By Ray Ryan
There has been a major surge in cattle rustling north and south of the border, according to new statistics.
Animals have been stolen from farms in all but two of the 32 counties over the past year, with Monaghan, Limerick, Mayo, and Meath topping the list for incidents in the Republic.
The statistics from the North show that District Veterinary Offices in Dungannon, Omagh, Newry, and Armagh had the highest numbers of cattle reported missing or stolen.
Wicklow and Wexford were the only two counties to have escaped the multi-million euro crime blitz.
Cattle-stealing incidents were once largely confined to the border counties, but have now spread across the country.
A total of 17 bovines were reported stolen in Kerry in the past two years, as well as five in Cork, 10 in Tipperary, and one in Waterford.
Raiders operate in fields beside remote country roads under the cover of darkness.
The extent of the activity in the 26 counties was reflected in figures given by Agriculture, Minister Simon Coveney in a written Dáil reply to Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin.
A total of 431 bovines were reported stolen in 2012 and in the 11 months up to Dec 5 this year, with Monaghan (61), Limerick (51), Mayo (43), and Mayo (38) and Laois (37) at the top of the list.
Mr Coveney said any incident involving stolen cattle should be reported to the gardaí, as they have primary responsibility for investigating such matters.
Where necessary, his department through its Special Investigation Unit will assist gardaí. This could involve liaison with cross-border colleagues. More....