'Farmers will be shot defending their property'
Published 16/06/2015 | 02:30
A leading rural figure has warned someone will be shot "defending their property" unless there is a crackdown on raids.
Former Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Padraig Walshe - a victim of rural crime at his farm in Durrow, Co Laois - has called for action to stop criminality which is "plaguing" towns, villages and isolated homes.
It comes as the latest available figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show there were 420 crimes a month reported on farms throughout the country in the first six months of 2014.
"It is very disheartening for farmers to see their hard-earned farm equipment being stolen by these gangs of criminals.
"And there is always the fear that someone will be injured during the course of these raids," said Mr Walshe. "Some night, someone will be shot defending their property."
The figures from the CSO for the first six months of 2014, show there were 48 instances of livestock theft, 1,720 instances of theft of farming machinery and 2018 cases of vehicle theft reported.
FBD, the country's largest farm insurer, has seen a 1pc increase in claims from farmers so far this year. Gerald Quain, who runs a dairy farm on the Croom Road, outside Charleville, in Co Limerick, said farmers were ready to "rise up" unless something more is done to tackle rural theft.
The officer with farming body the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers' Association (ICMSA), said he has heard dozens of reports of rural raids in the region.
Pierce Malone, a farmer in Ballypickas, Co Laois, has been targeted by thieves six times, with €15,000 worth of goods taken in April. "I'm afraid to go down the farmyard at night for fear of being attacked," he said. "You are afraid that you will meet someone with a gun."
Paddy Byrne, president of Muintir na Tire, said a number of Community Text Alert pilot projects, run with the gardaí, to inform people of suspicious activity in their neighbourhoods has witnessed crimes drop by 23pc in those regions.
Gardaí said more than a million text messages have been sent since 2013.
"There is fear out there. It gives people some sort of a sense of security," said Mr Byrne. Gardaí said there were more than 4,000 arrests last year under Operation 'Fiacla', set up to target criminals travelling to rural areas.