Minister McEntee urged to action on ‘organised gangs’ trespassing farmland

Pat McCormack, ICMSA President. (Picture: Don Moloney)

Farm organisation ICMSA has asked the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, to request the Gardai to look harder at the growing countrywide problem of gangs trespassing farmland on the pretext of hunting and the levels of intimidation and threat associated with this activity

At a recent online meeting with the Minister, ICMSA President, Pat McCormack, said that the farm organisation has been deluged with complaints and reports regarding encounters between farmers and gangs trespassing on farms ostensibly for the purposes of hunting with dogs.

Mr McCormack said that the scale and intensity of these encounters is now rising rapidly, and he had told Minister McEntee that, frankly, it was only a matter of time before one of these confrontations ended in serious injury – or worse – for one or more of the parties involved.

“What we are hearing time and again from the farmers is that these groups will not leave lands even after it has been pointed out that they are trespassing and have no permission. Nor do they seem bothered by the prospect of the Gardai being called. They just seem to think they are above the law and actually revel in that belief – they have posted footage on social media platforms in which they can be seen and heard openly threatening with violence the farmers asking them to leave the farm. That’s the reality now and it’s an everyday reality in very many places around our cities and towns,” said Mr McCormack.

Mr McCormack said that ICMSA was convinced that one effective way of dealing with these groups might lie in a more rigorous enforcement of the laws around driving and vehicles.

“We know again that so many of the individuals involved have multiple driving bans and that they will often be travelling in vehicles – often vans – with no sign of road tax, insurance, or NCT. Where that is the case, then we want the Gardai to confiscate these vans and take them away from the individuals using them. There’s no point whatsoever in issuing summons to these people; they have as little regard for a summons to court as they have for the legislation around trespass or making threats,” he continued.

“There must be some way of practically hindering their ability to go where they want and do what they want on someone else’s property and ICMSA is of the opinion that there is a ‘Transport Option’ here. We urged Minister McEntee to look at serious and immediate enforcement of the laws around licences, NCT and road tax as a first step. It’s time to put a halt to the gallop and a concerted focus is needed now through a campaign of an increased Garda attention and action. It may be that legislation could be updated but perhaps stricter enforcement of existing laws is the short-term solution while more permanent options are looked at.”

Mr McCormack said that ICMSA welcomed the Minister’s proposal to bring together the relevant state departments and agencies along with farm organisations. “The State has to bring the focus and determination to uphold the Law if tragedy is to be avoided.”