difficult.

"I absolutely abhor the killing of Jerry McCabe but we haven't been privy to the negotiations that the Government are involved in relating to the peace process and I think that peace in Ireland is paramount," he said.

"It doesn't give me any great pleasure not to support the motion but this has become a political football and I don't think it should have gone to a vote."

Labour Councillor Joe Leddin, who was one of the 15 councillors who supported the motion, said it was only right that Limerick City Council should give unequivocal support to Mrs Ann McCabe and her family.

"While we do have sympathy with the Taoiseach's situation - we must ask how could he possibly place the McCabe family in the unfair and unjust position that they are somehow standing in the way of the peace process?"

Fine Gael member, Cllr Ger Fahy, echoed those views and told the special meeting that it was very unfair that Ann McCabe and her family should feel that they are being blamed for holding up the peace process.

"If the Taoiseach wants to regain the trust of the people he owes it to the McCabe family, to the Gardaí, and to the people of Ireland to say that the killers do not qualify for early release," said Cllr Fahy.

Following this evening's specially-convened meeting of Limerick City Council, a spokesman for Sinn Féin said they wanted to make it clear that they had been consistent and straightforward in their position that Detective Garda McCabe's killers do qualify for early realease under the Belfast Agreement.

The vice-chair of Limerick Sinn Féin, Maurice Quinlivan, said the whole issue had become embroiled in power politics at both national and local level with some politicians only interested in petty point scoring. "

We understand the difficulties that the ongoing controversy must be causing for the McCabe family and we have no interest in adding to them. However, all those who genuinely want to see a comprehensive agreement on the North must accept that this issue, as dificult as it is, needs to be resolved," he said.

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