Bloodbath fears as feud tears gang apart
Gardai now fear a bloodbath in Limerick, amid growing concerns that a bloody war will erupt within one of the most dangerous crime gangs in the country.
The murder of 20-year-old James Cronin, whose body was found in a shallow grave, has split the gang and paved the way for a series of internal tit-for-tat shootings.
A post-mortem examination by State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy last night confirmed that Mr Cronin, from Janesboro, had been shot in the head before his body was dumped on waste ground.
Gardai believe the victim had been the driver of a getaway car that was used in the murder of 40-year-old Mark Moloney, who was shot dead on Saturday afternoon, near his home in Garryowen.
And they are working on the theory that the leaders of the gang who ordered Mr Moloney's murder then decided to shoot Mr Cronin and an accomplice, who escaped their clutches.
Their plan was to ensure that the two men could not implicate the leadership in the murder or the earlier shooting incident in O'Malley Park, in Southill, where the intended target avoided injury, although two shots were fired into his house.
Senior gardai reacted to the escalating violence in Limerick by sending more surveillance officers into the city.
Additional members of the national support units were drafted in to help the emergency response unit and local gardai in keeping a constant watch on the movements of the prime players in the most notorious feud in the state's history.
Intelligence gathering has already played a key role in a number of garda successes in Limerick's gangland, leading to the conviction of high-profile criminals and the recovery of more than 150 guns in the past two years and a large haul of drugs.
The eight-year-old feud has already directly claimed 10 lives, while at least five others were killed by gang members.
But now gardai are concerned that the murder of Mr Cronin will deepen the rift within the McCarthy-Dundon faction and result in further violence.
Officers believe five or six criminals involved in the McCarthy-Dundon gang were capable of carrying out the Cronin murder. The pressure on the structure of the gang has intensified in recent weeks.
Sources in the Midlands prison in Portlaoise and Wheatfield prison in Dublin, where several of the McCarthy-Dundon gang are serving time, have told the Irish Independent the gang is riven with internal strife.
A number of disagreements in recent months over money and drugs culminated in one member being badly beaten up in the Midlands prison by some of his associates.
A prison source said two clear groups had emerged within those gang members behind bars. "One group wanted more control and the other was unhappy to give it to them, so they're now going their own way," he added.
Members of the gang, who are serving life sentences for the 2003 murder of Kieran Kane are understood to be involved in serious infighting.
Meanwhile, Chief Superintendent Willie Keane, who is heading the murder investigations, appealed to those involved in the Limerick feuding to take stock.
"It is resulting in death, serious injury or disability. It is resulting in long terms of imprisonment and sadness and bereavement for families here. So it is pain all the way through, there are just no winners," Chief Supt Keane said.
Justice Minister Brian Lenihan said last night that the gardai were pursuing some definite leads in their inquiries into Mr Cronin's murder and he commended them on the rapid progress they had achieved in their investigations since the weekend.