Backlash to gun murder expected as rival gang is threatened
Gardaí in Co Louth are bracing for a significant backlash after a dangerous associate of this week's murder victim threatened members of a rival faction.
The gun murder of Keith Branigan is being treated as the first fatality in the ongoing Drogheda feud between the drugs mob he was linked to and a rival Traveller gang.
The 30-year-old was shot dead at a caravan park in Clogherhead on Tuesday afternoon.
Within hours of the shooting, a young criminal suspected of involvement in at least one feud gun attack approached members of the rival crime gang linked to shooting victim Eoin Maguire (35) in a fit of rage.
"He was furious, it was fairly soon after the gun attack and he was threatening associates of Maguire," a source said.
"This individual is considered a dangerous criminal and there is an obvious concern that he'll follow up on those threats."
Local gardaí are aware of the incident but it ended without any violence and the young thug eventually left the scene.
Gardaí now fear a significant escalation in the feuding, which has already seen five attempted murders and dozens of petrol bomb attacks.
Senior investigators have said that they will continue to deploy armed units across the town as part of Operation Stratus, the anti-gang initiative in Drogheda.
Supt Andrew Watters moved to reassure the community that "everything is being done" to stop the violence.
"We have an operation in place in the Drogheda district to deal with serious organised crime and I would like to reassure the public we have made a number of very serious detections, arrests, prosecutions," he told reporters at a press briefing yesterday.
The senior officer made an appeal for information in relation to the Branigan murder, which he described as "indiscriminate and callous".
He said at least two people were involved in the killing and expressed his condolences with the victim's family.
"This was a particularly indiscriminate and callous act carried out in a very busy caravan park.
"There were a lot of families, women with young children in particular, close to the area of the shooting, indeed some of these children were enjoying the last days of their summer holidays," he added.
Supt Watters said their investigations have established that a Red Lexus 05C24473 entered the caravan park and a gunman exited the car.
The gunman opened fire at Branigan, with a number of stray shots also hitting two parked cars nearby.
The hit team then fled in the car towards Termonfeckin, and the Lexus was found burnt out in the Whiteriver area.
The suspects then fled in a black Toyota Avensis WH 8024 which was later found burnt out in Clonmore estate, Ardee.
Branigan was considered a mid-level member of the Drogheda crime gang involved in the feud with a Traveller mob linked to Eoin Maguire, who was shot and seriously injured last year.