A sister and one of her brothers evicted from a Roscommon farmhouse last week, prompting a violent retaliation by vigilantes against security guards at the home, were back in possession of the property last night.
The eviction of farmer Anthony McGann, along with his sister and brother, from Falsk, near Strokestown, Co Roscommon, was ordered by the Circuit Court after a judgment was given against him.
Mr McGann, who was forced to pay €429,501 to settle a Revenue tax debt in 2015 for underdeclaration of VAT, has had a number of judgments against him, including one for non-payment of a loan on a Land Rover.
Video footage posted last night on social media showed gardaí advising the farmer that he should get a solicitor in view of the court order against him and under which he had lost his home.
The gardaí then left the farmhouse at Falsk after what were described as “very polite” exchanges between a garda and Mr McGann, who were on first-name terms.
Confirming that one of the McGann brothers and their sister, Geraldine had returned, a family friend, Donal Hanley, said they wanted to take their home back. The financial issues that led to the eviction are "a private matter", he said.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan had condemned the "violent actions of vigilantes, which have led to injuries, animal deaths and very serious property damage".
And the director-general of the Law Society, Ken Murphy expressed concern, saying the situation was "hugely difficult and emotionally charged" but people could not take the law into their own hands.
The house has been damaged following the events of the last week. Broken glass could be seen strewn around, while, at the rear, the window to the bathroom had also been smashed.
Beside two large and undamaged wooden garages, four Ford Transit vans lay completely burned out following Sunday night's violence, plus two fire-damaged cars, including a BMW.
Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy, who lives in the district, appealed for calm, saying that he would offer himself as a mediator to see if anything could be done to ease tensions.
“There’s a lot of anger in the community on two fronts – both over the eviction and violence that occurred last Sunday morning. People do not want to see this type of violence occurring in their community,” Mr Murphy said.
Gardaí are now investigating the vigilante attack on Sunday, but also the events surrounding the eviction, following a complaint. The Minister for Justice has said the regulations covering private security firms will be reviewed.
There is, he said, a legal anomaly whereby security guards on duty in a nightclub or elsewhere must be identifiable, whereas there is no similar obligation under the law for those involved in evictions. Officials are to report back to the Minister in January on the matter.