herald

Thursday 17 October 2019

Phones seized in raids targeting the ringleader of mob violence

- Dublin IRA thug suspected of organising eviction protest

- Detectives take documents and mobile phones in searches

Burnt-out vehicles at the farm in Strokestown after a mob stormed it
Burnt-out vehicles at the farm in Strokestown after a mob stormed it
A pickaxe handle lying in the mud
The house where the eviction took place

Two homes linked to a Dublin IRA member suspected of organising the mob violence in Strokestown last Sunday have been raided by gardai.

Officers attached to the Special Detective Unit (SDU), who investigate dissident-related crime, searched properties in the capital and Co Meath on Monday night as part of the investigation.

The Herald can reveal the criminal, aged in his 40s, is considered a member of the IRA and is well known to gardai.

Mobile phones and documents were seized, but the criminal was not arrested.

He has previous convictions for public order and road traffic offences and has also been investigated for domestic violence in the past.

He lives in Co Meath but is originally from the west side of the city.

Investigators are now probing whether this man organised a violent raid on eight security guards over the weekend after "exploiting" the anger in the Roscommon community.

Stormed

On December 11, farmer Anthony McGann and his siblings were evicted from a property in Falsk, Strokestown, by a security company as part of a repossession order imposed by the High Court.

Three men were hospitalised after between 20 and 30 masked men stormed the property early on Sunday armed with baseball bats.

A dog was killed and several vehicles were burnt out.

Four separate locations in north Roscommon have been searched as part of a subsequent investigation. They belong to local men linked to the violence.

During the searches a shotgun was recovered along with a lorry and a teleporter, which may have been used to transport the vigilantes and block off roadways with bales of hay.

Two men aged in their 50s and 60s were arrested and held under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act.

A senior source said the searches were initially meant to be evidence gathering.

"Tensions have been high and no arrests were initially planned. But when an illegal firearm was found, gardai had no choice but to bring these men in for questioning," the source said.

As well as the SDU, detectives from the National Bureau of Criminal investigation and other national units are involved in the garda investigation.

Investigators have been examining files on previous incidents of public disorder linked to housing occupation and eviction protests.

They are satisfied some of the attackers have criminal histories as well as involvement in public protests.

Body cameras worn by the security guards attacked at the Falsk property are also a primary subject of the investigation.

Dissidents

The Herald revealed this week how gardai were hunting dissidents as part of their investigation and suspected republicans from the North and Dublin were involved in the attack.

Chief Supt Tony Healy, who is in charge of the Longford/Roscommon garda division, said investigators were continuing to appeal for anyone with information to come forward.

He thanked the local community for their "continued support following recent events in Strokestown".

At this stage the matter is being investigated as criminal damage and assault, with the inquiry being led from an incident room in Castlerea Garda Station.

As well as the dissident links to the violence, gardai are probing if local criminals involved in cattle-smuggling may have helped the violent mob.

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

The family at the centre of the eviction - who had no involvement in Sunday's violence - returned to the property on Monday.

Republican groups have announced they intend to hold a protest at the property on Sunday afternoon, and gardai are preparing a policing response in the event that this takes place.

Gardai are also probing the initial eviction at the property on December 11 when two minor assaults were reported.

Sunday's violence has been condemned by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has been in regular contact with senior investigators and is being kept updated on developments.

Shocked

It emerged this week that there were no fewer than seven communications between the local sheriff or the sheriff's messenger and Anthony McGann over several months in the lead-up to the repossession.

Mr McGann (50) has a long history of financial difficulties and has been convicted of two counts of failing to file tax returns.

On Tuesday, the family issued a statement through their former neighbour, Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy, in which they said: "The forced eviction from our home has left our family shocked by unforeseen events that were thrust upon us."

The statement added that they wanted to "make clear we condemn all forms of violence and want to see the rule of law upheld".

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