The brazen robbery of two ATMs from the centre of Kells overnight will have a devastating effect on the local community. That's according to local business people left stunned by the overnight incident that saw the cash machines ripped from the walls of the Bank of Ireland and AIB branches in John Street.
Gardaí were alerted to the incident that occurred this morning Friday 19th April at around 4.30am and immediately went to the scene on John Street in the Meath town.
There they found two ATMs had been pulled from the main wall of two banks branches in the town, with significant damage done to both premises in the process.
It's understood the ATMs were subsequently driven away on the back of a dark coloured crewcab jeep. The jeep left in the direction of the Maudlin Road, towards Carlanstown.
Gardaí are now appealing for any information in relation to this incident, and any persons who can assist with this investigation to contact Kells Garda Station on 046 - 9280820, the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.
Speaking at the scene today Superintendent Dermot O'Conner said "this crime was an organised planned attack on the community of Kells. This crime is not a victimless crime and will have a significant impact on the community of Kells and the local area over this Easter Bank Holiday weekend. I appeal to the local and wider community to support An Garda Síochána and to provide any information to bring these criminals to justice".
Along with the theft of an ATM from a store on Market Square in Bushmills, Co Antrim at the weekend, this morning's thefts brings into double figures the number of incidents both sides of the border since the start of the year.
Since January there were ATM thefts in Moira, Co Down; Antrim town where two machines were taken; Omagh and Dungannon in Co Tyrone; Newtownabbey in Co Antrim; Irvinestown in Co Fermanagh; Ahoghill, Co Antrim, Dungiven, Co Derry and now Bushmills.
Pic Courtesy: Paul O'Rourke taken at 5.33am
Auctioneer Hugh Morris' business is on the corner of John Street.
"It's a big, big shock, this is going to have a real dramatic effect on the businesses and people of Kells this weekend. This is a commuter belt town and services 8,000 people and for the two major banking institutions to be hit over this holiday weekend is just shocking. It's hard to believe that they would go in to a large town like this and do this. The last time we saw anything like this was when the three banks in the town were robbed in 1979 on the same day."
President of the Meath Chamber of Commerce, John Farrelly, said he was shocked by the robberies. "Everyone is stunned to think this could happen in this quiet town of ours and the effect it will have on the local businesses and community. This is about the 15th such incident involving ATMs there needs to be greater collaboration between the Gardai and PSNI. There'll be no business done on this street today but the wider concern is the the availabilty of the money for people using the machines and this type of weekend Kells would be as busy as any major town in the country so it's really devastating."
Cllr Sean Drew said the ATM robberies in Kells have serious implications and raise a number of questions that need to be answered.
"The inconvenience for people that utilized either of these two ATMs for their cash withdrawals will have a resulting negative impact on local businesses
"The individuals/organizations that are undertaking these robberies are criminals who need to be caught and jailed. What further criminal activities are being funded by these robberies?
"I have consistently raised my concerns on the lack of Garda numbers and resources in the Kells and general North Meath area. These crimes are likely to continue and increase until the Gardai in our area are properly resourced."
Towns in the South of but close to the the Border targetted include Kingscourt, Co Cavan; and Ballybay and Castleblayney, Co Monaghan.
There were no recorded incidents in the five years between 2012 and 2017, however there were attempted robberies of the same type reported in Co. Wicklow in May 2011, and in Co. Carlow in 2010.
The Minister for Justice Charles Flanagan has acknowledged the impact that these crimes are having on both businesses and communities.
Its understood there is already strong ongoing co-operation between the Gardaí and the PSNI, and both An Garda Síochána and the PSNI are conducting investigations into the robberies.
“I can assure the Deputies that Gardaí continue to monitor all new and emerging crime trends in the State to ensure all resources are allocated in an effective manner and that the best possible police service is provided to the public,” Minister Flanagan said recently.
There will be a Garda briefing at the scene at 11am this morning.