Wednesday 16 January 2019

Gardaí believe WhatsApp group organised violent attack

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris visited Castlerea station last night and spoke with officers involved in the investigation as well as being briefed on the latest developments. Photo: Damien Eagers
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris visited Castlerea station last night and spoke with officers involved in the investigation as well as being briefed on the latest developments. Photo: Damien Eagers

Tom Brady, Robin Schiller and Ken Foy

Gardaí are now investigating if the attack on guards at a repossessed house in Roscommon was organised by people angered some of the security work was given to a firm based in Northern Ireland.

It's believed the ringleaders of the group - which numbered at least 20 men - behind the savage assault organised it through WhatsApp.

Although some of the individuals involved have links to dissident groups, gardaí are satisfied the main motive behind the incident was to show how unhappy they were with the decision to give the security work to personnel, some of whom were based in Northern Ireland.

Officers believe some attackers are possibly security guards themselves, who were annoyed that many of those chosen to protect the house at Falsk, Strokestown, were from the North.

Others were locals, who opted to join in as a protest, without realising the incident was likely to turn so violent.

"This appears to be largely a case of teaching a lesson to the outsiders because of their selection for the job rather than a protest over the eviction of the family from the house the previous Tuesday", a senior officer told the Irish Independent last night.

The suspects for the attack are from Dublin, Meath and Roscommon.

The masked attackers were armed with a shotgun, an axe and baseball bats.

The axe was used to inflict severe injuries to the dog, which had to be put down humanely afterwards. Eight security guards at the house were injured and three of them had to receive treatment in hospital.

Gardaí said while some of the organisers had links to dissident republicans, the attack was not connected directly to those groups.

They also dismissed local rumours the security guards were "loyalists" recruited in Northern Ireland for the work although some of the guards are from across the Border.

Two companies were involved, one of which is registered in the State. It is thought some of the suspect attackers are also registered with the Private Security Authority.

A current review of private security legislation is dealing not only with those groups, who are not obliged to be registered as a result of a loophole in the law, but is also looking at withdrawing a licence from individuals, who are registered but found guilty of a criminal offence in the courts.

Officers from the Garda Special Branch yesterday seized a shotgun, a lorry and a teleporter, and mobile phones in raids on three houses and outhouses in a yard in Co Roscommon.

As a result of the gun find, two men in their 50s and 60s were arrested and taken to Castlerea garda station.

They can be held without charge for up to 72 hours.

On Monday night, Special Branch officers raided houses in Navan, Co Meath, and Blanchardstown, west Dublin, taking mobile phones and documentation. Further arrests are expected.

It's thought footage from bodycams worn by the security guards during the attack will be a focus of the investigation.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris visited Castlerea station last night and spoke with officers involved in the investigation as well as being briefed on the latest developments.

Chief Supt Tony Healy thanked the local community for their continued support in the wake of the recent events in Strokestown and again appealed to anyone with information to contact Castlerea garda station at 094 9621630, or phone the confidential line, 1800 666111.

Irish Independent

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