Dozens arrested as violence escalated
Published 08/03/2011 | 05:00
IT started with a bare-knuckle fight on the outskirts of Waterford city in the summer of 2008 when a row over the result quickly spread to a number of halting sites.
As the feuding became more violent, the origins of the row were forgotten and it turned more complex, involving at least four families.
Since then, one of the factions has become dominant, with the result that some of the other families have been forced to move out of the Waterford area and set up home in the midlands and in south Co Dublin.
More than 100 feud-related incidents have been logged with gardai, who have made dozens of arrests.
Three horses had to be put down after being mutilated in two attacks when their legs were almost severed by swords.
A dozen city council houses were damaged in petrol bombings and other attacks, causing damage that ran up a six-figure bill for the local authorities.
Garda raids led to the recovery of petrol bombs, ammunition and weapons including slash-hooks, machetes, pick-axe handles, swords and knives.
Members of one gang were also suspected of being linked to the murder of an innocent horse trader, Willie Stokes, in December 2009.
Mr Stokes (48) was brutally stabbed in front of his 12-year-old son in the centre of Tipperary town.
He had never been in trouble with gardai and was not involved in the feud but had been deemed a soft target. His murder was apparently intended to send a signal to the killers' rivals.
Last year, gardai from the south-east moved against alleged members of the main gang and seized a rifle, ammunition, homemade weapons, a small quantity of cocaine and cannabis, and a large haul of goods, which had been stolen from equestrian centres and farms around the country.
During the investigation, gardai also discovered that some of the suspects had been scouring graveyards to steal the identities of the dead and then use them in a social welfare scam.
The welfare cheats checked out inscriptions on headstones until they could select the identity of somebody similar in age to themselves. The details were then used by the fraudsters to secure a birth certificate for the dead person and obtain a fake passport that contained their own photographs.
Several fake passports and forged social welfare forms were discovered during the inquiries and documentation and computers were taken away for forensic examination.