29 October 1998 Edition

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Westmeath raid raises questions about Garda agenda

Róisín De Rossa

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, answering a question from Sinn Féin TD Caoimghin O'Caolain, gave his assurance that repressive legislation introduced in September, would not be used against organisations on ceasefire.

Nevertheless, at 8.20 am, last Tuesday, in Multifarmham, County Westmeath, Det. Sgt. Garda Gerry Nohilly, and Sgt. Liam Daly arrived at the door of Larry Maxwell, his wife, Bridget and 4 children, with a warrant under Section 29 of the Offences Against the State Act authorising a search of their farm property and buildings up the road.

Larry's brother Simon a republican and former political prisoner was released from Portlaoise just 3 months ago, and only last Friday had a welcome home function in Navan.

Since his release, Simon Maxwell complains that has been harassed, stopped and threatened by Special Branch detectives.

Up to 22 gardai were involved in the raid on the Maxwell farm. They who tore farm buildings apart and destroyed the concrete flooring of cattle sheds, drilling it with 3ft. deep holes.

A digger was uised to excavate a 15ft square hole, at least 10 ft deep in a hayshed, throwing rubble everywhere. Larry Maxwell replaced the floor to the hayshed at a cost of £12,000.

In a blatant attempt at intimidation Gardai openly videoed Sinn Fein representative Peter Rodgers and an AP/RN reporter when they arrived with Larry Maxwell to survey the damage done to his property.

Speaking to An Phoblacht Larry Maxwell wondered: ``Is this the private agenda of Sgt. Daly against our family? Does the rule of law permit a garda to pursue a private vendetta in this way?

``Following the assurances Bertie Aherne gave to Leinster House in September, certain questions need to be asked such as who could have authorised Chief Superintendent Gerry Clifford, in Mullingar, to sign the search warrant and whether the garda are subject to the elected government, or are they singing from a different hymn sheet altogether?'' Immediately on hearing of the search, Caoimhghin O'Caolain, T.D. addressed a letter to Minister of Justice, Donoghue, asking for an explanation.

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