By Cormac O'Keeffe, Fiachra O Cionnaith and Joe Leogue
Gardai believe an organised gang, possibly dissidents, were behind a violent vigilante-style attack on security staff engaged in a house repossession in Co Roscommon.
Officers believe the level of “planning, organisation and violent intent” in Sunday's early morning assault necessitated a high level of control and experience.
Sources believe there was a “very strong possibility” dissidents could have been involved but said they would maintain an 'open mind'.
Up to 20 people descended on a house at Falsk, near Strokestown, at around 4am on Sunday. The property had been occupied by eight security men who had carried out a court-ordered repossession on behalf of KBC
Bank last Tuesday. The eight men were injured and three were hospitalised in violent assaults by members of the gang, some of them wielding baseball bats. Three vehicles were set on fire. A guard dog was fatally wounded.
The assailants, it emerged, had blocked a number of roads with bales of hay and other obstacles before they struck. Garda sources said that, as well as significant local knowledge, the attack had been thoroughly planned.
“To get that many people at one spot, at that hour of the night, necessitating people travelling there in a number of vehicles, to block off roads, required a lot of organising,” said one source.
The source said violence was the purpose, and not to turf the security men and retake possession. “There was no intention of removing those there," the source said. "They went there to attack them and burn the cars. It was not a re-eviction. They went there, did the damage and left.”
The source said that in thinking about who would be able to conduct such an attack, there was a “very strong possibility” that dissidents were involved.
Meanwhile, a local TD denied playing any role in inciting a violent reaction to the repossession. Last week, speaking in the Dáil during the second stage of the Anti-Evictions Bill 2018, Independent Alliance TD Michael Fitzmaurice had described the banks as ‘scum’. Also, following last week's eviction, he referred to security workers involved and said “Irish people need to wake up, especially if people are coming from the North. We must take them on and stop what is happening”.
“We have to be mindful that a lot of violence took place on Tuesday before, that needs to be condemned as well,” Mr Fitzmaurice told yesterday's RTE's Morning Ireland. Gardai, meanwhile, is also investigating a complaint about the repossession.
Meanwhile, in Dublin yesterday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “very concerned” about events in Roscommon. “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 destroyed, property damaged, and it would seem that it was highly organised, highly violent and a vigilante attack. And I think that's something that behoves all of us to condemn,” he said.