Garda tells of trauma after ‘terrifying’ Laois operation

Number of gardaí were injured when their vehicles were rammed severely

Thomas McInerney, who admitted possessing stolen property at Cloncourse, Co Laois, leaving Tullamore District Court. Photograph: James Flynn/APX

Thomas McInerney, who admitted possessing stolen property at Cloncourse, Co Laois, leaving Tullamore District Court. Photograph: James Flynn/APX

 

A member of the Garda Armed Response Unit told a court on Tuesday that the apprehension of three men in a major operation in Co Laois last summer was “the most terrifying moment” he was ever exposed to.

A number of gardaí were injured during the operation, when an unmarked Garda car and an Armed Response Unit car were rammed by a jeep and written off.

The operation involved the Armed Response Unit, the Garda National Surveillance Unit, local Detectives and the Air Support Unit in Co Laois.

The sentencing hearing of three family members took place in front of Judge Keenan Johnson at Portlaoise Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Laois residents Thomas McInerney (41), Twomey Park, Mountmellick; his brother Gerard McInerney (39), Moonbaun Close, Mountrath; and their cousin William McInerney, (37), Newline Close, Mountrath, all admitted to possessing stolen property at Cloncourse, Co Laois, on July 12th, 2016.

The three men have been in custody since their arrest.

Garda Chief Supt John Scanlan said gardaí had been watching a stolen Mitsubishi crew cab jeep and a trailer, which had been left in a remote bog at Cloncourse, near Mountrath.

On the night of July 11th, two cars – with their lights off – approached through a farm, as gardaí looked on.

At around 12.40am three men attached the jeep to the trailer. As they attempted to leave the bog, gardaí blocked their path. The jeep, which was fitted with bull bars, attempted to crash through the two Garda cars. Three men were arrested nearby a short time later.

“All the accused had balaclavas on alighting from the vehicle, and gloves,” said Chief Supt Scanlan. He said the jeep had been stolen during a burglary at a farm in Ballacolla, Co Laois, in June 2016. Other items recovered at the scene had been stolen from five farms in Co Laois and Co Tipperary.

Injuries suffered

Chief Supt Scanlan said a detective garda in the unmarked patrol car had suffered soft-tissue injuries to his back, neck and knee. A Portlaoise-based sergeant suffered a broken ankle, and Chief Supt Scanlan said the sergeant had “worked through significant pain” and “refused to go off duty, despite our protestations”.

In a victim-impact report, a member of the Armed Response Unit said it was “the most terrifying moment I was ever exposed to”. He described his “genuine fear” that either he or another garda would be killed. “I still have trouble sleeping on occasion and it has affected home life. This event has been life-changing for me both inside and outside of this job. It follows me home.”

Defence counsel Marc Thompson Grolimund, for Thomas McInerney, said his client had expressed remorse, entered a plea and earned privileges for his behaviour in custody on the charges. He said his client, a member of the Travelling community, was raised in a severe poverty.

Judge Johnson noted the three men had admitted possessing property stolen from farms. He described such crimes as “an attack on the fabric of rural society” and said rural life is built on trust and such crimes are “an attack on the fundamentals on which rural life is based”.

The judge said he would have to give the case some consideration and he adjourned the matter to June 29th.