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SINN FÉIN has rejected claims it exploited the plight of the Rossport Five to target Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and gain political ground in the Mayo constituency in the process. Mr Kenny, speaking on RTÉ on Sunday night, accused the party of launching an “insidious campaign” against him, adding: “It has been brought home to me that this is because of the fact that Fine Gael stood very strongly out against the secret deal done by the Government with Sinn Féin and the IRA for the release of the killers of Det Garda Gerry McCabe from Castlerea Prison.” His accusation was supported by Education Minister Mary Hanafin, who said the issue had been “undoubtedly jumped upon by politicians for their own purposes.” But Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh yesterday denied that this was the case.
“Sinn Féin’s interest in the Corrib gas field is not new. For years, we have consistently called for a radical review of the terms governing mineral exploration here,” he said. “Enda Kenny’s pathetic attack on my party (on Sunday) clearly indicates how desperate he is to save face from what has been a disaster from his point of view. “Instead of standing up for the community of Rossport and surrounding areas against Shell aggression, Enda chose to side with the multinational. And now that his position has been exposed, he once again lapses into that old Fine Gael tradition of trying to shift the negative focus onto republicans.”Mr Kenny had been perceived as being indifferent to the fate of the Rossport Five, despite attempting to find a legal mechanism to resolve the row.The perceived unwillingness to intervene was the main reason given by protestors who picketed his Castlebar office in August. While Mr Kenny believes Sinn Féin was behind the campaign against him, he had previously blamed Independent TD Jerry Cowley for orchestrating that picket, and demanded an apology from him.A spokesman for Mr Kenny yesterday said that the Fine Gael leader had been alluding to the summer-long campaign against him in his remarks on RTÉ, and not just the office picket. That campaign had begun “in parallel” with Sinn Féin’s increased involvement in the Rossport saga, he added.