John O’Donoghue, 62, collapsed and died on Thursday afternoon after returning to his home at Toomeline, Doon, and finding two raiders who had just ransacked his home.
Two men from the Traveller community in Limerick City were subsequently arrested and are still being held at Henry Street Garda station. One has an address in Coolock, Dublin, and the other lives in a halting site in Limerick.
The man from Dublin is out on bail for a number of recent house break-ins carried out in the Midlands. A third man is still at large.
Pat Ryan, a 53-year-old bus driver who lives near the O’Donoghue home, said he now keeps his licensed shotgun under his bed, with cartridges beside it and he said many others in the community have resorted to keeping a gun in their houses.
“I was broken into five years ago and two of my licensed guns and jewellery were taken. I now keep a gun – which is licensed – under the beds with cartridges beside,” he said.
“And I would be prepared to use it if necessary. I’d have no qualms; its gone to that now. Most houses around here have firearms now and the people sleep with a gun beside their bed at night. I always have my gun beside me in the bedroom with the shells beside it. Most people now around have guns at the ready, due to all these break-ins over the past few years. There has been a spate of break-ins. The house belonging to the priest was done two times in the space of a few weeks.”
Mr Ryan said he knew what it was like to have one’s house broken into.
“When it happened to us, we were just away from the house for a few hours,” he said.
“It was very upsetting to think strangers had broken into your house. It’s not a nice feeling. But that’s the way it’s gone. These guys seem to be getting away with everything. It looks that way to me. The Garda station was closed with the cutbacks and we are under Bruff Garda station now which is 45 minutes away. We once had our own garda, Jerry Connors. He was always walking about and his presence gave people a sense of security which is now gone.”
It has emerged that the garda whose quick response resulted in the arrest of two men after the burglary, had to use his own car to get to the scene. He gave chase on foot across fields and two suspects were arrested a short time later.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said it was not acceptable that a garda had to resort to using his own private transport to answer an urgent call.
“Doon as we know is one of the 140 locations around the country where Garda stations were closed. By closing these stations, communities like Doon were deprived of a garda presence. When you have a garda presence in a community, that presence also acts as a deterrent factor,” he said.
Many communities, he said, are now “living in fear and feel isolated and vulnerable to criminals”.
He said: “Unfortunately, our current laws are not a deterrent and Fianna Fáil wants to see tougher sentences in place in a bid to crack down on the surge in burglaries in both urban and rural areas. The Government’s deeply flawed policy of closing rural Garda stations, such as in Doon, has been disastrous.”
Mr Collins said far too many criminals who are convicted of burglary are being put right back on the streets with suspended sentences.
They are both due to be brought before a special sitting of Kilmallock District Court today at 12pm.