Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Martin Kenny TD has called on the Garda Commissioner to establish a specialised Garda operation to target illegal loan sharks operating in communities across the state.
This follows a significant increase in unofficial reports of assaults and aggravated burglaries occurring as a result of families falling victim to unregulated illegal loan shark groups within their communities.
Teachta Kenny said:
“There has been a notable increase in anecdotal reports of aggravated assaults and property damage as part of the campaigns of terror being waged on communities by these money-lending gangs.
“Communities are afraid to make official reports to Gardaí for fear of the consequences.
“I learned of one incident last week where an elderly lady was followed home after visiting a social welfare office, and had the money she had with her to pay bills taken from by a member of this gang.
“This lady was quite lucky not to have been assaulted at that time but she is deeply concerned that the gang will come back for the next repayment.
“Pay-day money-lenders such as Provident have ceased trading, which was welcomed at the time.
“However, we now have a situation where the cost of living has vastly increased and families are struggling, so they have turned to illegal money-lenders. These lenders are often members of local criminal gangs.
“When people are unable to meet the extortionate interest and repayment costs, they are then threatened or their property is damaged. In some circumstances, these people are being intimidated and assaulted.
“I have written to the Garda Commissioner today to make him aware of the ongoing situation, and I have asked him to put a targeted Garda team in place to tackle the activities of these criminals who are a blight on communities.
“Due to the fear these gangs instil in their victims and the fear they have of reporting the crime, a specialised approach will be required.
“People are in such dire financial straits that they perceive these money-lenders are their only avenue to make ends meet. This vulnerability is being fed upon by criminals across the country and it cannot be allowed to continue.”