Irish minister held at gunpoint in robbery

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The Independent Online

An Irish government minister was held at gunpoint by three men wearing balaclavas during a robbery at a luxury hotel south of Dublin yesterday.

Dick Roche, the minister for European Affairs, was among nine people, seven of them staff, who were briefly held captive by a gang who escaped with about €20,000 (£18,000) in cash.

Although he is a long-time politician and a familiar face on Irish television, he said he thought he was not recognised by the thieves, at least one of whom was armed with a sawn-off shotgun. The incident took place at the Druids Glen Marriott hotel in CoWicklow, not far from Dublin, beginning around 9.30am.

Mr Roche has been a member of the Irish parliament for more than 20 years. He was caught up in the robbery as he was leaving the hotel.

He was with his official driver at the time, according to his spokesman, who added: "Mr Roche was returning from a daily swim at the hotel's pool when he was approached from behind and had a gun shoved into his back. He was forced into a room with his driver and other staff members. Obviously he is shaken by the incident but is currently helping the police with their inquiries."

Since the area is not known for republican paramilitary activity it is not considered likely that there was any terrorist involvement in the incident, which appears to have been solely aimed at seizing cash.

Police said Mr Roche and another person were confronted by three armed persons wearing balaclavas and, together with staff, were brought to the hotel manager's office where cash was taken.

They were then taken to a basement "strong room" where more money was taken before the gang escaped in a Volvo car. Police said no shots were fired and no one suffered injuries, but added that it was "a very traumatic event".

Mr Roche, who is 61, described his experience as "fairly threatening" and "not pleasant".