Saturday, January 12, 2013

Priest relives his ordeal after attack by oil thieves

Fr Christy McCormackA parish priest who was assaulted by raiders after he foiled an attempted theft of heating oil and copper from a church in East Galway has described his assailants as “cowards”.

Fr Christy McCormack, the Parish Priest of Fohenagh and Killure, was fortunate to escape serious injury after being punched in the face from behind by one of three robbers who were attempting to steal heating oil from Fohenagh Church in the early hours of Monday morning.

The attack has shocked the small community of Fohenagh, and Galway Gardaí have renewed their appeal to the public to be vigilant as roaming criminal gangs continue to stalk the countryside and prey on ‘easy targets’ in rural, remote areas.

It is the second raid on Fohenagh Church in a month; and oil heating thieves also struck Fohenagh National School over Christmas, which is a few hundred yards up the road.

Pupils there had to be sent home on Monday for health and safety reasons when they returned from the Christmas break to find that the home heating oil had been stolen. 

In all up to €900 worth of oil was taken from the church and school over Christmas.

This callous attack on a priest is the latest in a series of thefts of home heating oil in rural areas of the county; and another attack on Catholic churches in Ireland which, following thefts of sacristies in Limerick and Tipperary over the festive period, appear to be seen as ‘soft targets’ by gangs.

“We would appeal to people in rural areas to be vigilant and to report any suspicious or unusual activity to your local Garda station. We would urge people if possible to get the registration numbers of vehicles,” a Galway Garda spokesperson said.

It is the second attempt at stealing oil from Fohenagh church in the past month. 

On December 13, the church received delivery of a half-tank of oil but just two weeks later the tank was bled dry by thieves.

Fr McCormack then decided to move the tank to a more secure area within the church grounds.

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