Tuesday 22 January 2019

'Dissident' gang behind attack at Roscommon house blocked off roads and planned escape across fields

  • Three security guards hospitalised and dog killed in 'violent' incident

  • Justice Minister says vigilantism will not be tolerated in this State

  • Gardai briefly returned to the scene this evening as a small group gathered outside, but no incidents were reported

  • Farmer had been evicted from same property last week

Some of the burned out vans and cars in the yard of the house which was the scene of an eviction in Strokestown last week. Photo Brian Farrell
Some of the burned out vans and cars in the yard of the house which was the scene of an eviction in Strokestown last week. Photo Brian Farrell
Spark: Still images from a video of the eviction of the occupants of the house last Tuesday
Probe: Gardaí at the house at Strokestown. Photo: Brian Farrell

Tom Brady and Ian Begley

THE vicious ‘dissident’ gang behind the assault at the house in Falsk, Co Roscommon blocked off roads and planned their escape across fields in a well-planned vigilante attack.

It has emerged that the sole motive for the strike by a gang on security guards in the early hours of the morning was to cause serious injury and damage.

The gang prepared the attack by blocking off the roads leading to the house and then making their escape across fields to a location where getaway vehicles were parked.

Gardaí said the incident could not be treated as an attempt to put a halt to the repossession of the farmhouse, and that the gang of up to 20 men, armed with baseball bats, had caused destruction in the home as well as injuring the eight security guards.

Three men were hospitalized with serious injuries – while a dog was killed and four vehicles burnt out in the incident.

Officers have now taken either written or verbal statements from a number of the guards and are awaiting a response from the others.

All of the security personnel were beaten on the head, arms and legs with baseball bats and received injuries, which required three of them to be taken to hospital for treatment to their wounds.

Gardaí have also carried out a detailed forensic examination of the house.

Gardaí said they were following several lines of inquiry, including the possibility of involvement by a republican element.

One officer said the attack was not a spur of the moment incident that had been hatched in a pub the previous night.

It had been well planned and prepared with the gang blocking off the roads leading to the house and then making their escape across the fields to a location where getaway vehicles were probably parked.

Gardai briefly returned to the scene as a small group gathered outside, but no incidents were reported and local officers left a short time later.

A spokesman for the garda told the Irish Independent that there were two written complaints made to gardaí in relation to the original incident of the re-possession of the house in Strokestown.

“Both complaints are being investigated by gardaí,” the spokesperson added.

Local gardaí were present at the eviction last week "to preserve the peace".

Gardaí confirmed two minor assaults were reported and are currently under investigation.

The farmer at the centre of the eviction is not suspected of any wrongdoing in relation to the violent incident at his former home on Sunday.

Earlier, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan warned that vigilantism “cannot and will not be tolerated in this State”.

Mr Flanagan condemned the violence that occurred at the house Falsk, Strokestown early on Sunday morning.

He said a Garda investigation is underway and it is important that this can take its course.

He added: “While I do not wish to comment on any individual case, I wish to stress that violence is never justified.”

He said that the Gardaí are the sole legitimate guardians of the peace in this State and are charged with upholding the law.

Mr Flanagan said they are required to do this in accordance with the law and if anyone has a complaint about Garda actions “they can and should go to the independent complaints body – GSOC.”

He added: “I am deeply disturbed by the thinly veiled references to vigilantism that have been made in recent days in social media and elsewhere.

“This is a very dangerous road to go down and vigilantism cannot and will not be tolerated in this State.”

“While very conscious that the full facts of this particular case are not in the public domain, it is clearly deeply distressing to see a family lose their home, particularly at this time of year.

“I hope the situation can be peacefully resolved through dialogue and mediation.”

Minister Flanagan insisted the government is committed to helping borrowers in mortgage arrears to achieve solutions and pointed to Abhaile, a support service for those in arrears.

“I am aware that there is some disquiet about private security operators who, from time to time, are employed by third parties to enforce Court orders.

“I recently requested that my officials examine the regulation of these operators with a view to bringing them within the remit of the Private Security Authority.

“I expect a report from an intergovernmental group, chaired by a senior official from my own Department, in January.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar today a"condemned unreservedly" what he described as a "very highly organised, highly violent vigilante attack" in Roscommon.

The incident, which saw around 20 masked men launch an attack on guards at a home outside Strokestown, should not have happened regardless of the background, the Taoiseach said.

Speaking in Dublin today, he said he was "very concerned" be the development.

"I don't think anybody likes to see somebody being evicted or losing their property, especially in the run up to Christmas.

"But if it was done on the basis of a court order i can only assume the judge heard all sides of the story and made the decision that he did," Mr Varadkar said. 

However, he added: "Leaving aside the reasons for the eviction I think all of us have to condemn unreservedly the use of violence. In this instance, individuals being injured, an animal was killed, property destroyed. It would seem that it was very highly organised, highly violent vigilante attack.

"That's something that beholds all of us to condemn without reservation."

Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice also spoke out against the violence but also criticised the "ugly eviction" of a local farmer at the property last Tuesday.

He said people in rural Ireland were frustrated at the scale of evictions and "have reached their breaking point".

An incident room has been established as part of the investigation while gardaí are appealing for anyone with information in relation to yesterday morning's incident to the contact them.

A senior source said the pre-dawn attack was being treated "very seriously" and efforts were ongoing to identify those involved. No arrests have yet been made.

Online Editors

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section