Roscommon eviction: Flanagan says ‘violence is never justified’

Three men working for private security firm hospitalised after melee at repossessed house

Dozens of masked men confronted security guards occupying a repossessed home outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon early on Sunday. The violence has been condemned by the authorities. This video captures the site after the eviction. Video: Brian Farrell

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan condemned the violence at Falsk, Co. Roscommon early on Sunday.

Dozens of masked men confronted security guards occupying a repossessed home outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon early on Sunday.

During the incident three security guards were seriously injured, four vehicles were set alight and a dog was subsequently put down when masked raiders targeted them at the house on Sunday morning.

“While I do not wish to comment on any individual case, I wish to stress that violence is never justified. An Garda Síochána are the sole legitimate guardians of the peace in this State, charged with upholding the law in the interests of the whole community,” he said.

“I am deeply disturbed by the thinly veiled references to vigilantism that have been made in recent days in social media and elsewhere. This is a very dangerous road to go down and vigilantism cannot and will not be tolerated in this State.

“While very conscious that the full facts of this particular case are not in the public domain, it is clearly deeply distressing to see a family lose their home, particularly at this time of year. I hope the situation can be peacefully resolved through dialogue and mediation,” he added.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says he is “very concerned” about the incident in Roscommon which he said seemed like a “very highly organised, highly violent vigilante attack”.

Mr Varadkar said the “use of violence” should be condemned “unreservedly”.

“I don’t think anybody likes to see somebody being evicted or losing their property, especially in the run up to Christmas.

“But if it was done on the basis of a court order I can only assume the judge heard all sides of the story and made the decision that he did,” Mr Varadkar said.

“Leaving aside the reasons for the eviction I think all of us have to condemn unreservedly the use of violence. In this instance, individuals being injured, an animal was killed, property destroyed. It would seem that it was very highly organised, highly violent vigilante attack.”

Gardaí were to interview the eight security guards at the centre of the incident on Monday.

Cordoned off

The area around the house has been cordoned off by gardaí and is being as a crime scene. No arrests have been made.

Online footage of the eviction of two brothers and a sister from their home near Strokestown last Tuesday showed security men dressed in black, forcibly removing the family from the house. Those evicted are aged in their 50s and 60s.

The eviction has sparked an angry response with many people objecting to the involvement of a private security firm, apparently from Northern Ireland.

One of the security staff who is told on the video that he should be ashamed as an Irish man can be heard replying that he is British. The private firm had been occupying the house since the eviction.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, dozens of men arrived at the farmhouse and in the ensuing melee the security men were injured, and vehicles set alight.

Three of the security staff were hospitalised. A vet was later called to the scene to put down an injured dog.

Gardaí said they were investigating criminal damage and assault.

Rules

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said on Monday the rules governing private security firms that enforce evictions will be examined after the incident.

Mr Flanagan condemned the violence in Co Roscommon and said property disputes and evictions should be resolved according to the law.

He said there was a legal anomaly whereby private security firms involved in evictions are not regulated by the Private Security Authority (PSA) so the obligation to display identification does not arise.

The Minister said his officials had been examining regulations in the area and an interdepartmental group had been convened and was due to report to him in January.

Fianna Fáil’s justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan he was concerned at the level of violence during the incident and said the lender involved had not handled the situation well, describing the eviction as “a heavy handed”.

Co Roscommon Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice said people had been infuriated at the sight of the family “being thrown out of the house where they have lived all their lives”.

Mr Fitzmaurice said the Government needed to ensure there was mediation for people who found themselves in such situations.

“Nobody wants to see violence and I have always been a believer in peaceful protests,” he added.

Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy, who knows the family at the centre of the eviction row, appealed for calm.

The deputy who is based in Strokestown said he planned to contact the bank involved in the case to see if anything could be done to ease tensions.