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Gardai winning war on crime in gang hotspot

THE most senior garda officer based in Limerick has described as "phenomenal" the decrease in gun crime in the division.

Shooting incidents in Limerick have dropped for a fifth successive year and Chief Superintendent David Sheahan said the city "is a changed place" just four years after the activities of Limerick's notorious criminals gangs brought thousands on to the streets demanding immediate government intervention.

Chief Supt Sheahan reported to a joint policing committee last week that there were just seven shooting incidents in Limerick city and county last year.

This is a marked contrast to 2007 when Limerick accounted for almost a third of the national figure (325) of illegal discharge of firearms offences with 103 shooting incidents.

Chief Supt Sheahan described the drop in shootings as a "phenomenal decrease" when compared to events in the city six years ago when feuding among criminal gangs was at its height.

"Each year that has gone by (since 2007), it has been decreasing," he said.

There were seven shooting incidents last year, compared with 14 in 2011; in 2010 there were 20; in 2009, 30, and 44 in 2008.

"Part of the reason is some of the strategies that we have been employing in respect of taking head-on some of the senior figures in the criminal underworld here. We have relentlessly gone after them over the last number of years and that in my view has had a major impact in respect of the reduction [of shootings]," Chief Supt Sheahan said.

Murder figures for the Limerick garda division have fallen substantially from four in 2011 to just one in the city last year.

Also, Robert Sheehan from Moyross was shot dead at his brother's wedding last September and a rival criminal, also from Limerick, is suspected to have been behind the gun attack. However, as the gun attack occurred at Bunratty, Co Clare, it is not recorded within the Limerick garda division.

Less than two weeks ago, State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy said she had noticed the drop in criminal activity in Chief Supt Sheahan's division.

"Limerick has been very, very quiet thankfully, and hopefully it will remain so.

"We're very rarely in Limerick now thankfully," she said. This was in marked contrast to her previous remarks in 2004 when she said she had "visited the green fields of Limerick a little too often" to examine bodies at crimes scenes.

Chief Supt Sheahan echoed Prof Cassidy's comments.

"Prof Cassidy made the point that she seems to be coming down less frequently to Limerick. If I never see her again, it will be all the better.

"The longer this period lasts the better. I would exhort not only my own people but also public representatives and anyone out there that they should really think that Limerick is a changed place. We'd like to keep it the way we are.

"We are very proud of the fact that we have made such a sea-change in the last number of years," he added.

Irish Independent