Drogheda gang violence 'is gone beyond feuding - now it's about revenge'
Politicians in Drogheda are warning that the cycle of feud violence in the Co Louth town, which saw its first death last week, is now threatening to turn into a cycle of revenge attacks.
It follows the plea by the Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh for those involved in the feud to desist from violence.
At two masses in Louth this weekend, Bishop Michael Router also condemned the murder last Tuesday of Keith Branigan (29) in Clogherhead, Co Louth.
He was the first person to die in the feud, which is now in its second year.
It is the first time a senior figure in the Church has commented on the feud and the comments were made in the first public statement by the Auxiliary Bishop since his Episcopal ordination.
"I want to, on behalf of all of us here and on behalf of the people and priests of the Archdiocese of Armagh, condemn in the strongest possible terms the callous murder of Keith Branigan in the Ashling Holiday Park in Clogherhead, Co Louth, and to offer our condolences to his wife Rachel and to their loved ones," he said.
"Such violence and disregard for life is always appalling, but for such an act to take place in a holiday camp where people were enjoying the last days of summer, and near to where children were playing, is truly shocking.
"News reports linked this murder to the ongoing feud between rival gangs in Drogheda and therefore the threat of reprisals is, unfortunately, a real one.
"Such a cycle of violence will only lead to further tragedy and loss of life so I would appeal for those involved to desist and consider the futility of their actions.
"I would ask anyone who has any information on this murder or other acts associated with the feud to bring that information to the gardaí."
The Mayor of Drogheda, Paul Bell, has previously offered to meet with both sides in the feud. Speaking yesterday, Mr Bell repeated that offer and he called for no retaliation for Mr Branigan's death.
"I have always believed that religious leaders of all faiths have a role in supporting citizens in such matters.
"In the past, religious leaders in our country have also assisted in mediation and peace building. This avenue should be explored in that the violence will only end through dialogue," he added.
Drogheda-based Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster said the bishop's comments about the murder "are significant, particularly as he used his first public statement to address this issue in the diocese".
"With the number of incidents connected to this feud now racing towards the 100 mark, people in Drogheda and the surrounding areas are on edge, especially after the murder in Clogherhead.
"I think that we have now gone beyond a feud - it's personal now for the two gangs involved and now it's all about revenge."
She said people are apprehensive and waiting for the next attack.
"Gardai are working to prevent this and are making every effort, but the fear and apprehension among people in this area remains high," she added.