Historic handshake that may end the bloody Limerick feud
The heads of Limerick's warring families have posed together for the first time shaking hands, in an exclusive Sunday Independent photograph, to show that they are determined to bring to an end a generation and more of bloodshed and heartache.
The families came together on Thursday night after they agreed that the time had come to end the feuding which has cost dozens of lives -- most recently that of innocent rugby captain Shane Geoghegan.
As they met at a city centre hotel conference room, the mother of one of the imprisoned family members delivered a message from Limerick Prison saying the prisoners fully support their peace efforts.
The meeting, witnessed exclusively by the Sunday Independent, was good humoured and there was no opposition among those present to posing together.
Deirdre McCarthy visited her son Anthony, serving a life sentence in Limerick Prison along with four other members of the Dundon-McCarthy clan, and brought back the message of support agreed by the prisoners. It read: "The two key reasons why we want this fighting to stop: firstly, we don't want to see anyone else get hurt, especially innocent people, and, secondly, we don't want to pass this feud down to the next generation."
The three key families agreed that a bigger meeting of all the families involved in the feuding -- many related to each other but often at each other's throats -- would take place in the New Year. Thereafter they would meet monthly to iron out any differences that arise.
Jimmy Collins, head of the Collins family from Ballinacurra Weston, who was shot and injured earlier this year, added: "What we are here for is to make peace. We want everybody to come on board. This has gone on for generation after generation. I want peace for my family and I hope to God it happens. It is happening.
"I was told today I could be whacked coming out of the hotel. I don't care if I'm shot, if I'm killed. I'll take that for the sake of my family and peace. Let's hope it is a happy Christmas and a peaceful one for all our children and grandchildren."
The head of the Collopy family of St Mary's Park, Jack Collopy, said: "I am glad this is done today. With the help of God this will be better for us and all our children." He said that the families had agreed that the next steps will be to bring the other families involved in feuds and disputes in the city together as soon as possible.
Christopher McCarthy, head of the McCarthy family, speaking on behalf of the Dundon-McCarthys said: "We inherited this feud. It had nothing to do with our generation. We want peace and for the fighting to stop for once and all. Generation after generation they had been getting at each other."
The sides had previously agreed on a desire for peace but were nervous about meeting and shaking hands. Finally last week all agreed to pose for the symbolic photograph by Sunday Independent photographer Gerry Mooney.
Speaking afterwards, Deirdre McCarthy said that she hoped the peace moves would work and she was heartened by the message of support from the prisoners. She said that both sides were imprisoned in the same wing of Limerick Prison and that there was constant bickering and threats.
"They are totally behind this," she said. "They hope that there will be peace. They all want this to work now."
Previous efforts to bring the sides together, going back over at least four years, have all failed. Even attempts at reconciliation supported by Bishop Donal Foley and former mayor Ger Fahy and, earlier this year, by other intermediaries have failed.
But direct approaches to the families by the Sunday Independent led to Friday's meeting and their agreement to pose for the camera, shaking hands.
One of the community activists involved in previous negotiations, Pa O'Halloran, who joined the families for the meeting, welcomed the decision by the families to shake hands for the first time in public and said: "Our hope is that Limerick will get peace and that the younger generation will not have to live through what has gone on before."
A few hours after the meeting, in the early hours of Friday morning, shots were fired at a house in the St Mary's Park area where the Collopy and Keane families live. However, local people said it had nothing to do with any of the families and involved a local, personal dispute.