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Locals 'still in shock' after 'vicious' assault on Sligo man (73) during burglary

Thomas Niland is in a critical condition and on life support after receiving serious head and upper body injuries on 18 January.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

A SLIGO COUNCILLOR has said that locals are still in shock following the “vicious” assault of 73-year-old Thomas Niland during an aggravated burglary.

Thomas is in a critical condition and on life support after receiving serious head and upper body injuries on Tuesday 18 January.

At around 7pm, three masked men forced their way into his home on the N59, Skreen, Sligo.

Thomas answered a knock to his front door and gardaí said he was “immediately and viciously” assaulted. A small sum of money was also stolen.

Thomas managed to alert passing motorists and gardaí were alerted to the scene by his neighbours. He was transferred to Sligo University Hospital where his condition has deteriorated significantly, gardaí said. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, local councillor Michael Clarke said: “I’ve known Tom all my life. He is an absolute gentleman, a friend, and we’re all in shock.”

He said Thomas had a small farm and was an active member of the Irish Farmers Association. He said he “worked very hard” up until his retirement.

“He was there all his life to support people and help people and he was a very healthy, retired gentleman. He had a nice car and he had a nice life and his house was kept immaculate and, you know, he had a long active life,” he said.

“He was in no way vulnerable and we were never concerned about his health because he was such a strong man and such fine man and for this to happen is terrible at this stage.”

Clarke said he’s been “inundated with phone calls” from senior citizens in his constituency who are concerned for their own safety following the attack.

“We had about 14 break-ins in the previous two months, with a lady in Belcarra that was out of her house. When she returned, three men were running from her house after robbing the house and she’s in shock and she has to deal with the emotions of that for the for the rest of her life. This is a terrible crime,” he said.

Clarke said that the Government need to put proper deterrents in place in order to curb this type of crime. 

“We have to send a message to our senior citizens that we hear them, we are concerned for them and we’re thinking about them now at this time,” he said.

Around 50 people gathered at a vigil for Thomas on Saturday in the local parish church in Corballa, Sligo. 

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“We’re still hopeful and the power of prayer might help Tom at this time,” Clarke said.

Gardaí are appealing to anyone who was driving along the N59 (Sligo/ Ballina Road), in the Skreen area, on Tuesday 18 January between 4pm and 8pm, who may have dashcam or any other video footage to contact investigating gardaí.

They are also appealing for information from anyone about people or vehicles that drew their attention in the wider N59 Skreen locality.

Speaking yesterday, Superintendent Mandy Gaynor, Sligo Garda Station, said: “Thomas Niland and his family deserve to have these criminals who carried out this heartless act brought to Justice.

“If you have any information on this callous and cowardly crime please contact Sligo Garda Station on 071 915 7000, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111 or any Garda station.”

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Jane Moore

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