Garda chief has promised new national unit to target farmland trespassers - IFA

IFA crime prevention officer met with Garda Commissioner

Commitment: Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was said by the Irish Farmers’ Association to have pledged the new unit to combat trespassing. Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Commitment: Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was said by the Irish Farmers’ Association to have pledged the new unit to combat trespassing. Picture: Colin O'Riordan
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

A special patrol unit is being set up by An Garda Síochána nationally to deal with trespassers who illegally hunt on farm land, said the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA).

The organisation's crime prevention officer Barry Carey said it was given the commitment by the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris in a recent meeting where the issue of illegally hunting lands was discussed.

It comes as landowners across the country - particularly in north Dublin and north Kerry - noticed an increase in people on their lands hunting hares and killing sheep since last year.

The rural populations affected, who often live in isolated areas, also worry that these same individuals are casing their homes and farms.

At a recent meeting on the issue in Kerry, one incident was highlighted where a man reportedly saw 16 individuals with dogs hunting in a field.

A further case of a man in his late 70s not being able to sleep at night due to the worry of intruders was also highlighted. The same man had some of his sheep killed by dogs brought to his land.

In September, a Dublin farmer suffered a violent attack when he confronted a number of men who were trespassing on his land.

Father-of-three Pat Walsh (47), from Lispopple, Swords, suffered four cracked ribs, a dislocated shoulder and needed stitches to his face after he was kicked repeatedly on the ground.

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It followed another incident in which a farmer in St Margaret's, who found men illegally dumping on his land, went to ring the gardaí but was hit by the men's van.

Recently, a farmer told senior gardaí at a meeting on rural crime that if they don't take appropriate measures then someone will take the law into their own hands, referencing the Padraig Nally-John 'Frog' Ward case in 2004.

Speaking recently on the issue, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said that he had no immediate plans to change the law regarding trespass on farmland. Mr Flanagan said that the general legal position in respect to trespass is that it is a civil wrong and, for the most part, can be addressed by means of a civil remedy through the courts.

He said he acknowledged the interest of various farm and rural organisations, particularly the IFA, on this issue.

However, he said there are already significant legislative provisions and penalties relating to trespass.

Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on justice, Jim O'Callaghan, said the minister's comments did not take into account the reality of what is happening on farmland.

"Farmers find that when people trespass on their land, they have no remedy in the criminal law," he said. "When they contact members of An Garda Síochána, they are told that officers can only intervene if there is a threat to commit a criminal offence or if criminal damage has been done.

"The type of remedy that farmers want is to be able to tell people trespassing on their land to leave and that there will be consequences if they do not do so."

Irish Independent

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