Saturday 26 May 2018

Key garda in Limerick gang war says there is a 'complete parallel' with Dublin's violent feuds

DS Jim Browne with Steve Collins
DS Jim Browne with Steve Collins

Meadhbh McGrath

The retired garda who is credited with ending the reign of Limerick’s feuding gangs has said there is a “complete parallel” with the escalating violence in Dublin.

Limerick was blighted by brutal murders and family feuds for more than a decade, and Former Detective Superintendent Jim Browne was regarded as a key player in the fight against the city’s criminal underworld.

During his time as Detective Superintendent, Mr Browne tackled the long-running feuds between the McCarthy-Dundons and the Keane-Collopys, before retiring in 2015.

Speaking on RTE Radio One’s Morning Ireland, he looked back on his nearly 40-year career and described the peak of the brutal violence in the city.

“In 2007, the gangland feud was at its height. In that year, there were 102 shooting incidents in Limerick city alone, and that would be 30pc of the entire country in regards to firearms (incidents).

“There was basically a guerrilla war being waged by two feuding factions and there was all sorts of intimidation of guards, witnesses, prison officers, and court staff,” he said.

Reflecting on the current violence in Dublin, he noted a “complete parallel” with the situation in Limerick.

“In 2000, Eddie Ryan was murdered in the Moose Bar, and there were two women who were seriously wounded in that attack, as in the Regency hotel.

“There is a linkage between the dissident republicans and the feuding factions in Limerick, as there is in Dublin. They were associated with the McCarthy-Dundons and the Keane-Collopys,” he said.

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Mr Browne drew comparisons between the innocent gangland victims Eddie Hutch Snr and Martin O’Rourke and the mistaken identity killing of Noel Crawford in 2006.

“If you look at the murder of Eddie Hutch, I see a parallel with the murder of Noel Crawford, an innocent taxi driver, who just happened to be a relation to one of the people involved in the shooting.

“If you look at Martin O’Rourke, another innocent victim, again the parallel is there with Shane Geoghegan.

“There was Mark Moloney as well, just because he was related. He was living on the borderline of homelessness and he was murdered,” said Mr Browne, referring to the 2008 murders of Geoghegan (28), an innocent rugby player, and Moloney (40), who was loosely associated with a member of the Keane/Collopy faction.

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In 2005, Gardaí launched Operation Anvil to target organised crime, an initiative Mr Browne named as a major factor in the fight against criminal gangs in Limerick.

“One of the reasons for the success in Limerick was that Operation Anvil was in place at that time for the country, so resources were made available. We also received assistance from the national units in relation to short-term operations when the feud was at its height.

“You would have two armed units in one small housing estate where the shooting factions were shooting over and back at each other,” he said.

He pointed to a lack of funding and resources as “a serious issue” preventing Dublin Gardaí from winning the fight against gangland criminals.

“In my view, the Gardaí are absolutely starved of resources at the moment, in relation to manpower and also resources in relation to technology.

“It would take probably 12 people to focus on one gangland figure for a period of time, if you are to be successful,” he added.

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