‘It was an attack on the people of the country,’ cousin of Sligo pensioner says

Tom Niland remains on life support following ‘frenzied attack’ at his home

A cousin of the Sligo pensioner who remains on life support following an attack at his home last month has told of the sense of helplessness the family has experienced in the wake of what he described as “a frenzied attack.”

Michael Walsh also expressed mixed feelings about the offering of a reward for information about the three intruders who robbed and beat Tom Niland.

"I would urge people to come forward any way," he told RTÉ radio's Today with Claire Byrne show. "Any information at all could be crucial."

Mr Walsh said assaults and attacks on people such as had been experienced by his cousin was akin to committing terrorism on the people of the country. “It was an attack on the people of the country.”

Mr Walsh thanked members of the public who had sent get well cards, Mass cards and holy medals to his cousin. Family members had been reading the cards to Mr Niland in the hope that it would be of comfort to him.

“I went to see him last night. There’s no change. There’s no real hope at the moment.”

It was difficult to see a strong man like his cousin in such a condition. Mr Niland experienced damage to his eye socket, head injuries, “seven or eight broken ribs” as well as soft tissue damage. “It’s an absolute disgrace to see Tom like that.”

His cousin had been a big physical man and it was frightening to see him so vulnerable. Mr Walsh said he believed his cousin had survived the attack because of his strength which had seen him drag himself out of the house to the road and he was able to tell people who stopped to assist him that he had been attacked by three men.

The family had not been aware that Mr Niland had a credit union account and did know if that was what prompted the robbery.

Later on the same programme, the Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath offered his condolences to the family and said that Gardaí would be given every resource to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Government was robustly defending the case in Europe about use of technology to access mobile phones, he added. "People have a right to feel safe in their own homes. I understand their frustration. We are working hard to ensure the best outcome."

Mr Niland was attacked at his home on the Sligo to Ballina road by a gang of masked men who called to the door at about 7pm on January 18th. The bachelor, who farmed from his mid-teens until his retirement seven years ago, was watching television alone at the time.

The gang badly beat him before robbing hundreds of euro in cash. They then tied Mr Niland’s laces together to frustrate his efforts to get help, leaving him to crawl to the road outside his house in the hopes he would be seen.

A neighbour who noticed something outside their home said Mr Niland was unrecognisable due to the extent of his facial injuries. And while he was able to speak to gardaí after the attack, his condition has since deteriorated.

The burglars had reversed a car into his driveway and left with some the victim’s personal items such as a wallet and phone. While gardaí have gathered up a large amount of CCTV footage, no arrests have been made and sources said there had been no significant breakthrough yet in the investigation.