Limerick farmers living in terror of thugs ‘casing’ their property

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Kilmallock farmer Tom O'Donnell who was assaulted by a group of men hunting on his property in 2019.

LIMERICK farmers are living in fear of roaming gangs of men, walking dogs as an excuse to enter private property, casing farms for goods to steal.

A packed public meeting in Kilmallock heard that rural people feel abandoned by the law, with claims that Gardaí don’t respond or are not available when incidents of trespass are reported.

More than 200 people attended the meeting, which was organised by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA), along with local politicians, Garda representatives, and a legal advisor.

Many speakers said that if they approach people walking on their land, they are abused and frequently assaulted. However, they have little choice as a local Garda response is alleged to be too slow.

Cllr Ger Mitchell (FG) was among the local representatives who attended.

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He told the Limerick Post that “there is frustration in rural  communities that the law seems to be lax when it comes to prosecuting “a certain element of offender”.

“No one is above the law. We need effective measures, action, and a quick response to tackle these thugs – irrespective of who they are”.

He called for stiff sentencing for people who terrorise, assault, and intimidate farmers on their own land.

“This, with Garda enforcement, is the only protection victims have recourse to.”

Also among those attending the meeting was Kilmallock farmer Tom O’Donnell, who was badly beaten in 2019 after he confronted a group of men hunting on his property.

He said that, since the attack, he has twice encountered people trespassing on his property late at night.

“We need Gardaí walking around, talking to people. Gardaí who know everyone in the community. Patrol cars drive around but they don’t meet anyone,” Mr O’Donnell told the Limerick Post.

“Every one of my neighbours has had farm equipment or fuel stolen from their yards. These thugs are walking the roads or driving around all the time, watching to see what they can steal.

“I found a man in my yard no later than last week, claiming he had lost his dog.  But if you ring the guards, these people are long gone. Or they say there’s nothing the guards can do because they’re under age.

“I say hit their parents in their pockets and they’ll soon learn to keep their little brats home at night,” Mr O’Donnell said.

Senior Gardaí present outlined how best people with concerns could contact them and advised against confronting intruders in person.

Many of those attending were sharply critical of Garda response time when calls are made and reported trying to contact local stations directly but getting no answer.

Describing the issue as “an epidemic”, Barry Carey, IFA Crime Prevention Executive, said: “We have sought a meeting with the Minister for Justice to seek action to stop this”.