A priest who was tied up in his home and robbed was back at work the following morning, carrying out his duties.
But Fr Pat O’Brien, parish priest of Caherlistrane in north Co Galway, admitted he was badly shaken by the ordeal after four raiders broke into his house on Friday evening.
They tied him to a radiator and ransacked his house before fleeing with a small amount of money. Fr O’Brien, who is in his 60s, eventually managed to free himself and raise the alarm at a neighbour’s house.
But it was business as usual for Fr O’Brien on Saturday morning. He took part in the inter-church baptism of an infant with his Church of Ireland colleague, Rev Gary Hastings, making light of his traumatic experience just hours earlier.
And he was recounting his ordeal to parishioners when he said 6pm Mass on Saturday, when he thanked neighbours for their help and good wishes.
Fr O’Brien, who is well known as a poet and writer and is also a GAA coach of note, was watching television alone at the presbytery alongside the Church of Mary Immaculate and St Joseph on Friday night when he heard a noise at his front door at about 9.30pm.
“It was just at the end of the Ireland and Sweden soccer match when I heard the noise and opened the front door. It was four guys with balaclavas and they were powerful — they had some kind of an object with them,” said Fr O’Brien.
He was pushed inside and quickly overpowered. The raiders tied his hands and legs, then secured him to a radiator.
“I wasn’t beaten, but they had stuff with them which they used to tie my hands. They used a tie for my feet and then tied me to the radiator with the cord from a curtain.
“I was scared of one of them in particular. I’d say he was on drugs and he was wrecking the place. They were looking for money or for gold. I told them I had none and joked with the guy who seemed to be the leader that it was a pity they hadn’t come a fortnight earlier when there was some money here,” he said.
“I also said to him that this was an awful way to be living but he indicated that they owed so much money for drugs that they had to try to get it.”
Fr O’Brien asked them not to take his mobile phone as it contained important numbers and information and he would be unable to do his work without it. The gang had destroyed the landline phones at the presbytery, but promised him that, while they had to take it to prevent him alerting gardaí, they would leave it in a place where he could find it later.
The gang were in the house for up to an hour and systematically ransacked every room, pulling pictures off the wall and upending furniture in their search for cash. “They took every copper they could find and other coins as well, including American coins. They also took my wallet which had a few 50s in it before they left,” Fr O’Brien added.
The priest managed to free himself shortly after the gang fled and hobbled to a nearby house where neighbours phoned the gardaí and summoned medical help.
Fr O’Brien was treated by his GP after his medical condition gave some cause for concern. “I’m better now, but my blood pressure went wrong and it had to be dealt with by the doctor.”
Gardaí in Tuam have appealed for help in tracking down the raiders. They confirmed that one of the men carried a crowbar.
They are seeking witnesses who were in the vicinity of Caherlistrane between 9pm and midnight on Mar 22 to contact them in Tuam on 093 70840, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved