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Gang holds priest (81) at gunpoint in house raid

Gardai are hunting for three men after a priest and his female housekeeper were held at gunpoint in their home.

A Kildare parish is in shock after 81-year-old cleric Fr Alphonsus Murphy was assaulted during a house burglary.

Three men wearing balaclavas and dark clothing forced their way into the north Kildare home of Fr Murphy and held him and his housekeeper Julie Lalor, who is aged in her 60s, for 20 minutes.

The gang were armed with a handgun and a hammer and demanded money from the traumatised pair. Gardai are investigating if the armed raid is linked to two other robberies in the north Kildare area over the past month.

Fr Murphy told the Herald: "They broke into the house and they stole €150 out my pocket, along with my watch and a couple of other things.

"It was a real eye-opening experience. Two things are sacred and I believe that these are your home and your life. But I am recovering well from the ordeal."

The popular priest, who still says Mass and is well known for his work with autistic people, added that he was confident that gardai would make arrests.

Neither Fr Murphy or Ms Lalor were injured in the incident at around 9.30pm on Sunday, November 6, but gardai said the gang acted "in a very rough manner" towards them.

During the robbery at the property in Derrinturn, Co Kildare, the gang stole Fr Murphy's car, a Volkswagen Passat which was found abandoned about a kilometre away from the house.

Armed Garda Regional Support searched the area and a technical examination was also carried out.

Gardai are appealing for information about the incident.