Gardai are warning schools and other businesses that have locked up compounds with school buses and lorries that they are being targeted during the Covid-19 emergency, following a spate of robberies in rural areas.

The warning follows criminal damage which was caused to school buses in County Mayo over the weekend, when diesel tanks were attacked and their contents stolen at St Anthony's School in Castlebar.

Gardai believe the raiders are targeting vehicles that have been parked up for weeks now because of the school closures, and are draining diesel and petrol from them.

St Anthony's only took delivery of their new specially-adapted wheelchair accessible bus two years ago.

Fiona Byrnes, the principal of St Anthony's, has warned other schools and drivers to be vigilant. She said the school now wants to get the bus repaired before lockdown restrictions are lifted and she is trying to raise funds online through a GoFundMe appeal.  

The school has hit out at those responsible for the thefts on its Facebook page, posting: "How can people stoop so low? Shame on the vandals who caused terrible damage to our school bus by forcibly removing the diesel tank from underneath to drain it."

Gardai have been dealing with a number of similar robberies along the west coast and in the midlands over the last three weeks and have urged schools and business owners to try and ensure access to compounds with vehicles is restricted at all times.