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Thursday 24 January 2019

Cattle-smuggling gang linked to vigilante attack

Local criminals joined forces with dissidents, gardai believe

Burnt out vans at the property near Strokestown
Burnt out vans at the property near Strokestown

The vigilante gang that stormed the Roscommon farm at the centre of a controversial eviction may have been helped by local criminals.

Between 20 and 30 men attacked eight security guards at the farm in Falsk, near Strokestown, early on Sunday morning.

A guard dog injured in the brutal attack had to be put down, while several vehicles were burnt out.

The security workers were stationed at the property after the eviction of three people last Thursday.

It has now emerged that the vigilante mob - made up of some dissident republicans - was also joined by well-known criminals, gardai believe.

Republican elements may have "exploited" the anger surrounding the eviction and became involved in Sunday's violence.

Officers believe their involvement may have been "sanctioned" by local crime groups heavily involved in cattle smuggling.

"Dissidents from the North and Dublin are suspected of involvement," said a source.

"They reached a deal with local crime groups allowing them to carry out the attacks on their turf.

"In exchange, gardai now fear these cattle smugglers will be allowed to target farmers in republican strong-holds for a small tax.

"Those cheering on the actions on Sunday could well find themselves the victims of these criminals in the new year."

Notorious

These criminals include a CAB target who is originally from Sligo, as well as a notorious crime family operating in north Roscommon.

Anti-eviction groups are also believed to have been involved in the storming of the property.

It is understood that the men gathered on Saturday evening before heading to the Falsk property.

An incident room has been established by gardai to investigate the violent incident, which left three of the eight security workers hospitalised.

Gardai are also probing the eviction at the same property last Thursday where two minor assaults were reported.

It is understood a former garda and a 60-year-old man were assaulted during the eviction.

The farmer whose home was at the centre of the repossession, Anthony McGann, is not suspected of having any involvement in the violence.

Donal Hanley, a family friend, confirmed that two members of the McGann family have moved back into the house.

"They're asking to be left alone and in peace," said Mr Hanley.

"They're seriously traumatised by what happened. This family have been thrust into the media spotlight. They're not used to this.

"The family don't condone violence in any shape or manner whatsoever."

Anthony McGann has financial difficulties which stretch back almost a decade and include a more than €400,000 settlement secured by the Revenue Commissioners against him in 2015 for the under-declaration of VAT.

Land Registry records for the Falsk property also show that more than €18,000 was secured in a judgment in December 2008, which was subsequently registered against his property.

That judgment was obtained by a local company which operated a quarry at the time.

In 2015, the Revenue Commissioners secured a settlement of €429,500 against the evicted man as a tax defaulter for the under-declaration of VAT.

This included €177,000 in tax owed, almost €75,000 in interest, and more than €177,000 in penalties.

Most recently, in January this year, a judgment mortgage was secured against the Mr McGann in the Midland Circuit Court by Cabot Asset Purchases (Ireland). That judgment was registered against his property in February this year.

In 2004, Mr McGann secured a mortgage from IIB Homeloans, the Belgian-owned lender that rebranded as KBC in 2009.

In 2017, it emerged that KBC Bank Ireland sold a chunk of loans to credit-servicing and debt-collection firm Cabot Financial Ireland, a unit of the US-based Cabot group.

Condemned

Yesterday, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan condemned Sunday's violence and said vigilantism "cannot and will not be tolerated in this State".

The minister said a garda investigation is under way and it is important that this can take its course.

"While I do not wish to comment on any individual case, I wish to stress that violence is never justified," he added.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also "condemned unreservedly" what he described as a "very highly organised, highly violent vigilante attack" in Roscommon.

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