More than 80 percent of Irish farmers say they should be allowed own a gun to protect themselves and their property.

The startling detail, revealed this week in a survey by the Irish Examiner and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) showed the extent of fear among rural communities, with crime on the rise and fewer Gardaí (police) on the beat. 

The survey coincided with details from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showing that violent thefts from the person rose by 2.6 percent to 1,663 in the year up to June 2013.

Although recorded crime fell in all other categories, prompting an expression of satisfaction by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan, the farmers polled said they either slightly agreed or strongly agreed they should be entitled to own a gun to protect their family and property.

A total of 63 percent said they strongly agreed with having the right to gun ownership.  Just four percent strongly disagreed with having the right to own a gun, with eight percent stating they slightly disagreed. 

The issue of gun ownership and the right to protect property hit the headlines in 2004 after traveller John “Frog” Ward was shot dead by Mayo farmer Padraig Nally.

During his trial, Nally became something of a cause celebre for homeowners, arguing for the right to use force in defence of your property.

He argued that he had acted in self-defence at all times. He was convicted of manslaughter in 2005, but was acquitted after a retrial in 2006.

The survey found the farming community overwhelmingly favors gun ownership for the protection of family and property. 

Of farmers who vote Sinn Fein, gun ownership got 100 percent support.

In the continuing battle against crime, Justice Minister Alan Shatter, commenting on the CSO figures, said a controversial new database of DNA samples from convicted criminals and suspects in serious crimes will allow Gardai to link crimes and identify suspects for unsolved crimes.

“The intelligence generated will substantially assist the Gardai (police) in the investigation of a wide range of crimes including many serious crimes such as homicide and sexual offenses,” Shatter said.

“It will also be of substantial help in the investigation of cold cases and will facilitate greater cooperation with other police forces across the European Union in tackling international crime and illegal cross border activities.”