€1,000 raised for children in warzones stolen in church raids

Money collected for destitute children in the Middle East was stolen by a professional criminal gang who removed a safe from a Limerick church.

€1,000 raised for children in warzones stolen in church raids

The gang carried out well-organised burglaries at St Paul’s Church in Dooradoyle and St Oliver Plunkett Church, two miles away in Mungret.

They were unable to access a safe in the Mungret church but, with the use of drilling equipment, removed the safe in St Paul’s, which contained up to €1,000 in Easter offerings from parishioners for children in the war-stricken Middle East.

Fr John Leonard, parish priest of St Paul’s, said: “It appeared those responsible were not amateurs. They came equipped with a variety of equipment.

“They removed a large pane of glass in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, adjoining the main church. The got in there and then managed to burst in a main door, which had double locks, into the sacristy. In there, they then had to use very powerful tools to get the safe out of where it was. The safe was embedded in concrete and screwed into the concrete.”

The gang made off with cash in the safe, which included money collected for the welfare of children in war-torn areas.

During the raid, a phoneline entering the church was severed.

Gardaí believe a professional gang carried out the raid with the help of information from so-called spotters they use to target buildings.

The same gang is believed to have been involved in a raid on St Oliver Plunkett Church in Mungret, but their efforts to remove a safe from a wall failed and the gang left empty handed.

Curate, Fr Noel Murphy, a native of West Cork, who served for many years in Africa, said: “I never came across anything like this in the impoverished communities I lived in Africa. It is sickening and it makes me angry to think people could break into a church to take money which the good people of St Paul’s offered to help children in the Middle East.”

Councillor James Collins of Fianna Fáil said he was outraged at the attacks.

“I am very concerned at the amount of burglaries we’ve had in the Dooradoyle area and intend taking it up with the gardaí.

“Local residents have been on to me and there is serious concern at the spate of burglaries in recent months,” he said.

“The two attacks on the St Paul’s and St Oliver Plunkett churches has caused a lot of anger and outrage.”

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