GARDAI are being posted at parochial houses to prevent burglaries while priests are celebrating Mass.
The measure was implemented by senior officers after a spate of break-ins at the houses when they were unoccupied.
Saturday the Irish Independent disclosed that nine parochial houses
were targeted in counties Tipperary and Limerick. Burglars forced their
way into the homes over a six-week period.
But the deployment of the gardai appears to have deterred the gangs since then.
have also appealed to the local communities to be on the alert during
Mass times and notify them if they spot strangers acting suspiciously.
believe more than one gang is involved in the crime spree. An outfit
based in Limerick city is thought to be responsible for a number of the
And detectives are also
looking at the activities of travelling gangs and a group of eastern
Europeans, who have been involved in breaking into premises in the
One officer explained: "A general reduction in the
number of priests around the country has meant that many are doubling up
in parishes and have to celebrate, maybe, three Masses on Saturday
evening, as well as their Sunday duties.
"There is no longer
full-time housekeepers with the result that parochial houses are empty
while priests are in the churches. But since the new measures were put
into place, the criminals have not shown their faces," he added.
A number of suspects have been questioned, but so far there have been no prosecutions.
houses in Boherlahan, Ballingarry, Bansha, Holycross, Lattin, Drangan
and three in Cashel have all been targeted by the burglars, who have
broken into priests' cars as well.
The break-ins prompted
authorities in the Cashel and Emly diocese to instruct up to 80 priests
in 46 parishes across Tipperary and Limerick to take extra security