'People are afraid and have a shotgun beside the bed at night'
Published 07/09/2015 | 02:30
Victims of rural crime have warned that an innocent life will be lost or destroyed if the epidemic escalates.
Farmer Michael Hackett, whose family also sell milking machines, revealed terrified homeowners are sleeping with licensed shotguns by their beds.
"In the business, we cover a 50-mile radius and farmers everywhere are talking about being robbed and are considering taking the law into their own hands. People are afraid and have the shotgun beside the bed at night. If they shoot an intruder, then their lives are ruined and they are also in trouble with the law.
"Neighbours are reluctant to call in on each other after dark for fear they may be mistaken for robbers. You have to arrange an appointment to call now. It is destroying the fabric of rural life."
In some areas, when there is a funeral or wedding, neighbours volunteer to watch the homes of the families involved.
"Around here, the gardaí are informed when a number of houses will be empty - say, during a funeral - and a neighbour will also stay around because the thieves are reading the death notices," said farming contractor Robert O'Shea.
In August 2014, thieves stole more than €25,000 worth of equipment from his yard two days after his mother's funeral.
The farmers, who are being repeatedly targeted by travelling gangs, say they believe their tools and equipment are being sold in markets and car boot sales around the country.
In one incident, a man who had been combing markets for his stolen tools found them for sale on a market stall in Carlow. As he watched the stall, the farmer began dialling the number of the local gardaí when the stall holder tapped him on the shoulder and told him to take what was his.
As the owner bundled up his tools, the stall was taken down and disappeared in the back of a van before the farmer could contact the gardaí.