ARMED gardai have been forced to patrol outside a Dublin school after pupils there witnessed two feud-related attacks in recent weeks.
"If this continues someone is going to get caught in the middle and very seriously hurt. There is a lot of hatred between these two gangs," a source explained.
There are growing fears that innocent children will be caught in the crossfire of the bitter feud which has been ongoing for a number of months.
The first incident occurred shortly before 9am last Friday when a 34-year-old man and his wife drove to a school in a green Toyota Avensis car with the intention of dropping their two children off.
However five men in a Ford Transit van were waiting for the man and when his car pulled in, they jumped out of the vehicle and tried to grab him. Two the five man gang are understood to have recently moved to Dublin from the UK.
The man - whose family home was smashed up last month by the opposing crew - jumped back into his car and drove off at high speed and his car damaged some other vehicles parked outside the school.
Sources say that the van then drove after the car but the driver of the car escaped.
In a revenge attack at 8.50am on Monday, associates of this man waited outside the school and used baseball bats to smash in the windows of a Toyota Hiace van.
Witnesses told the Herald that the Hiace mounted the footpath and almost knocked down a number of children.
Both incidents were witnessed by dozens of children and parents.
"It is terrifying for young children so parents are reassured by the presence of an unmarked garda car outside the school," said a source.
The incidents have led gardai in Balbriggan to put a special policing plan in operation to prevent further violence.
At the centre of the feud is a dispute over drugs with a Traveller crime kingpin who has taken over from slain drug dealer John Paul Joyce.
It is believed that he is exerting pressure on a criminal from Drogheda who owes him a four-figure drugs debt.
The kingpin is a much feared 31-year-old who lives in a large house in north county Dublin and has many previous convictions.
He has linked up with a major crime gang from Swords and has been trying to exert control over the crime scene in north county Dublin and south Co Louth for the past two years.
Two extended families have been sucked into the dispute which sources say is becoming more entrenched as time goes on.
Many family members of one faction have been forced to flee their homes and have relocated to a north Dublin halting site where massive fences have been erected around it for their own protection.
There was a large armed garda presence at this halting site earlier this week. The situation has further been complicated because one faction has asked a local senior dissident Republican to become involved.
By Ken Foy, Crime Correspondent