A rural community in East Galway is in a state of “insecurity and fear” after a spate of crimes in the area, including an assault on the local priest.
Fohenagh parish priest Fr Christy McCormack was assaulted after midnight on Monday morning when he disturbed two men in the process of committing a robbery at Fohenagh Parochial House.
Fr McCormack was struck on the left side of his face by one of two males who were attempting a robbery at the premises.
While he was not seriously injured in the incident, he said it was important for rural communities to remain vigilant.
“There’s no house, no business, no premises that’s eliminated from the potential of [thieves] going in and getting what they want or what they’re looking for,” he said.
This incident comes just days after oil was stolen from the Fohenagh Parochial House oil tank. Fr McCormack said he had purchased a quantity of oil on 13 December, yet found the tank empty on New Year’s Day.
Then, just hours after the assault on Fr McCormack, another crime in the area became apparent, this time at Fohenagh National School.
On Monday morning, 34 students had to be sent home from the primary school on their first day back after the Christmas holidays when it was discovered that the school’s oil supply had been raided over the Christmas period.
Principal Anne Burke said the school had only purchased €700 worth of oil on 29 November, and, owing to the milder weather, the heating had not been left on over the holidays. She turned on the school’s heating on Sunday night and was shocked to find the building cold and the tank empty on Monday morning.
Due to the fact that the heat had been off and the school was cold, the school made the decision to send the pupils home for the day.
“We wouldn’t take the decision lightly to send the children home,” explained Principal Anne Burke, who said the school had suffered another minor break-in in December.
Reacting to the spate of crimes in the area, local County Councillor Tomás Mannion said such incidents were “becoming too common a part of rural life”.
“When we hear of rural Garda stations being closed, it sends out a message to all those guys that ‘you’re free to roam’ and the price to be paid for that is the insecurity and fear,” he said.
Cllr Mannion said there was “absolutely no respect” for anybody of any station in life shown by these individuals.