Wednesday 21 August 2019

Gang feud could erupt again at any moment, warns retiring prosecutor

Retiring Limerick State Solicitor Michael Murray
Retiring Limerick State Solicitor Michael Murray

David Raleigh

Retiring Limerick State Solicitor Michael Murray has warned that the city's murderous feud could erupt again at the slightest notice.

For the past 36 years, Mr Murray has risked his life as senior gang members were prosecuted, convicted and then jailed.

Steve Collins, whose son Roy was caught in the crossfire of the Limerick feud
Steve Collins, whose son Roy was caught in the crossfire of the Limerick feud

However, as he prepares for retirement in the new year, Mr Murray (69) said serious challenges remained for his successor.

"I look around Limerick city today - the feud hasn't gone away, and it wouldn't take too much to reignite it," he said.

"The gardaí have to remain vigilant, but they are more than a match for the feuding parties. In my time they've been excellent," he added, paying tribute to gardaí who toppled the gangs.

Mr Murray, from the Ennis Road, knows only too well the perils that come with his title. His offices have been the subject of three arson attacks, he has been followed by criminals and has had the tyres of his car slashed in other acts of intimidation.

At one point, he was advised by gardaí to carry a gun on his person.

Speaking to the 'Limerick Life' newspaper, he said: "There was a period of years when there was a lot of tension. I had to be security- conscious but I had to suck it up.

"I was fortunate to have good back-up, and I had the confidence in the security arrangements. I also had the mental resolve not to let it affect me."

The solicitor, who holds a shotgun licence, even received training in the use of handguns after threats against him intensified. However, he said he refused to carry a weapon on him at work.

"I felt carrying a firearm would have been upping the ante," he said.

The challenges faced by gardaí and by Mr Murray at the height of the notorious Limerick gang feud cannot be overstated.

Up to 20 men were murdered. Many were involved in the feud, but some innocents were caught up in the crossfire, including rugby player Shane Geoghegan and businessman Roy Collins.

Their deaths served as a low point in the city's bloody feud, but also a turning point as brave citizens took a stand against the gangs. "The policing plan had to be vigorous and speedy, and I had to match the garda activity, make sure this was all done promptly. It became a huge ministry," Mr Murray said.

"It was a huge team effort between my office and the gardaí. We feel we both did a good service and that no balls were dropped."

Peace has now been restored to Limerick's streets, but the threat posed by a new generation of gangsters remains.

Mr Murray will step down as State Solicitor for Limerick on April 30. He said he intended to continue as a solicitor in a private capacity, working with his daughter, Aisling.

"It'll be hard to let go," he said.

Irish Independent

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