Farmers blasted Garda management on Monday over “nonexistent” response times to their calls about rural gangs trespassing on their land and stealing expensive farm equipment and intimidating and attacking farmers.
However, a representative for Garda Commissioner Drew Harris advised farmers or anyone else who might own a licensed firearm “not to take the law into their own hands.”
Angry farmers voiced their concerns at the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) annual general meeting held in Limerick on Monday.
Mary Kissane, 73, a farm widow from Tarbert, North Kerry, said cattle thieves stole five of her cows last Friday night and claimed it took Gardai five hours to visit the scene after the theft was discovered the next day.
A tearful Ms Kissane, who lost her husband Jim, 86, to cancer and dementia earlier this year, said the theft left her terrified of being targeted again by the criminal gang.
“My son called the Gardai at 1:10pm and they came out at 6:00pm, they said there was an accident they had to go to first and they looked around the farm, it was at 6pm :00 am dark and there was no sign,” Ms. Kisanne said.
“I’ve been through the mill and this has happened to me now, there are no Garda stations in any of the villages now, they only come for an hour a day now, they’re part-time.”
Ms Kissane said the nearest manned Garda station was about 12 miles away and there should be more Gardai present in rural communities “to make people aware that there is a guard in the area”.
Limerick County Chairman, ICMSA, John Bateman, 60, of Meanus, Co. Limerick, said gangs roamed his land and that of his neighbor without fear of being caught because Gardai “didn’t answer” their calls for help have.
Roaming gangs rob “anything they can sell,” including cattle, dogs, lawn trimmers, electric fences, vehicles, water pumps, welders, quad bikes and trailers.
“The problem is that they get more aggressive, and if you stop them, they’ll tell you, ‘Fuck off!’ — and when you’re confronted with seven of these guys in a remote field, it’s not funny,” Bateman said.
“It’s pretty scary – when you call 999 you expect someone to come to your rescue, but Garda’s response times are non-existent.”
Willie O’Donoghue, 60, Waterford ICMSA, said he was willing to use his legal rifle “if need be” to defend himself.
“If someone breaks into the house and I’m backed into a corner and they have a gun, I won’t back down,” Mr O’Donoghue said.
Speaking before the farmers’ meeting, Garda Deputy Commissioner Paula Hillman said: “We recognize the issue of some people not feeling safe in their communities and homes, but we can work with the (ICMSA) to help reassure, and see what we can do to build that trust and reduce the fear of crime.”
She advised farmers or anyone else who might own a licensed firearm “not to take the law into their own hands.”
Representing Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, Ms Hilman said despite concerns expressed by farmers, Gardai had seen “a decrease in burglaries across the country, including in rural areas”.
She said Gardai launched “Operation Thor” last month, which focuses “against traveling criminals who commit this type of crime”.
Crime prevention officers, municipal Gardai and Garda TEXT alert systems “enable people to report crime” and enable them to “partner” with Gardai.
Ms Hilman said she was “not aware of any plans” to reopen closed rural Garda stations as “we have community guards across the country” that are open to the public.
“What’s important to us is how we advertise, where they are located and how the local communities know.”
“It’s about giving Gardai gear, including visible vehicles. We’ve also launched Garda clinics that people can go to at certain times of the week, so there are other avenues we can use to get out and about in communities without necessarily reopening the Garda station.”
“If there are areas where we hear that people don’t have that information, we’re going to come back with that information and build those relationships.”
ICMSA President Pat McCormack said: “Since mid-year the issue of intimidation of landowners, assaults and theft has come to the fore and the state needs to take note and act.”
“Farmers are openly threatened in their own yards and fields by groups of men who are often brazen enough to post clips of themselves entering farmers and threatening them on social media.”
“If a tenth of the regulation and enforcement being heaped on farmers were directed against these gangs roaming the country, the problem would be solved in a month.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/farming-news/gardai-advise-farmers-not-to-take-law-into-their-own-hands-in-row-over-gangs-targeting-farms-42199659.html Gardai advises farmers “not to take the law into their own hands” when it comes to gangs targeting farms