Northern Ireland news

Former IRA bomber helps design digger-proof pod to stop ATM thefts

Sean McGlinchey at the digger-proof ATM pod at O'Kanes garage outside Dungiven. Picture by Mal McCann
Connla Young

A former IRA bomber has helped design a digger-proof concrete 'pod' in a bid to beat cash machine thieves.

Sinn Féin councillor Sean McGlinchey was part of a team that developed the design after a spate of attacks which saw ATMs ripped from shop fronts by criminal gangs.

Serious damage was caused to service stations and other buildings across the north as robbers used stolen plant equipment to lift cash machines onto waiting vehicles before escaping.

Mr McGlinchey, who works for Dungiven-based firm Ideal Form, helped come up with the idea of a standalone concrete unit designed to beat the digger thieves.

The super-strong pod includes a one-metre-deep base, two-and-a-half tonnes of heavy steel and 25 metres of specialised concrete.

One of the thief-proof pods has already been installed at a garage and shop targeted by thieves outside Dungiven earlier this year.

Extensive damage was caused when a gang used a digger to steal a cash machine from O’Kane’s Filling Station in the outskirts of the village in the early hours of April 7.

The scene of the ATM robbery at O'Kane's Filling Station on the outskirts of Dungiven in April this year. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

The digger was stolen from a nearby building site and driven to the site, where it smashed through a security gate and tore the ATM from a wall.

The cash machine was then lifted into a waiting car which had part of its roof cut off before the masked gang made their escape.

The raid took just four minutes and at the time was the eighth cash machine robbery across Northern Ireland during 2019.

Mr McGlinchey, who served 18 years in jail for his role in a car bomb that claimed six lives in Coleraine in 1973, said the pod idea came up when he visited the shop’s owner Martin O’Kane after the robbery.

The Sinn Féin representative on Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council said the businessman had considered not replacing the stolen ATM.

He said it is almost impossible to remove the new concrete structure.

“It’s standalone, not near the shop and is near impossible to take out,” he said.

“It would take someone a day and a half with an 80-tonne digger and a rock hammer.”

Mr McGlinchey said there have already been inquiries from other businesses interested in buying the new design.

Mr O’Kane praised the new design and Mr McGlinchey's assistance.

“Sean made a massive effort and was one of the many who came to clean up (after the robbery)," he said.

“He offered to rebuild it again.”

Mr O’Kane added that while the robbery had an impact on trade he is looking ahead.

“It was sore on my business but I am looking forward to the future now,” he said.

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