In the last 18 months farms in rural areas of Limerick have been targeted by gangs almost on a weekly basis, according to the farmers affected who were speaking on RTE Radio recently.

John McCarthy, one such farmer, was told by a gang member that he could go five files and come back with a gun.

Farmers in the area have since come together and are using their own text alert system, he said.

“At the start we tried to fend them off by ourselves, a stand-off with the four or five in question by each farmer alone.

“In recent times, we’ve decided to face them together with numbers. It is a battle. We’ve tried several different ways of moving them off.

Last Saturday I had a phone call that they were around and we text around and hunted them off. Within 10 minutes, they were back again on a separate farm.

“One of the farmers in the group brought the gun with him. He let off two shots as a warning.

“One of them (the gang members) told him ‘I’m not afraid of you with your gun. I can go five miles and come back with one’. It seems to be a fashion statement,” he said.

The Co. Limerick farmer also said that there’s no smoke without fire and if this isn’t nipped in the bud, where does it stop?

“About five months ago, I met another group of them on my own lands. It was myself against the five of them.

One lad, no more than 10 or 11 years of age, to me to my face to ‘f – off’ and mind my own business.

“On that same day, they were back again. This time, they told me that I was living two miles down the road, that I’d a hay barn and that they could torch it,” he said.

McCarthy then spoke about the courts and prosecuting of criminals. He said that they have all day to be going to the courts, but it takes a day out of his wages on the farm and he would have to pay solicitors costs.

Scouting missions

Liam Houlihan, farmer and neighbour of McCarthy said that the gangs are on scouting missions.

“You couldn’t talk to a neighbour on the road that hasn’t had a theft or intimidation. In the last three years there’s been an increase in people trespassing under the pretence of coursing.

Burglaries are being committed using access routes to farm yards, roads you’d not drive down unless you’d previously travelled them.

“My own farm has been broken into three times. The first time through the main entrance then twice through side gates, in the dead of night,” he said.

Houlihan said that his diesel tanks have been targeted and animal feed has been stolen.