Man arrested over Co Roscommon eviction vigilante attack
Suspect questioned over incident at McGann home that had been repossessed days earlier
The scene at a house outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon after security staff were attacked by a vigilante gang. Photograph: Peter Murtagh
A man suspected of being a central figure in a vigilante attack on security guards at a repossessed house in Co Roscommon has been arrested.
The suspect was detained by gardaí on Thursday morning and is being held at Castlerea Garda station under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act allowing for his detention for up to three days without charge.
The man has been a suspect from the outset of the criminal investigation into the attack on the McGann home that had been repossessed days earlier over an unpaid loan to KBC bank.
Tensions ran high in the area at the time when the eviction of the McGann siblings, and the removal from the property of some of their supporters, was recorded on a video phone and the footage was shared widely on social media.
The arrest of the suspect on Thursday brings to six the number of people detained for questioning to date about the incident.
Gardaí are conducting a criminal damage and assault inquiry into the vigilante attack by a large group of people on security men guarding the house at Falsk, Strokestown, Co Roscommon, last December.
“A 50-year-old man has been arrested as part of ongoing investigations into incidents that took place at Falsk, Strokestown, Co Roscommon on December 16th,” a Garda statement said.
“The man was arrested in Co Roscommon today and is currently detained at Castlerea Garda station under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, 1939. Investigations are ongoing.”
The McGann siblings were evicted from their home in Falsk on December 12th.
In the early hours of Sunday, December 16th, the property was stormed by a gang who beat the security guards, burned their vans and cars and forced them out of the house.
During the eviction days earlier, eight security workers, who were from Northern Ireland, used force to remove the McGanns and their supporters. While force is permitted under the law, video footage of the eviction was widely shared on social media and has caused controversy.
After the eviction, the security staff stayed on at the property, in an apparent attempt to ensure the house remained in the possession of KBC. But they were attacked in the early hours of Sunday morning by a gang allegedly armed with a gun and baseball bats.
Some of the security workers were hospitalised and others fled the scene.
The next day, the McGanns moved back into the house which was then vacant.
However, they released a statement distancing themselves from the attack on the security workers.
The eviction of farmer Michael Anthony McGann and his two adult siblings from their home followed a dispute between Mr McGann and KBC bank over a loan in excess of €300,000. The dispute has been before the courts since 2009.
Last August, the High Court granted a repossession order and later an order of possession, or eviction, to KBC.
When Mr McGann refused repeated requests to leave, the house was repossessed by the security workers.
The eviction came on foot of a High Court order. The execution of such orders is not deemed to be security work, meaning registered security guards are not required and evictions do not come under the authority’s remit.
However, a Private Security Authority investigation is now under way and is seeking to establish if the men who were attacked were providing security services at the property in the days after the eviction.
If they remained on at the house to secure it for the bank, that would be deemed by the authority as a static guarding service.
In that case, the men would be obliged to follow all of the rules for private security firms set down by the Private Security Services Act .