Farmers have been urged to be vigilant after a series of ‘suspicious’ fires in south east Limerick in recent weeks.
Up to five barns full of freshly harvested hay have been torched causing tens of thousands of euro worth of damage and loss or earnings to local farming families.
The latest fire, the third in nine days, broke out shortly before 5.30am yesterday in Oola.
A local politician, warning the public is under threat, asked not to be identified for fear of being targeted himself.
He said the barn fires had sparked more fear in a community already in turmoil after a spate of burglaries in which a local man had collapsed and died after discovering intruders at his home in August last.
The fire in Oola followed on swiftly from a barn, full of hay, burnt out in Doon last Sunday while a third incident, involving a barn fire, had also occurred in Doon on Sunday, September 27.
According to sources, another two fires had been reported in nearby Murroe and Abbington a few weeks previously.
Gardaí described the fires as “suspicious” and advised farmers to be on the alert.
However, gardaí emphasised they have no evidence to substantiate local claims that a certain Limerick criminal family had been involved.
“I have no bother, normally, in speaking out against such things but I have a hay barn too,” the local politician said anonymously.
“I’m sorry but, on any other issue, I would give you a quote. My own wife is terrified, especially when your name is out there in public. It’s pure criminal what’s going on.”
Meanwhile, David Thompson, a local farmer and former Limerick vice-chairman of the Irish Farmers Association who had experienced three burglaries, described the barn fires as “extremely serious”.
Involved in setting up the Oola text alert system and a campaigner for more local gardaí in rural areas, Mr Thompson said: “Everybody is scared. Everybody is afraid to say a word.”
Gardaí, continuing their investigations, have not ruled out the fires being started maliciously. However, they have not yet discovered a link between the fires.
Acting Superintendent Luke Conlon, based in Bruff, asked farmers to be vigilant and contact gardai with any information.
“Our lines of enquires are ongoing. Locals are fearful but they need to be mindful of what’s happening,” he said. “Farmers especially need to be aware and check their properties.
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