The horrific ordeal endured by 93-year-old Una Farrell and her two sons, aged in their 60s, at their home in a remote rural community has shocked the nation.
The elderly small supermarket owner on the outskirts of the village of Ballintober in Co Roscommon and her family were traumatized after four armed and masked intruders took her hostage in the early hours of Monday morning.
Una, who has run the shop for 60 years and was just 24 hours from her 94th birthday, was woken up, threatened and then locked in a room while her sons were attacked and tied up.
The gang had planned the attack well and knew they were hardly afraid of being disturbed.
They looted the property before making off with a small sum of money and cigarettes – and the peace of mind of decent people who did no harm.
Despite the ordeal, Una reopened her shop on Tuesday to show that “those four thugs” hadn’t overpowered her.
She said: “We opened this morning and hope people will come back to us now. We have been here 61 years and we will be here for a long time to come.”
Una and her sons are the latest victims of the pernicious phenomenon classified under the euphemistic heading of “rural crime,” a title that
does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the offence.
The unvarnished truth is that the Farrells were lucky to have gotten away with some bruises and the trauma and anxiety that will likely taint the rest of their lives.
There is a small army of ruthless cowards in a nationally organized network who specialize in locating pastoral Ireland’s most vulnerable people – those who are elderly, isolated and likely to have some money around the house.
The modus operandi of these criminals, dubbed “scumbags” by local TD Michael Fitzmaurice, is their willingness to use extreme violence if victims dare to resist.
Your crimes are not opportunistic; they are deliberate and carefully planned.
Victims like the Farrells are often identified well in advance and then discreetly monitored from a distance, sometimes with local help, before they move.
This means that even if they are not being attacked, the robbers will go to a shelter, fully aware that their victims are frail and at high risk of suffering serious injury or even death because of the traumatic experience.
The suspects are members of a large gang of professional thieves mainly based in West Dublin. They drive high-horsepower cars, some stolen, some bought in Britain, and use the motorway network on their nighttime forays into the heart of rural Ireland.
Like any other law-abiding citizen, Una cannot understand the motivation for terror and chaos.
“I don’t know. What to say about people like that? They were four thugs. They traumatize people,” she said.
If you want to try to understand the mindset of such criminals, throw your thoughts back to the funeral of Dean Maguire, one of those so-called rural crime experts.
Maguire and two of his accomplices, with a total of 200 convictions, died in a horrific accident in West Dublin last summer when they were driving the wrong way on the N7 to get away from Gardaí.
The circumstances of Maguire’s funeral told us everything we needed to know about the disturbing psychology of the criminals who arrived at the Farrell home.
It became obscenity as it was used to celebrate and glorify his life and crimes.
A screwdriver and torch were even carried down the aisle in the same manner as a hurley or football jersey was carried to the funeral of a distinguished athlete.
A poster paid tribute in rhyme. “RIP Dean. You know the score, get on the floor, don’t be funny, give me the money.”
There were videos on social media showing dozens of Maguire’s admirers and friends as they posed to celebrate his horrendous antics as a career thug.
It is possible that the four masked men who entered the Farrells’ home were Maguire’s associates – they also used screwdrivers and spoke similar words.
If these criminals are caught and brought to justice, no mitigation should be tolerated.
These people deserve only one thing: to be locked up and kept away from civilized society for as long as possible.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/an-army-of-ruthless-cowards-inside-the-minds-of-vicious-burglars-who-target-the-vulnerable-41937923.html An army of ruthless cowards: in the minds of vicious burglars who prey on the weak