‘I had a heart attack after my home was burgled’
At 70 years of age, Marye Blundell should have been enjoying retirement and living out her twilight years in peace.
But the spiralling rural crime problem almost cost Marye her life. She suffered a massive heart attack after her home was wrecked by thieves, who also poisoned her loyal guard dog.
"They (thieves) poisoned my dog, and the other dog was killed on the road when he ran out to chase them," the retired horse trainer told the Irish Independent.
"Then they came and ransacked my home - causing extensive damage which caused me so much stress I suffered a heart attack. I died in the Mater Hospital, but the doctors brought me back. It is frightening living like this and I am terrified.
"When the dogs bark at night it means that someone is around, and you freeze. Why should I go through that at 70 years of age? I worked all my life and why shouldn't I have peace now?" Marye asked. "I can't blame the guards because they have been good, but there's not enough of them.
"Everybody is angry and there is a great community, the guys around here said they will come with their shotguns to protect me… but you can't do that. I don't see a solution to this. The thieves are just doing what they like."
Marye and her neighbours - living in a geographical area including Abbeyleix, Ballcolla, Rathdowney and Durrow in County Laois - have noticed a marked increase in crime since the opening of the M8 Motorway in 2010.
Local community alert organiser, Michael G. Phelan, has no doubts that both were connected.
"The opening of the M8 sparked it in the initial stages but, in the last couple of years, there has been a huge escalation in crime, with house break-ins rampant and also thefts of valuable equipment from farm yards," he said.
Mr Phelan was the chairman of the Woodenbridge District Community Alert Group, which was established as a direct result of the escalating crime problem.
"When the M8 opened the increase in the number of robberies became a real concern and we introduced the community text alert system in conjunction with the gardaí and Muintir Na Tire," he adds.
Local people associate the increase in crime with the closure of local garda stations. In this area of Laois the stations in Ballcolla and Durrow have closed, with the latter opening once a week.
The station at Rathdowney, five miles away, opens a few days a week, thus leaving the nearest operational garda station in Abbeyleix - which only opens for 12 hours a day.
After midnight, police cover for the entire area reverts to the Divisional HQ in Portlaoise - 18 miles away. "You can see the extent of the problem. there's just one squad car to service an area from Roscrea on the Tipperary border over to Graiguecullen just outside Carlow - a distance of over 50 km," added Mr Phelan.