‘One day someone will flip’: Farmers issue warning to trespassers

Farmers in north Co. Dublin have warned that they will have to take matters into their own hands if something is not done to halt trespassers and rural crime in the area.

The comments were made at a recent Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) meeting in Swords, Co. Dublin, last week.

Speaking following the meeting on RTE Radio 1’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Laurence Ward, a farmer in Co. Dublin, and Richard Kennedy, deputy IFA president, outlined key concerns in the area.

A warning was given that, if things continue to worsen, there could be lives lost over the issue down the line.

Laurence highlighted that trespassing and intimidation has been a serious problem in the area in recent years, but has escalated of late.

We felt it came to the stage that our own safety on our own farms and our own property was now really, really at risk by these gangland members coming in and trespassing, hunting, lurching, stealing, threatening, intimidating the landowners – the farmers – and their families in lots of cases.

As a result, he said, the local farmers had come together to try and address the issue and get the support of the Gardai.

Laurence said that he had had trespassers on his land on several occasions over the years, noting that there had been three occasions this year alone.

“I had them recently in September; I had seven of them enter my land with dogs. They worried my sheep, they threatened to shoot me, they threatened to have me killed if I called the guards, they threatened me in every way.

“I did get the guards; they happened to come out that day, and I followed that up by giving a statement – but unfortunately I don’t think anything will come of that.

“We’re just not getting the support of the Gardai in this matter as well. And I’ve had them in the middle of the night, half three in the morning they even entered my land.

The livestock get chased, they get run into ditches; gates are left open, wires are broken. They’ve no respect basically for any property.

Theft

Apart from what the trespassers do on the land, Laurence highlighted that the other big issue is the concern that such people are scouting land looking for farm property such as machinery that could be stolen.

“There’s been a heap of stolen property. Livestock has been stolen as well; that’s how bad it has got – and, to be honest, we have been forgotten by the Gardai.

“We’ve been forgotten that there’s actually a rural Fingal and there’s a rural part of north Co. Dublin that has been not policed in recent years, and these guys know this – and they can get away with it. So it’s time that we put a stop to it.”

Laurence believes that the Gardai know the criminals behind the thefts but said that they told him they couldn’t do a whole lot, adding that the guards won’t follow through.

‘Right through the country’

IFA deputy president Richard Kennedy highlighted that the issue is not exclusive to Dublin.

“Rural crime is an issue right through the country; it’s not just in north county Dublin, but it has been particularly bad in north Dublin in recent times.”

He said that it is imperative that more resources are put in to rural areas, stating that the visibility of the Gardai has disappeared to a large extent in recent years.

The deputy president is hopeful however, citing increased numbers of Gardai and a willingness from the police force to deal with the issue.

He also highlighted an action which has worked well in the UK – a designated taskforce to solve crime in particular areas such as the current issue in north Dublin.

‘Controlled frustration’

However, the deputy president noted the atmosphere at last week’s meeting, highlighting the “controlled frustration” of farmers present, which he warned could escalate.

If it gets any worse we will have people who will lose their lives over this.

Lawrence noted three severe cases in recent years threatening the safety of farmers.

“There was a case a year and a half ago where one local farmer in the Dublin area was driven over by a jeep and his whole body was broken, and he’s still recovering from that.

“There was another farmer who was held at knife-point; and only recently there was another farmer was badly assaulted on his land, on the road, and I’d say there’s more going to come in relation to it.”

The farmer said that the Garda response time to all three cases was very poor.

Safety

He added that he had no problem with people from gun clubs who sought permission to enter his land but was worried what would happen if such people came across “lamper” groups on their own.

When questioned if farmers could take matters into their own hands, Laurence said: “It could happen”.

“I hope it doesn’t happen; I hope it doesn’t have to go that far. But yes, certainly it could happen.

One day someone will flip – and that could simply happen.

The farmer said he was not 100% confident in Garda assurances given at the meeting but is hopeful that changes will be made for the better.

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