People living in the countryside should be able to have guns for protection, according to Kerry South TD Michael Healy-Rae.

Firearms are very restricted in Ireland and are usually linked to pest control, game hunting, or sports. To be granted a license one has to be a member of a gun club or own land, Healy-Rae told the Irish Examiner.

However, he says it may be time to extend the gun licensing categories for personal protection of home and property as changes in rural Ireland leave large tracts of the country without a Garda station and communities now have to police themselves against aggressive and armed criminals. There have been several high profile attacks in recent tmonths on isolated communities.

“I am speaking solely in the context of rural Ireland, which is very different to urban areas,” said Healy-Rae.

He added that in his own region of South Kerry and West Cork, vast areas from Lauragh to Kenmare to Castletownbere are without police protection.

“I am raising the matter in the Dáil and asking that another licence category be added to allow for the protection of rural dwellers,” he said.

The Independent TD, who holds certificates for three different guns, said he is "open-minded" about gun control and that it was time for a debate about the issue.

In Ireland, each firearm needs a separate certificate, which is issued by local Garda superintendents. According to gardai, there are currently 220,000 firearms certificates on issue in Ireland, with the vast majority of civilian firearms being sporting shotguns and hunting rifles.

Michael Healy Rae