Security move halts parochial house raids
GARDAI are being posted at parochial houses to prevent burglaries while priests are celebrating Mass.
The measure was implemented by senior officers after a spate of break-ins at the houses when they were unoccupied.
On Saturday the Irish Independent disclosed that nine parochial houses were targeted in counties Tipperary and Limerick. Burglars forced their way into the homes over a six-week period.
But the deployment of the gardai appears to have deterred the gangs since then.
Gardai have also appealed to the local communities to be on the alert during Mass times and notify them if they spot strangers acting suspiciously.
Officers believe more than one gang is involved in the crime spree. An outfit based in Limerick city is thought to be responsible for a number of the crimes.
And detectives are also looking at the activities of travelling gangs and a group of eastern Europeans, who have been involved in breaking into premises in the south-east.
One officer explained: "A general reduction in the number of priests around the country has meant that many are doubling up in parishes and have to celebrate, maybe, three Masses on Saturday evening, as well as their Sunday duties.
"There is no longer full-time housekeepers with the result that parochial houses are empty while priests are in the churches. But since the new measures were put into place, the criminals have not shown their faces," he added.
A number of suspects have been questioned, but so far there have been no prosecutions.
Parochial houses in Boherlahan, Ballingarry, Bansha, Holycross, Lattin, Drangan and three in Cashel have all been targeted by the burglars, who have broken into priests' cars as well.
The break-ins prompted authorities in the Cashel and Emly diocese to instruct up to 80 priests in 46 parishes across Tipperary and Limerick to take extra security precautions.