Aitsu president Micheál Fogarty laid a wreath at O'Rourke's office door

Conor McMorrow

Political Correspondent

A FUNERAL wreath of 'flowers of death' was left at the door of Fianna Fáil TD Mary O'Rourke's constituency office last week by protesting Athlone students.

About 1,500 Athlone IT students took part in last Wednesday's 'Slam the Fees March' from the college to the Civic Centre. Students' Union President Micheál Fogarty placed the wreath at O'Rourke's office door nearby.

O'Rourke described the incident to the Sunday Tribune as a "heinous" act while Fogarty said he had "no regrets" about the flowers and claimed, "It is a message to the government that we are not happy about the proposed reintroduction of college fees."

Defending his actions, he said, "I left it there myself at Mary O'Rourke's constituency office. We left a laminated note on it saying, 'Sincere and deepest sympathy on the death of free fees from your AIT constituency members. We will remember.'

"I have no regrets about leaving the wreath there because she is an active member of our government. She should be able to take criticism when the government's back is against the wall. They have their backs against the wall now. They have let us down and they need to know that.

"It is a message to the government. We are not happy with talk of the reintroduction of fees and we are going to fight this.

"It was not aimed at her, it was more to do with the government. It is about the death of free education in Ireland. It is not a death threat or anything like that."

A number of local councillors addressed the crowd at Wednesday's meeting and Fogarty is angry that O'Rourke did not accept their invitation to attend.

But O'Rourke, said, "I was asked by the students' union to address the protest but I couldn't be there as Wednesday is a Dáil voting day and I have to be in Leinster House on that day.

"I am not complaining about it to the college authorities or the USI. It was a foolish thing to do. I was not there at the time and that is what makes it a heinous thing to do.

"I have a lady working in my constituency office on her own and she called me to say that flowers called 'The Flowers of Death' were left at the office door.

"She is my employee and she was on her own in my office so I think it was in very bad taste. They also threw an egg at the window. I had his number [Fogarty] so I called him and told him to 'go take your filthy flowers' and that students should not be throwing an egg at my window."

She added, "I wrote to him and said that if he wishes to set up a meeting that he could ring me on my mobile, so he can ring me direct.

"Saturdays and Sundays are the only definite days that I am in Athlone so we can arrange a meeting if he wants. I thought they were pathetic."