(Mullingar, 1662). Fourteen residents of Moate-Granoge and surrounding areas were arrested Sunday as local law enforcement continues to enforce the Act of Assembly, which prohibits any gatherings not sanctioned by appointed officials and the Anglican Church.
"We don't want to have another uprising like in '41," said Walter Lambert, justice of the peace. "These meetings might look innocent, but they're all about disobeying the law. We've got to nip that in the bud."
The alleged criminals all hail from the same radical religious group. They call themselves "the people of God," but are more commonly known by their nickname, "Quakers."
Lambert would not allow any press inside the Mullingar jail. A spokesman for the prisoners answered questions from the Westmeath News on condition of anonymity.
"Walter Lambert and other officials are breaking the law, not following it," he attested. "This is only the latest event in a long line of harassment."
According to the spokesman, three members of their society were imprisoned last year for six weeks, then released without ever having been charged with a crime. In a separate incident, John Wilson (a Quaker, but not currently in prison) was badly beaten for refusing to pay for prison food. The spokesman added that Henry Fuller (among the current prisoners) was physically attacked by Lambert himself for speaking to him about religious freedom.
No one in Lambert's office would comment on the alleged assault.
A court date has not been set. The Mullingar jailer said the prisoners will be transferred to Dublin prison for further disposition.
What if there had been newspapers in County Westmeath in the 17th century? I doubt they would have had neutral reporting. This was a little writing exercise for the chapter I'm currently editing. The "Act of Assembly" is probably the wrong term, but the rest of the story is based on facts as recorded in the Moate Meeting minutes and Sufferings.