A spate of robberies in the midlands is forcing farmers to take drastic action, reports Andrew Hamilton
After being the victim of crime twice in recent months, Westmeath farmer, Jimmy Brady, now sleeps with a loaded gun in his bedroom at night.
Mr Brady, who operates a beef and dairy farm outside of Delvin, had a quad bike stolen from a shed in his yard in September before having a jeep taken in November.
While no one has yet been arrested in connection with either incident, he believes that some local people must have been involved.
"We had never any trouble before in this area. Never, but it's really bad at the moment," he said.
"We are situated in a quiet area and I think people [criminals] would need to have a bit of local knowledge.
"That's more annoying than anything else, to think we could be saluting someone on the road every day. There had to have been a bit of local knowledge.
"It's getting to me. The last night my wife was away working on night duty, I was awake several times during the night. If cars would go by, you'd be jumping up in the bed to see would they stop. I have the gun in the bedroom with me now, it's got to that stage.
"There was another car taken the other night over the road. Thieves went into the house at 10.30pm, they took the keys of the car. They [the family] were in looking at TV and they [the thieves] came into the kitchen. There is no fear at all in the criminals."
The thieves who stole Mr Brady's quad in September took it in the dead of night, walking right past two occupied farm houses to get access to the vehicle.
"We were using it that night until about 11pm and it was gone the next morning. Someone must have got it in the middle of the night, between 11pm and 6am the next morning. They would have had to come right up between two farmhouses, myself and my son's, to get at it," he said.
The jeep, which was stolen in early November, was spotted by Gardaí on CCTV cameras in Athboy and was eventually found with a badly damaged engine in the Navan area.
Between the theft of the quad and the jeep, and extra security measures introduced in recent weeks, Mr Brady has been forced to pay close to €20,000 this year as a result of rural crime.
"It doesn't look like the insurance company will cover the jeep at all now. It would have been better off if we didn't find it, we might have got something from the insurance then," he said.
"We got something out of the insurance for the quad, but not enough to replace it.
"We had a lad in the yard putting up cameras and gates, between that and the jeep we've had to spend €20,000 because of these scumbags. But you have to try to protect it if you want it again.
"This is become a serious problem, not just here, all over the country. It's a pity, it's leaving everyone on edge and uneasy and the country used to be far more easygoing. It's changing the whole countryside. Everyone is suspicious of people. You'd be nervous in your own bed at night. It's not good."