A village garda was hit over the head with a shovel when he confronted a four-man gang attempting to hold up a rural post office yesterday.
Four people were held hostage overnight as the gang waited to steal money from the post office in Cloonfad, Co Roscommon. Armed with shovels and bars, the masked raiders forced their way into the house adjoining the premises around 11pm on Wednesday.
When they realised that former postmaster Padraig McCormick, who lived there, had retired and no longer had a key to the post office, they bundled him into a blue-grey Volkswagen.
The gang drove Mr McCormick to the home of current postmistress Geraldine Finnegan at Newtown Curragh, where she lives with her elderly parents.
They were kept there until around 2am while the raiders ransacked the house and robbed more than ?3,500.
The four were then taken to the post office, where they were held overnight as the gang waited to break into the safe when the timelock could be opened at 9am.
Ms Finnegan's brother Padraig discovered the abduction after 8am and contacted Garda Gerry McDonagh.
Padraig had gone to the house to check on the farm and noticed it was in disarray.
One car was gone and the keys to the other were in its back seat, said local man Francis Greene.
Gda McDonagh called to the post office and when the thugs saw him coming towards the premises they attacked him.
Gda McDonagh was struck on the head with a shovel and sustained a minor wound. The raiders then fled empty-handed in the hatchback car, which had an 06 Mayo registration plate.
Last night, gardai appealed to anybody who spotted the car or a group of men acting suspiciously in the Cloonfad area to contact them at Castlerea station on 094 9621630, or on the confidential line, 1800 666111.
After he was attacked by the robbers, Gda McDonagh managed to scramble to his feet and rammed their vehicle in his unmarked car as they tried to get away. But he was unable to follow them after the damaged engine of his car stalled.
Locals in the area said that Mr McCormick was targeted because of his friendliness.
"The door is always open at his house and everyone is always welcome, it's a traditional rural open house as we say," one local said.
Mr McCormick and Ms Finnegan were staying at the house of Padraig Finnegan following the incident.
Mr Finnegan told the Irish Independent the family was in shock and did not wish to talk.
It was the second attempted raid on An Post this week.
On Monday night, mails operations director Liam O'Sullivan was held up at his home near Kildare.
His wife, Mary, was taken hostage while Mr O'Sullivan was told to drive to work and collect ?100,000 in cash.
But the gang panicked as a special operation was put in place, abandoning the robbery.