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Sunday 19 November 2017

After 10 years of bloodshed, feud moves on to next generation

Barry Duggan

TEN years of intense violence, 22 dead men and Limerick's gang war continues relentlessly.

Regardless of who they kill or harm, the city's feuding gangs have accounted for some of the darkest days encountered by the State since the turn of the Millennium.

Numerous families across Limerick and further afield have been destroyed thanks to the criminal gangs.

It all began on a cold Sunday night -- November 12, 2000 -- when two gunmen burst into the Moose Bar and shot feared criminal Eddie Ryan 11 times.

Ten years since Kieran Keane and Philip Collopy burst into the packed pub and opened fire -- and the violence, retributions and settling of scores continues.

Many believe the gangland feud is all about the story of two families and their spiralling quest for vengeance.

But that is too simple. This dark episode in Limerick's story boils down to drugs, power, control, families and, indeed, a deep-rooted hunger for retaliation.

Those who chose to ignore that Limerick had a serious criminal problem argued that it was confined to estates and suburbs where the gangs operated -- Moyross, Southill, St Mary's Park and Ballinacurra-Weston. That defence is long redundant as the violence has spread like a cancer.

Those who have chosen the path of gun-wielding thugs have been killed, maimed or imprisoned while the lives of innocent, law-abiding citizens and families have been shattered.

Only following the deaths of Shane Geoghegan and Roy Collins in recent years did the nation stand back aghast. More than 5,000 took to the streets of Limerick last year demanding government action before gangland legislation was introduced.

But before these atrocities, the innocent were still being murdered.

A doorman at Doc's nightclub, Brian Fitzgerald, was shot dead outside his home in 2002 for refusing to allow drug dealers operate within the nightclub. Car salesman Sean Poland was murdered weeks later by criminals looking to rob him shortly after they bought a car from him.

In the intervening years, it is estimated that more than 150 people have been jailed in connection with drug-related offences or Limerick's feud.

As the Celtic Tiger came and went, rows of houses were abandoned as petrol bombs and shootings became the norm as opposed to the exception.

Children and women have been shot and assaulted, pipe bombs seized and death threats issued via internet websites as the gangs went online.

From the cases coming before both Limerick's District and Circuit Criminal Courts, it is clear to see that the feud has now passed to a third generation.

Two weeks ago, cousins Noel Stanners (18) and David McCarthy (17) were sentenced to three years' detention for possession of a shotgun.

Stanners's father killed Kieran Keane while McCarthy is the grand-nephew of murdered Eddie Ryan. Both teens had just begun primary school when the feud ignited.

More gang members are awaiting trial next year and the resources of the State have been severely tested by the criminals.

At least four families in Limerick are receiving round-the-clock armed garda protection after providing crucial testimony at major trials while others will be called to do so next year.

Publican Steve Collins wears a bullet-proof vest going to work while breadman Philip Treacy has an armed escort driving along his daily routes. Both have lost sons.

Ten years since Eddie Ryan was murdered -- and there are no signs of a let-up.

Irish Independent

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