Gardai say operation will curb attacks on elderly


AS one of the biggest Garda operations ever mounted in the west was set up at the weekend, senior officers were satisfied that it would lead to a reduction in attacks on elderly people in rural areas.

Most activity in "Operation Shannon" was focused around Co Galway and south Roscommon where almost permanent checkpoints were set up backed up by "continuously armed units" in the immediate vacinity.

Within 24 hours, two men were arrested in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, and questioned about a number of incidents, including one in Craughwell, Co Galway in November. They were brought to Galway where they were still being questioned last night under the Offences Against the State Act in connection with possible burglary and firearms offences.

In addition to surveillance old known suspects as part of the investigation into the death of the retired farmer, Mr Tom Casey (68), of Oranmore, gardai have been building intelligence based on public information and on what they consider to be suspicious movements of vehicles.

The regional operation at the very least had been successful in terms of a "visible Garda presence in areas which have had a lot of burglaries and raids on elderly people living alone, a Garda spokesman in Dublin said.

The operation, which initially involves gardai from Galway, Roscommon, Tipperary and Clare, is being stepped up today when armed members of the Emergency Response Unit will be deployed. They will be backed up by Air Corps helicopters based in Renmore Barracks Galway.

It will be further extended to take in most of the west including Sligo, Longford and Limerick, and will involve the deployment of more than 300 gardai.

Chief Supt Joe Kilgannon of Roscommon East Galway division, where operational headquarters are based, said they were confident that "the commitment of so many gardai and the co operation of the community will stop this cancer" of attacks in rural areas.

Community leaders welcomed the initiative while the president of the Irish Farmers' Association, Mr John Donnelly, said people were reassured by the operation. The former Minister for Justice, Mrs Maire Geoghegan Quinn, welcomed the operation but was concerned that "it may lack the necessary manpower to make it fully effective".

. The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Ms Joan Burton, has said that travellers should not be scapegoated at this time of concern about recent horrendous crimes.

Ms Burton was speaking at a meeting of the National Travellers Women's Forum, and added that travellers, especially law abiding travellers, were entitled to their good name.

However, she said, travellers also had the same responsibility as every other citizen to assist the gardai when a crime had been committed, especially the horrendous crimes of recent days, and to co operate with them if they had any information about them.