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Sunday 25 August 2019

Five weekend arson attacks spark fears lives will be lost as violent gang feud escalates

Local TD says situation is 'very grave - death is stalking our streets'

Targeted: Scorch marks and a broken window could be seen at a house in Scarlett Crescent, Drogheda. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Targeted: Scorch marks and a broken window could be seen at a house in Scarlett Crescent, Drogheda. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Vicious: A fire-damaged house in Loughboy, Mell, Drogheda, Co Louth. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Conor Feehan and Ken Foy

A spike in attacks and reprisals in an increasingly violent gang feud in Drogheda has led to renewed fears that lives will be lost after five arson attacks on houses over the weekend.

Tensions are high in the Co Louth town as gardaí grapple with a worsening situation, which has seen one man shot and a spate of attacks on houses in the past week.

The feud between two local criminal gangs had been simmering for weeks after a previous upsurge in violence.

Visits to the area by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and promises of sufficient resources for gardaí on the ground appear to have done little to quell the violence.

Last Thursday, a man who was not the intended target was shot while working at a house on Hardman's Gardens in the town. The man was rushed to hospital.

Gardaí are treating the incident as attempted murder.

Investigators think the intended victim was the victim's friend who is linked to Owen Maguire, the leader of one side of the feud who was paralysed in a gun attack last year.

Since then there has been a series of attacks on houses around Drogheda, and gardaí are treating these attacks as being part of the ongoing feud.

In the early hours of yesterday morning, three homes were targeted between midnight and 4am, with one house suffering extensive fire damage as a result.

In the first incident at 12.15am, a suspect device was thrown at the window of a house in Laurence's Park, not far from Moneymore.

The front window of the house and front living room were damaged but there were no reports of any injuries.

Just an hour later, there was a similar attack on a house in the Scarlet Crescent estate in the town.

Again, a suspect device was thrown through the window of the house, which appears to have then ignited.

Scorch marks could be seen on the front of the house yesterday and the front window had been shattered. There were no injuries reported.

The most damage was caused in the third attack on the outskirts of the town at Loughboy, in the townland of Mell, at 4am.

A suspected petrol bomb was used to torch the house after the front window was broken. The house went up in flames and local fire brigade units fought the fire, as well as having to tackle flames from a new car which was set on fire in the driveway.

In the early hours of Saturday two other homes were firebombed. One was in the Ashleigh estate while the second was at Springfield Court four hours later.

Local Fine Gael TD and former junior minister Fergus O'Dowd said the gang violence in the town had reached crisis level and gardaí needed increased armed support around the clock.

"The situation is very grave and serious. Death is stalking our streets and innocent victims have suffered too much already," said Mr O'Dowd.

He said he had been in contact with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mr Flanagan and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and was seeking an increased presence of the Armed Support Unit and more Garda checkpoints.

"They are endangering innocent citizens, including children, one of whom narrowly escaped death or serious injury last Friday in Hardman's Gardens.

"Many homes have been petrol bombed and people have also been beaten up with violent attacks in some estates," he added.

"We must not tolerate this and we must show that gardaí are in charge by providing them with all the resources they have requested."

He said Drogheda was now an "exceptional case".

Irish Independent

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