The people responsible for the double-ATM raid are thugs “with no regard for human life”, “a blight” and “a virus” according to Dundalk-based TDs Ruairí Ó Murchú and Peter Fitzpatrick, speaking today after the police in the north arrested three men and recovered the stolen machines.
Vehicles were set alight at the exits to Dundalk Garda Station to impede the exits of responding Gardai and after Armed Support Unit eventually intercepted the raiders, a chase ended up in the culprits crossing the border into south Armagh before the machines were recovered, intact, and arrests were made. A burn-out car, believed to one of the vehicles used in the raid, was found in the Bellurgan area of north-Louth this morning.
In a statement, Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú described the raid as an “attack on the community of Dundalk.”
“[It] that put the lives of frontline public servants in danger as they deal with the Covid-19 emergency. Organised criminals will use any situation to its advantage. We as a society cannot accept that,” he said.
“I spoke with a senior Garda earlier in the week, who believed certain criminal gangs would be under the illusion that they would be able to operate without detection, but that Gardaí were prepared for this. I had commended them for operations that had been carried out against drug gangs during this period. This is vital as there is much anecdotal evidence of an increase in drug debt intimidation as the recreational cocaine market takes a hit.”
The Deputy believes that criminal gangs hope to use the focus on the Covid-19 pandemic to create a vacuum in which to operate in. “Organised Criminal gangs are a blight and a virus that are with the community all the time,” Ó Murchú said.
“We are facing a life and death battle with Covid-19 and criminal gangs cannot be allowed to risk lives, profiteer, cause damage and disrupt the services busy dealing with this pandemic. I ask anyone with information to bring it to the Gardaí and PSNI.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick hit out at those responsible for the attack, saying it was now up to the justice system to ensure that feel the full force of the law.
“It is quite clear that these thugs will try to use any situation to carry out their criminal acts. The attack, which was carried out not more than 50 metres from my constituency office, represents an attack on the people of Dundalk,” Fitzpatrick said.
“During this time of unprecedented measures the last thing we needed was an attack of this sort. The very fact that they blocked the two entrances of the Garda Barracks with cars that were set alight only goes to prove that these thugs have no regard for human life.”
The Deputy, also paid tribute to the efforts of police forces both north and south of the border for their efforts this morning.
“I want to applaud the efforts of the Gardai and the PSNI in their successful efforts in making arrests and recovering the stolen ATM. These people are at the front line and we need to support them fully. I now expect that the full powers of the law can be brought to bear on the thugs that carried out this disgraceful act.”
This raid is the first of its kind in Louth since January when an attempt was made to raid the Bank of Ireland ATM on Main Street in Dunleer, for the second time in a matter of months. On that occasion Gardai, acting on intelligence, intercepted the raiders and gave chase prior to them crossing the border. Before that, an attempt was made to steal the ATM at the Ulster Bank on Irish Street in Ardee – just days before Christmas.