Roscrea Siege Comes to Peaceful End

Irish Emigrant [Ireland]
August 27, 2006

Much of the centre of the Co. Tipperary town of Roscrea was a no-go area for about 29 hours as gardai maintained a vigil outside the house of a man who had threatened to cause an explosion. Gardai were called to the house in Rosemary Street at around 1:30pm on Wednesday but quickly retreated, saying they did not have the capability to deal with the situation. At the time it was reported that the man had doused himself with petrol and threatened to set himself alight. He was also said to have rigged up an explosive device made from a number of gas cylinders. Surrounding roads were quickly cordoned off by fire engines, garda vehicles and an ambulance, local businesses were ordered to close their premises, residents in the immediate vicinity were evacuated, specialist garda negotiators were flown in from Dublin and the army bomb disposal team was placed on standby.

Initially we were told that the man who was suddenly the focus of the nation had "personal issues" which garda negotiators were trying to help resolve. The media soon identified the occupant of the rented house as Jim Hourigan, a separated father of three in his mid 50s who was originally from Limerick but who had been living in Roscrea for a number of years. The Irish Examiner reported that on the day before the siege started he had been arrested by gardai and brought to Limerick for questioning about an alleged threat to a solicitor.

The centre of the town remained closed for much of Thursday with about 40 people refused access to their homes. The first sign that something might be happening came shortly after 3:00pm when gardai announced plans to hold a press briefing at 4:00pm and that this would involve Mr Hourigan's recently appointed Dublin-based solicitor Joe Burke. At that briefing Mr Burke confirmed that his client had become frustrated at the slow pace of his claim for compensation for the sexual abuse he suffered while training to be a Christian Brother. His abuser, it was claimed, had been convicted and given a prison sentence.

Mr Hourigan's grievances were recounted on the evening news bulletins, obviously to his satisfaction as at 6:35pm he voluntarily left his home on Rosemary Street. When he emerged he had his dog on a lead and was accompanied by a plain-clothes garda officer for the short walk to the local garda station. There the retired electrician was provided with medical support. It is not clear what charges, if any, will be brought against him.

With the house vacant the Army bomb disposal team checked it out to make sure that it was safe to lift the cordon which had brought the area to a standstill the previous afternoon. When it was all over Minister for Justice Michael McDowell expressed satisfaction with the manner in which An Garda Siochana had brought the matter to a peaceful conclusion. Not so grateful were the 40 or so neighbours of Mr Hourigan who had been barred from their homes for more than a day. Some had heckled gardai and solicitor Joe Burke at Thursday afternoon's press conference and it is probably inadvisable for Mr Hourigan to return to live in the area. Some of those affected were able to move in with relatives but a number of eastern European immigrants had to be accommodated in a local convent.

Jimmy Woulfe of the Irish Examiner seemed to have a long telephone conversation with Mr Hourigan just before the end of the siege. This revealed that he had left school in Adare at the age of 13 to train as a Christian Brother. He blamed the subsequent abuse for ruining his life by driving him to alcoholism, which in turn led to the collapse of his business and the break up of his marriage. What seems to have triggered his action on Wednesday was the deteriorating relationship with his former solicitor in Limerick who had just presented him with a large bill for legal services.

A copycat standoff in Portlaoise on Friday didn't prove quite as successful for Peter Murray (49). He did manage to inconvenience his neighbours for some eight hours after telling a local newspaper that he had gas cylinders and bottles of petrol in his home. A local priest eventually persuaded Mr Murray to leave the house without the world ever hearing of his problems.


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