Two men arrested in connection with pre-dawn attack at repossessed property

The McGann family home at Falsk, near Strokestown, Co Roscommon Photo: Frank McGrath

Ian Begley, Shane Phelan and Tom Brady

Gardai have arrested two men in connection to a pre-dawn attack at a repossessed home in Co Roscommon.

A number of searches were carried out this morning at three houses and one yard in Roscommon.

One firearm was recovered and a number of vehicles including a lorry and teleporter were seized.

Two men aged in their 50s and 60s were arrested and are currently detained under Section 30 of the Offences against the State Act,1939 at Castlerea Garda Station.

This morning’s operation follows a number of searches carried out in counties Dublin and Meath on Monday, where members of the Special Detective Unit recovered a number of items including documentation and phones as part of the investigation.

Speaking today at Castlerea Garda Station Chief Superintendent Tony Healy said:

"We would again like to thank the community for their continued support following recent events in Strokestown and would again appeal to anyone with information to come forward and contact us here at Castlerea Garda Station on 094 9621630 or the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111."

It comes as it emerged that the farmer at the centre of the eviction in Co Roscommon was informed several times about the impending repossession of his home before it occurred earlier this month.

The Irish Independent has learned there were no fewer than seven communications between the local sheriff or the sheriff's messenger and Anthony McGann over several months in the lead-up to the repossession.

It has also emerged Mr McGann (50) has a long history of financial difficulties and been convicted of two counts of failing to file tax returns.

Mr McGann's two adult siblings returned to the house at Falsk, near Strokestown, on Monday.

On Sunday, a 20-strong vigilante gang, armed with baseball bats, had attacked eight security guards who were guarding the property.

The property's front gate was securely locked yesterday, the windows and doors of the farmhouse boarded up.

The family at the centre of the eviction are not suspected of an involvement in the violence.

Several supporters have been gathering near the house since members of the family returned.

The McGanns are not suspected of being involved in the incident on Sunday.

The family last night issued a statement through their former neighbour, Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy, in which they said: "The forced eviction from our home has left our family shocked by unforeseen events that were thrust upon us."

They said they wanted to "make clear we condemn all forms of violence and want to see the rule of law upheld".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke about the events in Falsk in the Dáil yesterday, saying the High Court has a "very high barrier for allowing evictions to happen".

He also accused Sinn Féin of "letting the balaclava slip" in their reaction to the vigilante attack.

In their statement, the McGanns said their "plight has been exploited by some wishing to further their own narrow agendas and we were particularly disappointed at comments made today by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during Leaders Questions in the Dáil. His remarks, we believe, are a deliberate attempt to deflect attention from some of the very serious issues relating to our eviction."

Meanwhile a number of options are open to KBC Bank if it wishes to gain possession of the property again.

It could opt to send in more private security guards to regain possession under an existing High Court order, or seek to have anyone in breach of a court order held in contempt. This could involve those persons being arrested if necessary and brought before the court.

A spokesperson for the bank said: "Unfortunately KBC cannot comment at this time."

According to court records, the proceedings leading up to KBC's possession were protracted.

They were initiated in 2009 and culminated in a possession order being issued on August 8 this year.

After that date, there were at least seven communications between the local sheriff and/or the sheriff's messenger and Mr McGann.

On September 18, the property was visited by the messenger and it is understood Mr McGann was informed of the date that possession would take place.

It appears he was given further time in September to make arrangements or engage with the bank. On December 9, a further visit confirmed the date and time for possession, December 11 at 1pm.

Meanwhile, it has emerged the farmer was convicted in January 2011 of two counts of failing to file specified tax returns in 2008.

He received fines totalling €1,500 at Strokestown District Court, but did not pay at the time. A fines warrant was later issued Mr McGann finally paid in December 2012.