Rural crime: Communities band together to defeat scourge of burglary

Colin Connolly, the IFA’s recently appointed rural crime-prevention executive is running the Theft Stop programme and is also helping the association in the areas of policy and development, particularly when it comes to issues touching on justice, equality and rural affairs.
Rural crime: Communities band together to defeat scourge of burglary

A 12-year veteran of the Garda, he is well-placed to work with the force when it comes to developing initiatives to prevent and clamp down on rural crime and he will also be representing the IFA on such issues and developing relationships with anyone or any agency that can, as he puts it himself, support “positive change”.

“Already I have had an opportunity to address the joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice,” he said.

“The topic of rural security is high on the agenda and so it should be.”

That Oireachtas presentation was given by Mr Connolly along with Eddie Downey and Pat Smith (who were IFA president and general-secretary at the time before the recent tumult that swept change through the top of the body) as well as treasurer Jer Bergin.

The purpose of the presentation was to press for more support for rural Ireland and, in particular, IFA members in the areas of justice and equality.

The delegation pointed out the “devastating” effect, financially and otherwise, of crime on farmers as well as highlighting how vulnerable farmers can be when it comes to location and isolation from services.

Closures of garda stations, post offices and other long-standing institutions in villages and rural parts were also referred to by the IFA as contributing to that sense of vulnerability felt by members.

In the first half of 2014 there were more than 2,500 “agricultural crimes,” according to CSO figures, including 1,720 cases of stolen farm machinery.

The IFA’s calls for various government measures to increase safety for the 440,000 families living in rural Ireland have been well-documented and include more gardaí and more visibility of gardaí in the relevant areas.

Meanwhile, the appointment of Colin Connolly is one of the body’s own initiatives as it attempts to be pro-active on the issue which has caused much worry in recent years.

Others include a community text scheme; a €10,000 reward for information leading to results on cattle theft; looking at CCTV in local villages; and the Theft Stop programme.

“To think that people would be coming into your property and maybe your home, in the dead of night, invading your sanctuary and taking your goods is a creepy feeling and a horrible feeling and an insult.”

The words of farmer Philip Kinane from Horse and Jockey, Co Tipperary, whose mixed farm hasn’t been the subject of the sort of theft plaguing the Irish countryside “yet,” he says with a wry smile, not wishing to tempt fate, but who has come across many, many families left shocked and insecure after being robbed.

“I’m very involved in IFA, and was actually a county chairman for four years in north Tipperary, and would have been contacted on several occasions by traumatised people the morning after who would have been victims the night before,” he says.

“I’ve seen the state of the people, as much as the state of their farms,” he says.

The pain, indignity and insecurity caused by such criminality makes anything that can prevent it happening worthwhile, Philip says, speaking as someone involved in introducing the Theft Stop initiative to Co Tipperary after its first run in Co Donegal.

“Up there it was even more complicated because of a massive amount of problems along the border, so the PSNI and the gardaí got together. Down here, the IFA and the Garda Síochána got involved on a joint basis,” he says.

Many meetings were held involving the interested parties to get the project off the ground and, with over 3,400 farmers already registered, it’s only going in one direction.

“We found in Donegal that once you get to a critical mass of people involved then it gets quicker and quicker,” he says.

More in this section