A FIVE-MAN cross-border gang is believed to be behind the latest robberies on the homes of the elderly in which a man and a woman were terrorised.
Bernie Doherty (80) and John Gallagher (69) were both beaten by raiders who ransacked their homes on Donegal's Inishowen peninsula.
Both victims had been approached earlier in the day by men claiming to be selling second-hand furniture. Gardai believe the gang were checking out their targets.
Gardai yesterday stood guard outside Mr Gallagher's home on the scenic Mamore Gap, 12km from Buncrana where 96-year-old Greta Lilly was attacked two weeks ago.
Raiders punched the elderly sheep farmer in the head before locking him inside an outhouse in his farmyard.
Ms Doherty was attacked two hours later by the same gang inside her home at Ture, between Muff and Quigleys Point. She spent yesterday in bed at a neighbour's home, recovering from her ordeal.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter insisted that Donegal was "not a special case" and that rural crime was a nationwide issue.
He said more than 1,900 people were brought before the courts last year facing charges involving break-ins at homes.
"The gardai have the resources they require and are targeting the people concerned, not just in Donegal but right across the country," Mr Shatter told Highland Radio.
But gardai in Donegal accused him of failing to recognise the impact of the Border.
"There's a population of 150,000 people in Derry and Alan Shatter takes no account of them whatsoever when it comes to garda numbers," said one officer last night.
"He is living on a different planet from the one we police and ignoring the fact that the North even exists. It's only a matter of time before someone gets killed."
The gang suspected of the latest incidents – as well as attacks on elderly brothers in Manorcunningham a day earlier – are based in Derry.
Neighbours of Ms Doherty said she was "shaken to her core" by the attack.
"She'll never be the same again," said one. "Alan Shatter needs to get out from behind his desk and see the damage being done to our communities."
Donegal TD Thomas Pringle said : "We are seeing the brutal consequences of this Government's attack on rural Ireland."
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore defended the Government's policy on policing, pointing to recent CSO crime figures.