An Inishowen councillors believes a “well orchestrated” criminal gang are operating in Donegal after 72 lambs were stolen from two farms in Bridgend last week.
Cllr Rena Donaghey has condemned in the strongest possible terms the stealing of sheep from two separate farmers on Thursday night Friday morning last and said there was a substantial reward for their safe return.
The Buncrana Councillor, whose nephew was one of the farmers who had lambs stolen, said the thieves timed the robberies well.
“The robberies took place on Thursday night or Friday morning last which was the time of Ireland’s football game against Spain. At that time there would have been very little traffic on the road and a number of roads were blocked because of the upcoming Donegal rally.
“I have no doubt there was local knowledge used to steal these lambs. The people whose farms were robbed have been unable to sleep since with worry,” she said.
Cllr Donaghey says stealing sheep has been happening in Donegal for around two years now but on a smaller scale.
“Obviously a criminal gang are operating in Donegal and it is a well orchestrated activity. This is the biggest intrusion and threat of sheep stealing so far. Farmers are left in a very concerned and worried state.
“It’s not only the financial loss, this criminal activity is a major intrusion into the fabric and culture of farming. Farming can only operate on trust. The farming community has always operated on trust. Thankfully there is a very supportive network amongst the farming community which will continue.”
Colr. Donaghey said the farms targeted in Bridgend and Birdstown belong to young farmers who are “just starting out”. She said one is married with a young family to support.
The Buncrana woman said she wished to thank the gardaí for their support and assistance to date and she said this further emphasises the need for more gardaí numbers in all areas not a reduction.
Following the news of the sheep theft, Donegal TD Joe McHugh asked the Minister for Agriculture and Marine Simon Coveney TD to formally collaborate with Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to combat livestock theft.
He says the “spate of sheep rustling” incidents are causing major concern for Inishowen farmers.
As well as the two incidents in Bridgend area, factory lambs sold priced at 104 euro each were recently stolen in Carndonagh.
“Last weekend’s incidents amount to the thefts of €7,500 euro worth of stock. This is a very serious blow to the farmers concerned.
“I have asked Minister for Agriculture and Marine Simon Coveney TD to put in place a comprehensive plan for dealing with sheep swindling in the Border region, and to do so in collaboration with the North’s Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. A cross-border approach is necessary for tackling this problem.”
Deputy McHugh says he understands a full scale investigation by An Garda Síochána is now underway but he feels a a full-scale operation in cooperation with the PSNI may be helpful for dealing with this problem.
He added: “I have also been in contact with senior officials within the Animal Movement section of the Department of Agriculture and Marine about this issue. The agricultural community is close-knit, which is a useful tool for farmers in combating theft of stock.”
Malcolm Thompson, chairman of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association, told the Shaun Doherty Show on Highland Radio that he is outraged by the thefts.
He said those responsible are not amateur thieves but they knew exactly what they were doing to round up and steal the lambs.
It is believed a reward of 3000 euro is being offered for information leading to the recovery of the lambs.