Gardaí raid gang using paving business to target the elderly
A number of Toyota Hilux and Land Cruiser jeeps were seized as part of a raid by the Criminal Assets Bureau on a organised crime gang based in Cork.

Gardaí have seized 10 vehicles including jeeps from a gang in Cork who used various paving, gardening and landscaping businesses to target elderly persons and deceive them of money.

Officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) and other Garda divisions carried out 11 searches in total on Wednesday morning, 17 April. Seven residential premises, one plot of land, and three professional premises (solicitors and accountants), all in Co Cork were raided.

Among the 10 seized vehicles were a 181 Toyota Hilux, 2015 a Toyota Hilux (UK registration), a 191 Toyota Land Cruiser, a 181 Ford Focus Sport, a 191 Ford Focus, a 172 Ford Transit pick-up and a 162 Kia.

Four Rolex watches and cash to the value of €31,500 were also seized.

Cash to the value of €31,500 was seized during the raids. \ Garda Siochana Facebook

Extortion

The CAB investigation centres on an organised crime gang made up of members of an extended family. According to Gardaí, they are involved in fraud, theft, deception, extortion, burglaries and the sale and supply of controlled drugs.

In a statement Gardaí said: “This organised crime gang use various paving, gardening and landscaping businesses to target elderly and vulnerable persons to deceive them of money.

“They use intimidation to instil fear into their victims and charge exorbitant rates for substandard work.”

Gardaí suspect the gang of extorting large sums of cash from elderly and vulnerable persons for unnecessary work before engaging in theft and burglary in the areas where they carry out work.

Major development

Detective chief superintendent Pat Clavin said the search operation was a significant development in the CAB investigation and was viewed as a major disruption to the activities of the gang.

Gardaí from the Cork city Garda division, the Garda emergency response unit (ERU), the southern region armed support unit, the Garda stolen motor vehicle investigation unit, the Garda mounted unit, the Garda dog unit and the Revenue customs dog units were all part of the raid.

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Shed and hills on fire as dry conditions heighten risk
A series of blazes has hit agricultural land and buildings and a status orange warning remains in place.

Fire brigades from Carrickmacross and Castleblayney attended a hay barn fire on Saturday night in Co Monaghan.

Meanwhile, crews in counties Dublin and Wicklow battled several gorse fires in the hills along the border between the two counties in the past two days.

Wicklow Fire Service reported gorse fires at Clogga, near Roundstone on Friday, and at Ballyfolan in the Kippure valley on Saturday.

Dublin Fire Brigade tackled a number of brush fires along the southern edge of the city, including a gorse wildfire near the Hellfire club on Saturday.

These incidents follow a large gorse fire in Annagry, Co Donegal on Friday, which destroyed two houses in the area.

Firefighters have urged members of the public to be vigilant when out in the countryside this Easter weekend as dry, warm weather conditions continue to pose a fire risk. The Department of Agriculture has issued a status orange forest fire warning valid until Tuesday.

"Most recent fire incidents appear to have taken place on lands associated with turf cutting, but additional risks may also exist on areas commonly used for public recreation," the Department warned.

Controlled burning of vegetation on agricultural land is not permitted until 31 August.

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Casey calls for increased CAP budget
Additional requirements on farmers and inflation should be covered by EU payments, while a Brexit package should include targeted producer support, candidate for MEP Peter Casey has said.

Independent European election candidate Peter Casey has said he would fight for a larger budget for the next CAP if he is elected MEP next month.

“The CAP budget must be increased to account for inflation and to compensate our farmers for any additional requirements imposed on them by the newly reformed policy,” Casey said in a statement this Sunday.

Outgoing MEPs on both the agriculture and budget committees have already passed motions in favour of an increased CAP budget after 2020. The level of funding now depends on contributions agreed by national governments in all EU member states.

Brexit package

The Midlands North-West candidate has also called for direct aid in case of a hard Brexit including emergency EU market disturbance supports, targeted direct producer payments, long-term structural adjustment support and the setting-aside of State aid limits.

“Should we find ourselves in a no-deal Brexit situation, there must be provision for an immediate EU aid package to support our farmers and safeguard the presence of their produce on UK shelves. It is also important that any EU aid takes account for currency devaluations arising from a weakened pound,” Casey said.

He will be among candidates taking part in the first of a series of husting organised by the IFA on Wednesday in Claremorris, Co Mayo.

Click here for a list of all other candidates in the European election.

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Continued rise in non-fatal accidents involving livestock
Due to the majority of farmers being self-employed or sole traders, there is widespread under-reporting of serious non-fatal accidents on farms.

There has been a steady rise in the number of non-fatal accidents involving livestock over the last 20 years, according to figures from the annual Teagasc National Farm Survey.

In 1996, livestock were involved in 23% of all non-fatal accidents.

The latest figures show livestock now accounts for 43% of all such accidents.

Rise in accidents

Minister of State for Trade, Business and Employment Pat Breen said the rise in accidents relating to livestock was largely in line with expansion in the agriculture sector and the significant increases in dairy and beef numbers.

Responding to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy, the minister said work was continuing with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to encourage safe livestock management.

Under-reporting

Figures would indicate there is widespread under-reporting of non-fatal accidents involving livestock.

On average, 100 non-fatal accidents in the agriculture sector are reported to the HSA annually.

In comparison, figures from the annual farm survey indicate there are between 2,500 and 3,000 serious non-fatal accidents on farms each year.

Minister Breen said the sector was predominantly made up of self-employed and sole traders, who “unfortunately do not always report their accidents or injuries to the HSA”.

It is a requirement for all workplaces, regardless of size, enterprise or sector, to report accidents which result in an absence and the prevention of an employee from performing their normal work for more than three consecutive days.

Fatal accidents

When it comes to fatal accidents, livestock account for 16% of all deaths in the agriculture sector.

In 2018, five people were killed following incidents with livestock.

Cows and heifers are by far the most dangerous category of livestock.

They were involved in over half of fatal accidents, which mainly occurred during the calving period.

Bulls represent 15% of livestock deaths, while horses account for a further 10%.

Previous HSA inspection campaigns indicate that livestock handling facilities are generally good, with the risks of injury arising when handling facilities are either not used or not used properly.

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