Bloody vendetta that has left 10 dead all began with one vicious assault
THE bloody feud between heavily armed thugs in Limerick's gangland has now claimed 10 victims since 2000.
The feud has its origins in a split between the Keane and Ryan families, who were once aligned in a lucrative drug dealing operation.
John Ryan viciously assaulted Jack Collopy, a neighbour and friend of the Keane family from St Mary's Park, following a disagreement, leaving him on a life support machine.
Shortly afterwards, a schoolyard fight between two girls from the Ryan and Keane families increased the tensions to boiling point.
John Ryan's brother Eddie, who had been an enforcer for the Keanes, meanwhile, decided to set up his own drugs business and wanted to eliminate his former boss.
Eddie Ryan tried to shoot drug baron Christie Keane as he waited for his children outside school. However, the gun jammed and the Keane family swore revenge.
In retaliation, Eddie Ryan was shot dead by two gunmen while drinking in the city's Moose Bar, in Cathedral Place, following a funeral in November 2000. Christie Keane's brother Kieran was one of the gunmen.
The feud escalated in 2003 with the arrival of the McCarthy-Dundon family from the Ballinacurra Weston area. They aligned with the Ryan family in a bid to take control of drug dealing in the city from the Keane-Collopy faction.
In a classic gangland double cross, the McCarthy-Dundons arranged for the "kidnap" of Eddie Ryan's two sons in January 2003, and offered to kill them for Kieran Keane.
However, when Keane went to meet them about the proposition, he was murdered. His cousin Owen Treacy, who was with him, survived a savage knife attack. Treacy's testimony later led to five gang members being jailed for life.
In July 2003, John Ryan was shot dead as he laid a patio in Thomondgate in revenge for Kieran Keane's murder.
The following October, Michael Campbell McNamara, who was linked to the Collopy family was shot in the head in a field in Southill.
Six more murders have been carried out since then. Some of them have been revenge attacks and others were attempts to consolidate control of drug dealing operations. Another was a case of mistaken identity.
The latest murder, of James Cronin, signals a new shift in the feud, with the McCarthy-Dundon gang turning on one of its recruits to ensure he wouldn't go to the gardai.