‘I’m very lonely and living in fear, but I have got used to it’ - one bachelor farmer tells his story of rural isolation
Bachelor farmer (69) has been victim of repeated break-ins and is having to cope with rural isolation
Michael Hehir has "got used to living in fear" after numerous break-ins and attempted thefts from his property.
The suckler farmer from west Clare admits he has suffered from depression and struggled with the aftermath of repeated incidents of rural crime.
The 69-year-old admitted the break-ins had "ruined" him and believes that thieves wrongly presumed he had a stash of money hidden in his old-fashioned farmhouse.
But isolation, as well as the toll of several criminal incidents, is affecting the farmer.
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"I am afraid of my life they will come around again and could tie me up... there is no house near me for a mile.
"The people who were living in my neighbour's house are gone because they have moved. I was living in fear but then I got used to it. I was very lonely at times and then it would leave me again.
"I am doing my best to shake it off, I am out walking. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning I am in a bad mood. I have been depressed since last Christmas, which was brought on by all the break-ins.
"It has had a bad effect on me," he admitted, even though he says local gardaí have been very supportive.
Retired from the council, the suckler farmer also looks after a small number of cattle on nearby land.
Mr Hehir first became suspicious about criminal activity when a stolen car was burned out in the area in 2009.
In an interview with the 'Clare Champion', he recalled the first break-in took place in April 2010 when the house was unoccupied.
The bachelor was working in Clare County Council at the time and when he came home there was a strange car backed into his avenue.
When Mr Hehir investigated matters further, he saw one man had gone around the back of the house, and found a pane of glass from a back window was broken where the thieves had gained unlawful entry.
A few months later, one night he was out shopping in a local supermarket and when he came back to the house all the lights were on and "everything was upside down".
"They pulled out drawers and left such a mess after them," he said.
For the third break-in in August 2011, thieves broke a door to gain entry, but didn't steal any valuables.
On another occasion in June 2014 he was putting down turf on the fire when he saw two men in a Transit van stealing bags of artificial fertiliser.
One of his neighbours alerted him on another occasion about the attempted theft of oil from his tank.
He is the next applicant on the priority list to be accommodated in a sheltered housing complex in Kilmihil, which is run by a local association chaired by local TD Dr Michael Harty.
Mr Hehir was offered a house in Kilmihil previously but decided to remain in the farmhouse - now he is anxious to take up another offer soon due to living in fear.
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