Tuesday 22 January 2019

Gardaí investigate if dissidents involved in repossessed house attack 'were given go-ahead by local crime figures'

  • Gardaí probe whether dissidents involved in attack on security guards at repossessed house had been in contact with local crime figures
  • Gardaí believe republican elements 'exploited' the anger surrounding eviction of local family and became involved in Sunday’s violence
  • Small group gather outside the house last night to show solidarity
A garda at the scene. Picture: Frank McGrath
A garda at the scene. Picture: Frank McGrath

Robin Schiller, Tom Brady, Ken Foy and Ian Begley

Gardaí are probing whether the vigilante gang who attacked security guards at a repossessed Co Roscommon farmhouse at the weekend had been given the go-ahead by local criminals.

Gardaí believe republican elements "exploited" the anger surrounding the eviction of the local family and became involved in Sunday’s violence.

Gardaí briefly visited the house in Falsk, in Strokestown, Co Roscommon, last night as a small group gathered outside, but no incidents were reported and local officers left a short time later.

The group have since left, but are believed to return to the site later today.

Bales of hay that the vigilantes used to block a bridge near the farmhouse were moved to the side of the road to allow traffic to pass through.

The group gathered as more details emerged about the shocking attack that occurred at the house in the early hours of Sunday morning, which saw a gang of at least 20 men armed with baseball bats attack eight security guards.

The McGann family have tasked a spokesperson to speak to the media on their behalf.

According to Donal Hanley, he said they have been "traumatised" by the recent events.  

The vigilante raid has been condemned by both Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

It is now being probed if the vigilantes’ involvement in the attack was “sanctioned” by a number of crime groups operating in the area who are heavily involved in cattle smuggling.

“Dissidents from the North and Dublin are suspected of involvement. They reached a deal with local crime groups allowing for them to carry out the attacks on their turf,” one source said.

The ‘local’ criminals include a CAB target who is originally from Sligo, as well as a notorious crime family operating in north Roscommon.

Anti-eviction groups and local men are also believed to have been involved in the storming of the property, but not all of those involved have dissident links.

The attack had been well planned and prepared with the gang blocking off the roads leading to the house, and then making their escape across the fields to a location where getaway vehicles were parked.

It is believed that the men gathered on Saturday evening before heading to the Falsk property.

Three of the eight security workers were hospitalised after the attack – all have since been discharged.

All men reported receiving blows to the head, arms and legs. They were posted at the property by the bank which had repossessed it.

Gardaí are also probing the initial eviction at the same property last Tuesday where two minor assaults were reported.

The farmer whose home was at the centre of the repossession is not suspected of having any involvement in the weekend’s violence.

A local man said: “They’re asking to be left alone and in peace. They’re seriously traumatised by what happened.

“This family have been thrust into the media spotlight – they’re not used to this. When I say they’re seriously traumatised, they’re very nearly at breaking point.

“They are totally devastated by everything that has happened. The house has been lying here idle and they want to come back to their own home. Their plan is to get back to normal.

“The family don’t condone violence in any shape or manner whatsoever,” Mr Hanley said.

A large presence of local supporters stood outside the house last night to show their solidarity and to convey their criticism about how they feel the media reported on the family’s situation.

“The right thing you can do is f*** off back to Dublin,” one man told the Irish Independent. “I’m here as an independent person representing the people of Ireland. The likes of your reporting is atrocious and you should be ashamed to come here tonight.”

Gardaí are also probing the eviction at the same property last Tuesday where two minor assaults were reported.

A former garda and a 60-year-old man reported being assaulted during the eviction.

A garda spokesman was unable to say if Commissioner Drew Harris had been briefed about the vigilante attack.

Meanwhile Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan yesterday condemned the vicious attack on the security guards.

Mr Flanagan warned that vigilantism “cannot and will not be tolerated in this State”.

He added: “While I do not wish to comment on any individual case, I wish to stress that violence is never justified.”

He said gardaí are the sole legitimate guardians of the peace in this State. If anyone has a complaint about Garda actions “they can and should go to the independent complaints body – GSOC”, he said.

“I am deeply disturbed by the thinly veiled references to vigilantism that have been made in recent days in social media and elsewhere,” he added.

“This is a very dangerous road to go down and vigilantism cannot and will not be tolerated in this State.

“While very conscious that the full facts of this particular case are not in the public domain, it is clearly deeply distressing to see a family lose their home, particularly at this time of year.”

Mr Varadkar said: “I don’t think anybody likes to see somebody being evicted or losing their property, especially in the run up to Christmas.

“But if it was done on the basis of a court order I can only assume the judge heard all sides of the story and made the decision that he did.”

Irish Independent

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