Gardai came under attack from a marauding gang of robbers during a late-night chase across five counties last week. Five shops were raided – one in a town where the garda station was closed the previous week.
The incident, in which the windscreen of one garda car was smashed and gardai threatened with crow bars and other weapons, underlined the threat to gardai in isolated areas where rural stations are being closed, gardai said.
Gardai were confronted by the gang in Ballyragget, Co Kilkenny, where the local garda station was one of those closed at the end of January.
Two gardai in a patrol car who were chasing the robbers were surrounded by five men. One smashed the windscreen with a concrete block while others armed with weapons threatened the gardai.
The late-night robbery spree began in Ballinaboola, Co Wexford, where the local Mace shop was raided. This was followed by another robbery of the Supervalu store in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow.
The raiders then continued to Ballyragget, where the confrontation with the two gardai occurred. The gang are then believed to have carried out two further robberies in Mountmellick, Co Laois, and Tullamore, Co Offaly.
The closure of Ballyragget station was opposed locally, with North Kilkenny Labour councillor Maurice Shortall describing it, before the raid occurred, as "totally irresponsible".
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He said: "Closing the station is once again penny wise but pound foolish and the paltry savings will pale into insignificance when the inevitable consequences occur.
"There is no substitution for garda presence and the hit and miss effect of a mobile patrol car will be music to the ears of those involved in anti -social behaviour and crime.
"It's time for the community in Ballyragget to call a halt and to send out a clear message to Dublin 4 that this decision is wrong, and we won't stand for it."