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Shotguns by the bedside: Clare farmers express crime fears

Champion Chatter

FEARS have been expressed that farmers and dwellers in East and North Clare will be forced to take the law into their own hands in a scenario akin to the infamous Padraig Nally court case following a spate of rural crime.

Councillor Pat Burke has revealed one farmer told him he has a “shotgun loaded at the head of the bed” at night to protect himself from any intruder, while former councillor Bill Slattery has warned there could be another Padraig Nally scenario involving North Clare farmers who are being “bullied and threatened”.

In December, 2006, Padraig Nally was cleared of the manslaughter of John Ward by the Court of Criminal Appeal, which overturned an initial six-year sentence.

Mr Nally, of Funshinagh Cross, Claremorris, shot the father of 11 at his farm on October 14, 2004. In court evidence, Mr Nally said he believed Mr Ward had been on his land to commit a burglary and confirmed he had been living in fear.

Councillor Pat Burke recalled there was a serious aggravated burglary on a shop in Whitegate recently where a man and his wife were alerted to four intruders who were making their way up the stairs at 2am in the morning.

They were confronted by the man at the top of the stairs, demanded money but were refused and left empty handed, apart from stealing a car that was later abandoned about a mile away before they absconded in another vehicle.

About a week later in Scariff at about 4pm during daylight hours, a man came home to find a number of intruders who were trying to commit a break-in and he confronted them but they left.

It is alleged these criminals were wielding hatchets in a threatening manner before they departed.

Two weeks earlier, there were two break-ins into unoccupied houses in Mountshannon and Whitegate where raiders gained entry through a back window and ransacked the dwellings.

“People are fed up of this. Farmers are working hard to buy a tank of diesel or tools. I have met farmers who have said ‘we will not spare these lads if we meet them in our yard’.

“One man told me he has the shotgun loaded at the head of the bed at night. There could be another Padraig Nally incident. The perception is the gardai are not following up enough when car registrations are identified.

“I am aware of a genuine farmer who sold a car on Done Deal. He got paid in fake €50 and €100 notes. It was dark at night and he didn’t realise the money was fake until he got home and then the car was gone.

“He contacted the gardai about the fake money and they called out to him.

“This car was spotted by a friend of his in the North Clare area and it was reported to the gardai straight away. Nothing ever became of that. The question being asked is why aren’t these criminals being brought to justice?,” he asked.

He said another farmer took a registration of a van leaving his yard only to discover it wasn’t taxed or had a valid NCT, which was passed on to gardai and he isn’t aware of what happened after that.

Garda chiefs have consistently assured the public that any reported crime will be fully investigated by gardai before any appropriate enforcement action is taken.

Figures from the Clare Garda Division have confirmed the number of burglaries in the county increased by 21% from 104 from January to October 2021 to 126 for the same period in 2022.

Theft from motor vehicles fell by 22% from 124 to 97, while theft from shop went up 44% from 229 to 330 and other theft jumped 41% from 132 to 186 during the corresponding ten-month period.

However, Superintendent John Galvin told a Joint Policing Committee meeting on Monday the latest burglary figures are actually lower than they were in 2019.

Superintendent Galvin pointed out the 2022 figures for theft from shops and other theft is also similar to 2019.

As a former councillor and community activist, Bill Slattery said he has been asked to highlight an issue affecting people in North Clare, particularly the Ennistymon area.

He expressed concern about the thefts from farms and the siphoning of diesel about four weeks ago.

Outlining the Garda Station in Ennistymon is manned from 9 to 1pm and 5 to 9pm, he asked if there is anyone in the office from 1 to 5pm and 9pm until the following morning.

“There is serious situations happening in Ennistymon whether it is due to lack of garda resources they haven’t answered the call.

“People who were siphoning diesel were apprehended. I believe a person rang the Garda Station, the gardai didn’t answer the call, after a while they did answer it and said take the number plate, let them go and we will deal with it later.

“Farmers are going to go back to the Padraig Nally situation, they are being bullied and intimidated. We don’t want to go back to the Padraig Nally situation where farmers will have to go out and get guns to protect their own property,” he said at the meeting.

Superintendent Galvin stressed there is gardai on duty and patrol in Ennistymon around the clock and noted when someone rings 999 they will get a response.

He pledged to discuss the specific issues with Mr Slattery after the meeting so he could follow up on them.

Speaking to The Clare Champion, Mr Slattery recalled three people travelled from Limerick to North Clare with lurcher dogs to engage in illegal hare hunting and were challenged by locals.

He said they contacted gardai for assistance but there was no one available so when a group of 12 people arrived the following day, locals were not in a position to challenge them as they believed they may not get any assistance from gardai.

The former councillor outlined he was asked to raise this issue at the meeting as he wanted to establish if there were enough gardai based in Ennistymon to deal with calls.

When the Ennistymon Garda Station is closed, he said any caller will be put through to Kilrush Garda Station.

“People are telling me if they don’t get back up from the gardai, it will go back to the Padraig Nally situation where they have guns and they will use them against those who are trespassing and breaking into their property.

“People are living in fear over robberies. People are saying ‘there is only one thing for these fellas and that is the gun’. We haven’t got enough Garda resources.

“There was a situation in Ennistymon where all the windows were broken in a property in the space of three minutes. The owner of the premises was away and his wife, who is elderly was on her own in the house at 11pm. Every window in the house and the car outside the door was broken.”

Councillor Pat Burke voiced concern at the meeting about the lack of community gardai where members of the public don’t know gardai and vice versa.

“Bill Slattery hit the nail on the head. I know plenty of farmers who have the shotgun loaded under the bed at night.

“This is a very serious situation where I can see where people will take the law into their own hands.

“There was a very serious aggravated burglary in Whitegate, a remote village in East Clare. Gardai from Shannon were conducting house-to-house calls investigating the crime. Shannon is about 35 miles from Whitegate. Why weren’t the gardai from Killaloe doing these calls?,” he asked.

When a serious incident happens, Superintendent Galvin explained it is normal procedure in Garda operations to mobilise Garda colleagues from other areas, and noted they work through issues such as members working in an area they might not be always based in.

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