Family of burglary attack victim say ‘there’s no real hope at the moment’

Family Of Burglary Attack Victim Say ‘There’s No Real Hope At The Moment’
The aggravated burglary in Skreen, Co Sligo on January 18th led to a wide-scale Garda investigation
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Vivienne Clarke

A cousin of Sligo pensioner Tom Niland, who remains on life support following an attack during a burglary at his home last month, has told of the sense of helplessness the family has experienced in the wake of the “frenzied attack.”

Michael Walsh thanked members of the public who had sent get well cards, Mass cards and holy medals to his cousin. Family members had been reading the cards to 73-year-old Mr Niland in the intensive care unit at Sligo University Hospital in the hope that it would be of comfort to him.


“I went to see him last night. There’s no change. There’s no real hope at the moment,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.

Mr Walsh said it was difficult to see a strong man like his cousin in such a condition. Mr Niland experienced damage to his eye socket, head injuries, “seven or eight broken ribs” and soft tissue damage. “It’s an absolute disgrace to see Tom like that,” he added.

Mr Walsh said his cousin had been a big physical man and it was frightening to see him so vulnerable.

He said he believed his cousin had survived the attack because of his strength, which had seen him drag himself out of the house to the road where he was able to tell people who stopped to assist him that he had been attacked by three men.


Masked gang

The retired farmer had been watching television alone at his home on the Sligo to Ballina road on the evening of January 18th when a gang of masked men called to his door at about 7pm.

The gang badly beat the bachelor, who farmed from his mid-teens until his retirement seven years ago, before robbing hundreds of euro in cash.

Mr Walsh said that it was “incredibly frustrating” that gardaí were precluded from using technology to locate Mr Niland’s mobile phone, which was also stolen during the violent robbery.

“It seems there is nothing they can do (because of European Court ruling). These people are predators on society,” he said of the attackers.


Mr Walsh said he could not understand how in the 21st century the gardaí were being prevented from using this technology unless there was a threat of terrorism.

Assaults and attacks on people such as had been experienced by his cousin was akin to committing terrorism on the people of the country, he said. “It was an attack on the people of the country.”


Mr Walsh said the family had not been aware that Mr Niland had a credit union account and did know if that was what prompted the robbery.

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He also expressed mixed feelings about the offering of a reward for information about the three intruders who robbed and beat Mr Niland.


“I would urge people to come forward any way,” he said. “Any information at all could be crucial.”

Later on during the same programme, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath offered his condolences to the family and said that gardaí would be given every resource to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The Government was robustly defending the case in Europe about the use of technology to access mobile phones, he added. “People have a right to feel safe in their own homes. I understand their frustration. We are working hard to ensure the best outcome.”

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