Cllr Louise Heavin.

'Concerning material' put through local councillor's door

Athlone's Mayor, Cllr Louise Heavin, has called for a "respectful" local election campaign, after saying she's had some "concerning material" put through the letterbox of her home in recent weeks.

The Green Party representative was speaking last week, during the final monthly meeting of the Athlone Moate Municipal District's five-year term.

She had a motion at the meeting calling for "respectful engagement between candidates and supporters" ahead of the vote on June 7.

"We commit to standing against racism, sexism or any other form of discrimination in our campaigns," Cllr Heavin's motion stated.

"We recognise that we bear a particular responsibility as current public representatives to stand for respectful discourse and challenge hatred and misinformation which muddies our politics as a whole, both online and offline."

She said she had been prompted to table the motion "not because of anything any councillor here has said or done, but over concerning material that I've received in my door".

She said she was also aware of Green Party candidates in other areas who had their election posters vandalised.

"It's difficult to tell if that's happening because the candidate is a woman, or because they're from a non-Irish heritage, but I find it completely unacceptable.

"There is space for different opinions, but we need to make sure we are not allowing hate speech, and not allowing people to speak in a racist manner in our public meetings or elsewhere.

"If we feel it or hear it on the doors, or on the streets, we, as public representatives, should challenge that," she said.

"We are a very multicultural district. We all know people who contribute positively to our society who have come in through the direct provision system and other manners.

"We should all understand that, yes, there are concerns about our (immigration) system, but it's not ok to say that some person is more likely to cause crime because they're non-Irish.

"As a female candidate, I don't feel any concern for my safety because there are more non-Irish people around. That is completely wrong to say in any forum."

The motion from Cllr Heavin was unanimously supported by the other members, with Cllr John Dolan saying, "I think we'd all have to agree with that".

Cllr Aengus O'Rourke said the "only aggro" he'd gotten on the campaign trail recently was "from one or two" on the doorsteps.

"One person was screaming blue murder at me, while at the same time a woman was walking by with young children on the footpath," said Cllr O'Rourke.

"I was begging him to keep his voice down, and stop using profanities. It was disgusting. But in all my years since I first went forward (for the council) in 2009, I've never had an issue with any other candidate."

Cllr Tom Farrell said the sentiments from the Athlone Mayor were "very well put", while Cllr Paul Hogan also spoke in support of her motion.

"Thankfully I haven't experienced it this year, but in previous elections I certainly would have had posters interfered with, posters broken, and all sorts of other things," said Cllr Hogan.

Cllr Vinny McCormack said he had a concern that "candidates who are not elected councillors might use issues of the day to 'get one over' on the sitting councillors.