Farm Ireland

Saturday 20 January 2018

'The gardai said they were at Electric Picnic' - Farmer raided six times in three years

A Laois farmer whose holding has been raided six times in three years is at his wits' end

Charles O'Connor with his father Charlie. Photo: Alf Harvey
Charles O'Connor with his father Charlie. Photo: Alf Harvey

Ken Whelan

'They came at around 3am last week and simply cleared off with every tool in my shed and took every bit of diesel in the place," says Charles O'Connor, a dairy farmer from Ballyroan near Abbeyleix.

The 38-year-old farms 200 acres plus in the area and is a 'veteran victim' of the marauding criminal gangs whose nightly clean out of farm sheds and farmyards throughout rural Ireland has become an epidemic.

He's now recovering from his sixth farm raid in three years.

"When I asked the Gardai where they were over the past few days they said they were at Electric Picnic," he says on the policing and traffic plans required for the Co Laois music festival.

"The haul this time included diesel from five tractors lined up to do silage cutting the next day, what remained in the diesel tank in the dairy, a trailer and a huge amount of tools from the shed."

He had ramped up security on the farmyard.

"They left behind three angle grinder blades which shows you how long it took them to get into the shed.

"And in the shed there was a huge amount of new tools we were storing for a friend and carpenter who works in Dublin. He asked us to store them because he was changing his transport from a transit van to a jeep," Charles continues.

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"When they got through that roll-up shed door they must have thought it was Christmas and I haven't seen the gardai since the crime was reported," he adds.

Property worth over €20,000 was removed in the raid.

He wasn't the only farmer 'hit' this time.

Pat Delaney, a widower who lives with his son William, daughter-in-law Maeve and grandson, were broken into at 2am a day earlier.

They also had the contents of their shed removed.

They too had security measures on the premises to try and ward off the now all too common thefts.

"They seemed to have crawled under the beam at the shed and broke their way in but they must have tripped the beam on the way out because my son William got a text alert at the time and went out to investigate.

"He saw the raiders making their way out of the farm and gave them chase but lost them on that main road Dublin to Cork Road."

Pat, who is changing over to dairy farming from tillage and suckler rearing on his 100 acre-plus holding between Abbeyleix and Durrow, says he has become scared about these raids.

"There is no question but someone is going to be killed during one of these raids.

"These are feral gangs and they don't give a care.

"Some night there is going to be a shooting and an innocent person will probably be the victim," Pat told the Farming Independent.

"We have all become a bit paranoid by what's going on. I don't go out to do a bit of harvesting on the farm now without locking everything up," he adds.

The raiders, who took a power washer, welders, air guns and sockets, were driving an old Toyoto registered in the 1990s during the raid.

"They probably took other things, but we will only know that when we go to look for them," he says.

Pat's neighbour, John Talbot, who suffers with leg pain and recently switched from dairying to beef farming to ease up on the volume of work with milking, was also a victim.

He had an off road jeep and its contents, electrical fencing, stolen in another midnight raid.

He says it has reached the stage where farmers in the area will have to put up signs outside their holding to tell the gangs: 'I've been raided already. There is nothing left to take'.

"And I have noticed recently that these raids have become a weekday or weeknight activity.

"Obviously these gangs need time to spend their ill-gotten gains and you don't hear of these robberies on Saturdays and Sundays anymore," he adds.

Indo Farming