Tuesday 21 May 2019

VIDEO: ‘It’s like a war zone out there’ - Farmers urged to ‘stand by their brothers’ during lively debate on rural crime at Ploughing Championships

Seamus Sherlock,ICSA in the Independent Tent at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan Co Offaly.
Seamus Sherlock,ICSA in the Independent Tent at the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan Co Offaly.
Gareth Morgan

Gareth Morgan

FARMERS under threat from intruders and burglars have been told to “stand by their brothers, stand by their neighbours… because they’ll be there far quicker than the gardai will”.

The rallying call came from Seamus Sherlock of the ICSA during a debate on rural crime at the Irish Independent tent at the National Ploughing Championships.

He was joined by Laurence Ward, former IFA Dublin chairman who warned that farmers often felt too intimidated to report intruders or crimes to the authorities.

“They (the intruders) will say ‘If you call the guards we’ll burn down your hayshed, we’ll open all the gates and let the animals out on the road,” he said.

The debate was hosted by Irish Independent journalist Paul Williams who said that if faith in the police force wavered, then farmers would be tempted to take matters into their own hands.

A show of hands among the audience demonstrated that all would support somebody who defended their land or their person with a legally-held firearm.

The debate was sparked by the story of North Dublin farmer Patrick Walsh, who was viciously assaulted on his land by four men with lurcher dogs just weeks ago on All Ireland Sunday. 

Mr Walsh, who bravely told his story to the Irish Independent last week, is recovering having suffered a dislocated shoulder, four cracked ribs as well as cuts and bruising that required six stitches.

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“This is going on countrywide,” said Mr Walsh. “This didn’t just happen last weekend, it’s been happening for the last 20 years. But in the last five or six years there’s been so much aggressiveness.”

He said he still had faith in gardai as the “law of the land” but criminals must be prosecuted. He cautioned against using firearms, “in case they’re taken off you and used against you in the heat of the hunt”.

Kerry-based solicitor Deirdre Flynn cautioned that the law on defending your person or property was ill-defined. 

The Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011 allows a person to use “reasonable force” if they believe they are in danger or that a crime is about to be committed, she said, “but it doesn’t define reasonable force”.

Mr Ward spoke about the ongoing threat facing farmers, even when the stories are not in the headlines. 

“Since Patrick’s incident I’ve had those types of people out on my land I’ve had to get the guards… I’ve been threatened.” But he said that farmers were increasingly losing faith in the response from the authorities.

Mr Sherlock added: “It’s like a war zone out there… stand with your brother next door, stand with your neighbour. The neighbour will be there 10 times quicker than the garda will.”

Online Editors