The gang have been linked to nationwide violent raids on homes in Donegal, Galway, Louth, Kilkenny, and throughout Munster.
Garda sources last night confirmed that during a recent investigation into a brutal attack on a Co Limerick family, they uncovered information that the gang leadership had detailed intelligence on wealthy families in these counties.
Two members of the gang, Christopher Stokes, 42, Knocknaheeny, Cork and John Cahill, 30, Doon, Co Limerick, were jailed at Limerick Circuit Court last week for an aggravated burglary during which a Limerick family were terrorised and badly assaulted before the gang made off with US$3,000 and £5,000.
Stokes was one of the masked raiders who burst into the home of Gerry Garvey and Anne Garvey at Sunville House, Pallasgreen, on April 16, 2012, and Cahill was the driver of the stolen BMW used in the raid.
Stokes was jailed for seven years and Cahill got five years. The masked gang were armed with a sawn-off shot-gun, sledgehammers and baseball bats.
During the raid, the Garveys and two of their young children were viciously assaulted.
It has now emerged that in the course of the investigation, gardaí unearthed what one officer described as a detailed list of people identified by the gang as potential targets, given their reputed wealth.
One of the names on the list included a businessman living in North Cork.
Others singled out for future attacks included business people in Co Limerick and Co Tipperary.
A Garda source said: “While names were not written down as such, the gang had gathered a lot of information as regards where people they saw as potential targets lived, and who lived at the addresses.
“Most of the intended targets are business people, who the gang suspected would have money at their homes.”
Some of the gang leaders from Tipperary moved to Ballyfermot from where they now control their nationwide operation.
Cahill and Stokes were arrested shortly after the Pallasgreen raid when they were intercepted by two traffic corps gardaí based in Mallow. While operating a routine checkpoint at Buttevant, the gardaí became suspicious, and after a high-speed chase, caught the two criminals.
Gerry Garvey, a community resource manager in Limerick, yesterday hit out at the lack of Garda resources in rural areas. This, he said, was inviting the attention of violent, mobile gangs who had built up lots of local knowledge.
He said: “There is only one Garda patrol car now covering Pallasgreen, Cappamore and Murroe.
“If they get two calls at around the same time, they have to decide which one to go to. If they need back-up, they have to call in for help from the divisional headquarters, Bruff Garda Station, which is 25 miles away. All these crimes have a local involvement, as victims are cased by locals assisting the outside gangs,” he said.
“And a local Garda presence is the best tactic, as was proven in our case, as it was two local gardaí on local patrol in Buttevant who made the arrests which led to the breakthrough in the investigation.
“Huge and very costly crime investigations could be prevented by investment in more patrol cars at far less cost in terms of money, not to mention victims,” Mr Garvey added.
The Ballyfermot/ Tipperary gang, one of the most dangerous in the country, struck the Garvey home in Pallasgreen, Co Limerick on April 16, 2012.
Gerry Garvey, his wife Anne, and their two sets of twins Grace and Gordon, then 16, and Graham and Gillian, then 14, were all at home when masked men armed with a sawn-off shotgun, a sledgehammer, and baseball bats, stormed their house, crashing in through a patio door.
As two men, Christopher Stokes, 42, Knocknaheeny, Cork, and John Cahill, 30, Doon, Co Limerick, complete their fist week in jail on sentences of seven years (Stokes) and five years (Cahill) for aggravated burglary, Mr Garvey, a 54-year-old community development manager in Limerick, has spoken of how the events of that day changed their lives.
“On the evening of Monday April 16, 2012, the lives of all our family were changed dramatically as a result of a frightening aggravated burglary at our home in Sunville, Pallasgreen. Up to that point our home was a place of peace and tranquillity where our children happily roamed the gardens with their friends and pets, without a care in the world.
“As a result of this horrible event all of us feel constantly edgy and fearful in our own gardens, even within the confines of the house. Doors and gates are now almost always locked and none of the children will venture outside once dusk appears. Any loud noise, whether a loud knock at the door or a cup or glass smashing on the floor sends shivers down our spines in a way that never previously existed.
“Countless neighbours contacted me in the days following the event sharing their growing fears that it could happen to them too. They too are still locking gates and doors and living in a state of constant fear.
“Even two years on, these abnormal fears, while a little lessened, are still very present, especially for our youngest twins, who were just 14 years old at the time.
In Gillian’s words: “I still have a fear of going outside around the grounds of the house at night because I think someone is watching me... Since the robbery I also get the feeling that random men on the street are watching me or they were in the robbery.”
Mr Garvey adds: “Her twin brother, Graham, who was assaulted during the robbery, also fears going outside even though he has spent a large amount of his growing years outside in our garden and is a true ‘outdoor’ person.
He comments: “If I go outside in the evenings I think that someone is going to attack me. At night I don’t like going down the back stairs because I think that a man is going to smash in the door. When I come in the back door I always run up the stairs because I think someone is going to run up after me. I used to love watching crime programmes but I can’t watch them now because it brings it all back to me and then I have nightmares again about that night.”
Mr Graham adds: “My wife, Anne, while she doesn’t like to say much about it, will never forget that Monday evening when Graham ran screaming into her bathroom pursued by two armed and masked ‘individuals’. It is said that time is a great healer and time has helped a little, as has the great support of the local and regional gardaí, who have been there for us at all times up to today.
“However none of us will ever forget the terror of that night. The fact that individuals, at least some of those involved, have been brought to justice is a source of some solace but the absence of any indication of apology or any shred of remorse is much more than just very disappointing.
“Our hope now is that we never experience anything like this again and that no other family should suffer such a horrendous and violent invasion in their own home. However, given the number of somewhat similar incidents in these past two years, I suspect that our wish is in vain and these terrible events will keep happening unabated.
“Finally we wish to thank the gardaí and our family, neighbours and friends for their support throughout these past two years.”