Gardai are battling to curb a renewed blitz of rural burglaries conducted by Dublin-based crime gangs.
More than 40 burglaries have been recorded in one area of Cork since mid-October with suspected burglaries by Dublin gangs also taking place in Tipperary, Waterford, Limerick, Offaly, Laois and Kilkenny.
The Midlands has also witnessed a burglary blitz involving two aggravated raids where residents were threatened during break-ins.
A notorious Limerick gang is believed to have been involved in the brutal aggravated burglary of a 54-year-old Offaly farmer last weekend.
During the burglary, carried out by a four-member gang with distinctive Munster accents, the raiders beat the farmer’s dog until the terrified animal fled the farmhouse.
The farmer was then himself beaten with an iron bar before being dragged out to the farmyard and locked in a shed.
The revelation came as Birr gardaí appealed to anyone who travelled on the main N62 Birr to Roscrea road between late Friday evening and early on Saturday morning to contact them if they spotted anything unusual or suspicious.
The farmer managed to free himself from the shed and raise the alarm in the early hours of Saturday morning.
The man is said by locals to be “very shocked” by the incident.
Gardaí suspect the gang fled the area in a powerful 4x4 car.
The robbery took place on a farm at Glasderrybeg, Brosna, near Birr, and just off the N62 road.
Superintendent Martin Cashen said it was “a very serious incident”.
“We would appeal to anyone who witnessed anything suspicious or even something just out of the ordinary in the area to contact us,” he said.
“In particular, we would like to hear about any suspicious persons or vehicles in the Drumakeenan and Glassderrybeg areas on the N62 Birr to Roscrea road that was noticed in the days leading up to the incident.”
Gardaí are checking CCTV security camera footage from towns and villages in the area to try to trace the movements of any vehicles matching the description of the 4x4 used.
While inquiries are only at a preliminary stage, gardaí do not believe that Dublin gangs who have been terrorising parts of the Midlands and Munster over recent weeks are responsible for the Brosna attack.
One Garda source said the farm raid is believed to have been conducted by a Limerick-based gang who have repeatedly targeted farms across Munster and south Leinster for cash and valuable farm machinery such as generators, quads and chainsaws, which are then sold on.
The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) warned it was now clear that gardaí in rural areas needed greater resources,
including additional manpower and increased patrols, to combat the burglary trend.
IFA security chairman Jer Bergin said upset at recent raids will be dealt with at association branch meetings nationwide before Christmas.
Mr Bergin said the IFA works extremely closely with gardaí to promote rural security and would now be demanding better resources for the force.
“We are now calling for rural Ireland to get its fair allocation of gardaí and Garda patrol cars,” he said.
In just one Cork area, there were six burglaries recorded between 4pm and 9pm last Friday.
The special Garda crackdown on rural crime, Operation Thor, has proved a great success but campaigners have warned it now requires increased resources and tactical flexibility.
Irish Rural Link has repeatedly called for Operation Thor to be expanded and better resourced.
Gardaí admitted that gangs have modified their operating tactics in direct response to Operation Thor.
The crackdown, launched in November 2015 in response to a shocking 40pc hike in burglary rates in some parts of Ireland, was a tremendous success.
Central Statistics Office (CSO) crime figures showed a 31pc decline in the number of rural burglaries.
However, anecdotal evidence is that there has been a surge in burglaries since June.
Burglaries had dropped from 28,419 in the final quarter of 2015 to 19,562 for the final quarter of 2016.
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