Garda resourcing in rural areas back under spotlight after murder of pensioner

Attack in Waterford latest in several serious assaults on elderly people in recent years


Elderly rights and rural affairs groups say questions need to be asked about Garda resourcing in rural areas following the murder of a pensioner in Waterford over the weekend.

Paddy Lyons (90) was pronounced dead at his home on Saturday after emergency services were alerted to an incident at an isolated farmhouse on the outskirts of Lismore. The case was formally upgraded to a murder investigation on Monday following a post-mortem.

Although fatal attacks of this nature are an infrequent occurrence, this latest episode follows a recent warning to pensioners to be wary of door-to-door conmen and burglars.

Age Action Ireland head of advocacy Justin Moran extended the organisation’s condolences to the friends and family of Mr Lyons following his death.

“While, statistically, older people are generally less likely to be the victims of crime than the general public, fear of crime, particularly in rural communities, is rising and questions need to be asked about whether the gardaí have enough resources to effectively police rural Ireland,” he said.

“We would urge older people, particularly those living alone, to apply to join the senior alert scheme and we would encourage communities to get more active in local text alert and neighbourhood watch schemes.”

Rural affairs group Muintir na Tíre has also questioned the availability of gardaí on beat patrols in remote locations.

“The gardaí need more resources and we would back them in that. When the rural Garda stations were closed we were promised that that would mean more gardaí available to be on the road. But... there hasn’t been an increase in activity on the roads,” said its chief executive Niall Garvey.

“It again shows the need for communities around the country to look out for each other. If we had doubled the Garda force we still wouldn’t have a Garda everywhere all the time so the community involvement is vital as well.”

The attack in Co Waterford is the latest in several brutal assaults on elderly people living in secluded areas over recent years.

In August 2015, 62 year-old John O’Donoghue collapsed and died from a heart attack after encountering intruders at the driveway of his home in Doon, Co Limerick.

In February 2014, 64 year-old Thomas ‘Toddy’ Murphy was beaten to death with a baseball bat in his own home in Edenderry. Three men all aged in their 20s were later given life sentences for their part in the murder.

The previous year saw one of the most high-profile and egregious attacks when brothers Jackie and Tommy Blaine, both disabled pensioners who were described by locals as being “vulnerable”, were beaten to death in their shared home in Castlebar in the early hours of 10th July.

Alan Cawley, the man accused of killing the brothers, is due to stand trial at the Central Criminal Court later this year.

In the neighbouring county of Sligo, 67 year-old Eugene Gillespie was said to have suffered tremendously when burglars tied him to a chair after inflicting a severe beating on the pensioner during a robbery at his home in September 2012.

Mr Gillespie died in hospital after he was discovered two days later. In 2014 Simon McGinley from Sligo was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder.