Galway priest back on duty after raid ordeal

Gang of four men tied cleric to radiator as they ransacked his home


A Co Galway priest who was tied up in his home and robbed was back at work yesterday morning carrying out his duties.

Fr Pat O’Brien, parish priest of Chaerlistrane in north Co Galway, admitted he was badly shaken by the ordeal after four raiders broke into his house on Friday evening.

They tied him to a radiator and ransacked his house before fleeing with a small amount of money. Fr O’Brien, who is in hi s60s, managed to free himself and raise the alarm at a neighbour’s house.

Fr O’Brien took part in an inter-church baptism yesterday morning, making light of his traumatic experience just hours earlier.

Fr O’Brien, who is well known as a poet and writer and is also a GAA coach of note, was watching television alone at the presbytery alongside the Church of Mary Immaculate and St Joseph when he heard a noise at his front door at about 9.30pm.

“It was just at the end of the Ireland and Sweden soccer match when I heard the noise and opened the front door. It was four guys with balaclavas and they were powerful — they had some kind of an object with them,” said Fr O’Brien.

He was pushed inside and overpowered. The raiders tied his hands and legs and then secured him to a radiator.

“I wasn’t beaten, but they had stuff with them which they used to tie my hands. They used a tie for my feet and then tied me to the radiator with the cord from a curtain.

“I was scared of one of them in particular. I’d say he was on drugs and he was wrecking the place. They were looking for money or for gold.

“I told them I had none and joked with the guy who seemed to be the leader that it was a pity they hadn’t come a fortnight earlier when there was some money here,” he said. “I also said to him that this was an awful way to be living but he indicated that they owed so much money for drugs that they had to try to get it.”

Fr O’Brien had to plead with the raiders when they took off his glasses as he is prone to nausea when he cannot wear them. They relented and replaced them.

He also asked them not to take his mobile phone as it contained important numbers and information, that he would be unable to do his work without it. The gang had already destroyed the landline phones at the presbytery, but promised him that, while they had to take it to prevent him alerting the gardai, they would leave it in a place where he would be able to find it later.

The gang were in the house for up to an hour and systematically ransacked every room, pulling pictures off the wall and upending furniture in their search for cash.

“They took every copper they could find and other coins as well, including American coins. They also took my wallet which had a few fifties in it before they left,” Fr O’Brien added.

The priest freed himself shortly after the gang fled and managed to hobble to a nearby house where neighbours phoned the gardai and summoned medical help.

Fr O’Brien was treated by his GP after his medical condition gave some cause for concern. “I’m better now, but my blood pressure went wrong and it had to be dealt with by the doctor.”

Gardai in Tuam have appealed for the public’s help in tracking down the raiders. They confirmed that one of the men carried a crowbar during the attack.

They are seeking witnesses who may have been in the vicinity of Caherlistrane between 9pm and midnight on Friday and saw any unusual or suspicious activity to contact them in Tuam on 093 70840, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.