Dissident republicans suspected in Roscommon house attack

Gardaí think attackers believed security workers had British military backgrounds

Dozens of masked men confronted security guards occupying a repossessed home outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon early on Sunday. The violence has been condemned by the authorities. This video captures the site after the eviction. Video: Brian Farrell

 

The attack on security personnel working for KBC bank at a house in Co Roscommon was planned and carried out by dissident republicans, gardaí believe.

In the early hours of last Sunday a gang armed with baseball bats stormed the house at Falsk near Strokestown, from which a family had been evicted days earlier, beating the security personnel inside.

Eight people were injured, six vehicles owned by the security workers parked outside were burned out and a dog killed.

Gardaí are working on the theory the attackers’ prime motivation was that they believed the security personnel were from the North and had British military backgrounds.

The Garda inquiry is progressing well, with suspects identified both from the locality and other parts of the State.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris on Tuesday rejected the suggestion that gardaí were now supervising evictions. It had been claimed in the Dáil that gardaí “aided and abetted” the eviction of three siblings from the house on Tuesday December 11th.

On Monday, a day after the attack, the siblings of Michael Anthony McGann moved back into the property, though it is now owned by KBC Bank.

Speaking in Dublin at an event to unveil reforms for the Garda, Mr Harris said gardaí had no role in evictions other than ensuring they did not flare into criminal incidents.

“We make sure that things don’t in effect get out of hand and offences aren’t committed and the situation doesn’t deteriorate,” he said. “These matters are carefully planned and there’s no way any of my personnel would stand aside and watch a violent encounter. They would intervene.”

One force

In reaction to the vigilante attack at the property last Sunday, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said on Tuesday the State had only one police force, An Garda Síochána.

Mr Flanagan said a thorough investigation was already under way into Sunday’s attack and he believed it would “lead to a successful conclusion”.

“I believe it’s important every effort be made in Roscommon to co-operate fully with the Garda investigations under way in the hope those who have been involved in what is utterly unacceptable behaviour will be brought to justice,” he said.

The property where the eviction and violent attack took place has been at the centre of High Court proceedings for almost a decade. But in August an order of possession was granted by the High Court to KBC, and that order was executed on December 11th.

Immediately after the order, the McGanns and supporters who were present at the house were evicted by a party of security men from the North working for KBC.

Republican Sinn Féin, which has had links to the Continuity IRA, said it was planning to organise and lead a protest on Sunday in Strokestown over the eviction.

“Rural [or] urban, it doesn’t matter. The people of Ireland are slowly becoming little more than tenants to foreign landlords,” it said in a statement.

“Not since the mid-1800s have so many been taxed into poverty and under threat of eviction. Meet in the square at noon.”

The human side

Danny Compton, chairman of Strokestown Town Team, a community development organisation, said: “Sentiment is very much with the family. Regardless of what has led people to this point, the family simply want to have a peaceful Christmas in their home. The human side of all this cannot be lost.

“The banks need to understand that there must be a better way found for them to recoup their losses. Under no circumstances should a family be left without a home. There are other options and they must be explored. Banks simply won’t be able to continue getting away with what they have been getting away with heretofore.”

Meanwhile there were bitter exchanges in the Dáil over the eviction. Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty said what happened when the family was evicted was a “disgrace. It was unjustified and it brought to mind the scenes of our past where families were being evicted and thrown on to the side of the road.”

“It was an ordeal of thuggery from a group of men acting on behalf of a financial institution with the gardaí watching on.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Mr Doherty criticised those working for the banks but failed to mention the violent incident at the farm at the weekend. “It doesn’t take long for your balaclava to slip.”

Mr Doherty repeatedly called on the Taoiseach to withdraw his remarks as Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat “The Cope” Gallagher intervened to call order.

Mr Varadkar agreed private security firms should be regulated but added that people had to take personal responsibility and pay back money they owed.