Shatter condemns Donegal burglaries
Burglaries on elderly people’s homes in rural parts of the country have been condemned as “inhuman and appalling” by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.
Mr Shatter said criminals who targeted the homes of pensioners had no moral compass.
He made the comments as gardaí continued to hunt for a five-man gang suspected of carrying out two more aggravated burglaries 20km apart in Co Donegal last night.
“I want to totally condemn the atrocious events of last night,” Mr Shatter said.
“I think any individuals who would burglarise the homes of isolated elderly people have absolutely no moral compass of any description whatsoever.
“Individuals who would assault individuals in their homes at any age is unacceptable, but at this age is incomprehensible.”
A man in his 60s was assaulted and locked in a shed when five men forced their way into his home in the townland of Linsfort in Buncrana at 7.30pm last night and fled with cash.
The man managed to free himself a short time later and raise the alarm.
Less than two hours later, an 80-year-old woman was injured when five men, believed to be the same gang, targeted her home near Muff, which is close to the Border.
A Garda spokesman said it was believed a blue/grey Proton car with a Northern Ireland registration plate may have been used in both incidents.
Gardaí are appealing for anyone with information to contact them at Buncrana 074-9320540, the Garda Confidential Line 1800-666-111 or any Garda station.
Several similar incidents have been reported across the country in recent weeks, including on 96-year-old Greta Lily who was punched and gagged during a raid in Buncrana and Phyllis McGee (78), who was thrown to the ground as thieves ransacked her home near Pettigo for the second time in two months.
Mr Shatter said he hoped the victims recovered from the trauma of having their homes violated and stressed there was great co-operation between gardaí and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in catching the perpetrators.
“What happened in Donegal can only be condemned and is inhuman and appalling,” he added.
“But we have had burglaries in other parts of the country. Donegal isn’t a special case.”
The Minister insisted cuts to numbers of rural Garda station meant more officers would be on the road instead of behind desks.
He revealed almost 2,000 charges had been brought against some 3,600 suspected burglars arrested following a garda crackdown last year.
“What’s important isn’t that gardai are sitting in Garda stations, what’s important is that they’re engaged in frontline policing,” he added.
Irish Farmers’ Association president John Bryan said yesterday that people are living in “increasing fear” in rural Ireland because of reduced Garda patrols and closed Garda stations.
He said criminal gangs that had been operating in Dublin were now targeting rural areas because of the strong Garda presence in the city. “The odds of them being stopped on the way back from Galway or Donegal are much less than moving around the city.”
Mr Shatter was speaking ahead of a two-day informal meeting with more than 50 other European justice and home affairs ministers in Dublin Castle.
Discussions will focus on data protection, insolvency law, seizure of criminal assets and a European missing persons day.
It will also consider the plight of the refugees arising from the Syrian conflict, as well as concerted EU action that can be taken to counter hate crime and intolerance, including racism, homophobic attacks and anti-Semitism.