10 February 2000 Edition

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Loyalists egg on Sinn Féin

Despite coming under attack from loyalist fishermen during a visit to Portavogie, Sinn Fein Assembly members Francie Molloy and Gerry McHugh have called for politicians to unite to save the North's fishing communities.

Molloy and McHugh were visiting the County Down fishing villages of Portavogie, Kilkeel and Ardglass as part of the Assembly's Agriculture Committee last Friday, 4 February, when a 50-strong loyalist crowd aimed eggs and verbal abuse at the Sinn Féin pair. At one point, the protesters drove a forklift truck and a lorry across the harbour mouth to block it.

Interestingly, the protesters hurled abuse at DUP leader Ian Paisley, chair of the Agriculture Committee and his son Ian Paisley Junior for walking with the Sinn Féin representatives. The Paisleys defended themselves, saying they had refused to travel on the minibus with their Sinn Féin parliamentary colleagues.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Francie Molloy accused the DUP of ``hypocrisy'' and pointed out that DUP man Gardiner Kane from North Antrim had travelled in the minibus with the Sinn Féin representatives.

``The Paisleys both took part in the meetings with us and the spokespersons for the fishermen, as did local DUP councillor Jim Shannon,'' said Molloy. ``Indeed, Ian Paisley's attempts to cover his tracks by saying Sinn Féin were excluded from the meeting is totally unfounded, as we played a full role; we asked questions and got answers from the fishermen.''

Sinn Fein's agriculture spokesperson, Gerry McHugh has called for the Assembly's Agriculture Committee to be ``united in the defence of the rights of fishing communities''.

McHugh called on the British government to secure a better deal for the fishermen, saying that they seemed ``more interested in what the EU will pay them to police the recent quota restrictions than in trying to protest the interests of fishermen''.

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