Crimelords now recruiting 10-year-olds as foot soldiers
CHILDREN are being recruited as footsoldiers by Limerick's feuding criminal gangs to carry out shootings and attacks on people and property.
Children as young as 10 and 11 are being used by the city's crimelords to carry out their dirty work in a bloody feud that has claimed 10 lives so far.
Speaking in the wake of the discovery of the body of James Cronin in a shallow grave in the city, gardai said they believe youngsters are being used to "do the dirty work" of criminal gangs.
Limerick Chief Superintendent Willie Keane admitted he was extremely concerned at the numbers of young people who had been recruited by the gangs.
"It is a very worrying trend. Unfortunately these crime gangs are using young people and some of these young people come from dysfunctional families and families where there is no great parenting skills or where the skills are not what they should be," the chief superintendent said.
"There are no role models in these families, there is no sense of responsibility instilled in these young people. And there are no standards either to a certain extent and there is no control, for want of a better word.
"These young people don't go to school; they hang around the streets and are obviously then prey to the gangs.
"They see the gangs, maybe, as family and get drawn and sucked into the gangs.
"Then, they are used to carry out the gang's activities.
"The gang is the family for want of a better word and I suppose it gives these people a certain status within their own community and that is the problem and the cycle that we have to break.
"They are not getting the status any other way, where they should get it through the family structure or through achievements in schooling. They are getting it through activity with the gang and that is part of the problem," Chief Supt Keane added.
Mr Cronin, the 20-year-old whose body was identified yesterday, is not regarded as a serious criminal and his sinister death has taken experienced detectives in Limerick by surprise.
The victim had been missing from his home since Saturday evening. He was last spotted walking through the Weston area of the city at 9pm.
His mother, Marie Cronin, is the partner of Anthony Kelly who was acquitted last November of the gangland murder of nightclub doorman Brian Fitzgerald.
Kelly, from Kilrush, Co Clare, is no stranger to the courts and is well known to the gardai for two decades.
Over a 24-year period, he earned six convictions including two for larceny, on one occasion for IR£30,000 worth of stolen bicycles.
In February 1984, he was convicted for living off the immoral earnings of prostitution after he provided prostitutes to farmers in west Clare at their homes or in a van driven by himself. Kelly was later sentenced to nine months' imprisonment for his activities.
He also ran a warehouse business in Kilrush where he bought and sold a vast array of goods from golf clubs to children's prams. He played rugby for Kilrush and was appointed team captain at one stage.
In 1997, after an investigation by the Criminal Assets Bureau into his earnings, he settled with the agency for a six-figure sum.
In August 2003, he survived an assassination attempt when a seasoned Limerick criminal shot him four times at his home.