Limerick councillor criticised for Halawa message defends 'Allahu Akbar’ Tweet

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Cllr Emmett O’Brien has been accused of trying to “stir up anti-Muslim feeling” by his ex-Fianna Fail colleague Willie O’Dea

Cllr Emmett O’Brien has been accused of trying to “stir up anti-Muslim feeling” by his ex-Fianna Fail colleague Willie O’Dea

LIMERICK councillor Emmett O’Brien has been accused of trying to “stir up anti-Muslim feeling” by his ex-Fianna Fail colleague Willie O’Dea.

It came after the former general election candidate responded to a video on social network Twitter of released prisoner Ibrahim Halawa returning to Ireland with the question “is that Allah Akbar [sic] I hear ringing out by any chance???”

Irish national Mr Halawa, 21, returned to Ireland this week after being acquitted of murder, arson and possession of illegal weapons. 

He had spent four years in an Egyptian jail after attending a Muslim Brotherhood rally there in 2013. While he was greeted with cheers upon his return to Dublin Airport, Cllr O’Brien asked if among these, he heard ‘Allahu Akbar’ chanted.

While the literal translation of this Islamic phrase is ‘Allah is greater’, militants on suicide missions often express it.

The Pallaskenry man’s Tweet has been branded a “disgrace” by Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan, who has campaigned for Halawa’s release, and “inappropriate” by Mr O’Dea.

But Cllr O’Brien, a barrister by trade, defended the Tweet, saying it was asking if he heard the controversial chant, which he said: “Is often associated with extremism and Islamists who have no regard for the rule of law, women’s and gay’s rights, and raises concerns among the ordinary have spoken to me about it.”

Dubliner Mr Halawa was tried along with nearly 500 defendants in a mass trial criticised by rights groups as unfair. Just 52 have been acquitted.

Mr Quinlivan issued a warning to his former council colleague.

“He needs to be quite careful what he is saying. I guess Cllr O’Brien thinks he’s very clever.  But he’s not very clever in this instance. Ibrahim Halawa is an Irish national, with an Irish passport. He is a young lad who considers himself a Dubliner. I’m shocked a public representative could come out with this,” the TD said.

He also said every TD in the Oireachtas backed the campaign to bring Halawa home, adding: “I’m sure [Emmett O’Brien’s] Independent Alliance friends wouldn’t have been appreciative of his comments. Katherine Zappone was one of those at the airport to welcome him home.”

But Cllr O’Brien said: “Taking a legal and moral lecture from a Sinn Fein TD is novel, and I do not intend to gratify his baseless and reactionary comments with a direct reply. My tweet was actually questioning whether I actually heard it, and was a fair and reasonable comment on a matter of public interest.”

Mr O’Dea added: “His comments are not helpful. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are very decent, honourable, upright people.”