By Patsy McArdle
A wave of cattle rustling along the Monaghan/Armagh border took a dramatic twist at the weekend when several roadside buildings — including a country pub — had their walls daubed with an alleged New Year’s Thieves’ List.
Gardaí are investigating the daubing, believed to have been carried out by vigilantes and purporting to name individuals allegedly linked to the widespread theft of cattle on both sides of the border.
While efforts were made to remove the daubing from some premises with a ‘paint-over’, the markings were still visible yesterday, on several buildings close to the border in counties Monaghan and Armagh.
Meanwhile, gardaí questioned a number of men in the north Monaghan area last week in relation to their ongoing inquiries into the disappearance of livestock herds from farms in the Republic.
Herd owners, who suffered losses in recent weeks as a result of cattle snatches, included a Monaghan Fianna Fáil councillor and auctioneer, John O’Brien.
He had 21 cattle stolen from a roadside shed at Corwillan, near Ballybay,
Mr O’Brien’s 70-year-old father, former Fianna Fáil senator Francie O’Brien, is currently serving a two-year sentence for attempted extortion.
He was sentenced last year and two others charged over the same incident are facing trial in the Circuit Criminal Court later this month.
The Irish Farmers’ Association in Co Monaghan has appealed to all herd owners to step up security at their farms to thwart further livestock losses to cross-border cattle rustling gangs.
Gardaí have reiterated a similar appeal for improved security at roadside farms.
Yesterday, a rural community spokesman in Monaghan, who asked not to be named, said: “Feeling is very high along the border over the rustling of the cattle.
“The daubing of these buildings in recent days is an indication of how serious the issue has become.
“A very serious aspect is that innocent people may be named as a result of false rumours and this is wholly unacceptable.
“Some of the daubing has carried death threats and we sincerely hope those responsible for the rustling are brought to book by the authorities soon, before the situation escalates further, or gets out of hand,” the spokesman said.
It was estimated yesterday that the value of cattle stolen from border farms in recent months has now exceeded €100,000.