‘Landowners deserve to feel safe at work and in their homes’

An emergency meeting to discuss rural crime attended by resident's groups, IFA branches, hunting and coursing groups took place in St Mary’s GAA Hall, Donore last week, following recent incidents including burglary, trespassing and illegal hunting.

The meeting heard that by head of population, Co Meath has the lowest number of gardai in Ireland, but a great motorway network, which allows criminals to enter and leave the county with ease.

"We demand an end to rural crime. Landowners deserve to feel safe at work and in their homes,” Cllr Paddy Meade told the meeting.

The meeting was chaired by Andrew Dillon and was addressed by Cllr Paddy Meade, local farmer Gerry Lynch, newly appointed Meath Garda Inspector, Alan Roughneen, newly appointed Meath Crime Prevention Officer, Seargent Patrick T Smyth, IFA National Crime Prevention Chairman, Barry Carey and IFA Regional Officer, Aidan Brady.

It was made clear that those in attendance welcomed hunting and coursing, where farmers consented to the land use, but there was a small criminal element which appeared at such gatherings and who gave them a bad name.

"Illegal lurching appears to be happening on the same day or days before robberies in some areas," Cllr Meade pointed out.

A key message coming out of the meeting was that rural dwellers had to get into the habit of calling 999 or 112 when they see something suspicious and to no longer call Navan or their local Garda station.

Many farmers expressed frustration at feeling the law was more on the criminals' side. There was an exchange of ideas about how best to approach trespassers on one's land, however the first step should be to call 999.

Cllr Meade said Gardai should analyse the “hot spots” in the county where unauthorised hare coursing was occurring often at the same times on the same day, week after week and that this information could perhaps lead to arrests.

It was agreed there would be organised lobbying of politicians to make rural crime a priority and to highlight the need for more gardai in Co Meath.

A meeting will now to be sought with Minister of Justice, Helen McEntee, to discuss the meetings’ findings. A report of the meeting will be sent to the Meath Joint Policing Committee with a request for them to look at issue.

An offer was extended by the coursing club to remove and relocate hares off lands where farmers currently been intimidated.