Sinn Féin TDs warn Roscommon incident ‘only the start of it’

Flanagan warns against ‘thinly veiled references to vigilantism’ online

The scene at the house in Strokestown, Co Roscommon which was the centre of an eviction.  Photograph: Peter Murtagh

The scene at the house in Strokestown, Co Roscommon which was the centre of an eviction. Photograph: Peter Murtagh

 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan has warned that vigilantism “is a very dangerous road to go down” as he answered Dáil questions about the recent violence over an eviction in Co Roscommon.

He was deeply disturbed by “thinly veiled references to vigilantism” made on social media in the wake of the violence at Falsk, near Strokestown, and warned that it would not be tolerated in Ireland.

He said there was a “very clear difference between persons or companies employed to execute court orders and vigilante groups carrying out acts of organised and serious violence, as occurred on Sunday”.

Mr Flanagan was responding to TDs who raised concerns about the violence around the eviction and called for amending legislation to regulate private security firms engaged in implementing eviction orders.

Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion warned that similar incidents to those in Strokestown were likely “all throughout the country if we don’t deal with the situation that in the vast majority of cases the banks will not engage with people”.

She said “that’s just the start of it what we saw on Sunday. This is going to continue if we don’t deal with it.”

Her party colleague Martin Kenny said that what happened in Roscommon could happen in other places and they needed to make sure it did not recur.But he said that would require legislation that “protects the people not the banks”.

Appeal for calm

The Sligo-Leitrim TD said that while the banks had security firms had the law on their side they did not have the public on their side.

Strokestown-based Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy appealed for calm.

“Please let everybody work to settle this situation because it is quite critical at the moment,” he said. “We have to condemn all violence and all types of thuggery but unfortunately this started with the eviction.”

Mr Murphy said he had spoken to KBC bank on Tuesday on behalf of the family and asked them to allow the situation to calm down and to get back into negotiations as quickly as possible.

Their remarks follow the eviction of a farmer and his two siblings from a farm at Falsk near Strokestown last Tuesday. Five days later a group of masked men confronted members of the security firm at the property. Three security guards were seriously injured and a number of vehicles set on fire, while a security dog had to be put down after being injured in the confrontation.

Mr Flanagan acknowledged “some disquiet” about private security operators employed by third parties to enforce court orders.

He said he would take “all the necessary and appropriate steps” once he received a report in January from an intergovernmental group he had asked to examine the regulation of these operators “with a view to bringing them within the remit of the Private Security Authority”.

He reiterated 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. It is never appropriate for vigilante groups to take the law into their own hands and commit acts of serious violence against people, animals or property”.

Mr Flanagan said the repossession of properties is deeply regrettable but he noted a drop in court figures for repossession orders and said that in the three months to June this year there were more repossession orders refused than granted.