Paul Williams: 'Collins family deserve new start after horror suffered in bloody feud'
The family of Limerick businessman Roy Collins, a completely innocent victim of the gang dubbed Murder Inc, marked the 10th anniversary of his murder by sharing the news that they are rebuilding their lives in the city that they love.
Roy's father Steve won the admiration of the nation when he courageously stood up to the criminals who killed his son. Yesterday, he was typically eloquent when he summed up his family's journey through hell.
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"We are trying to rebuild our lives. We were comfortable and then we were destroyed and devastated. Now is a time for rebuilding things," he said.
"Limerick is a safe place now. It took what we did. It took people to stand up and say 'we're sick of this'. It took all of that. I'm just so happy it did happen. All these laws that have changed, the surveillance law and the non-jury courts, it didn't just help Limerick, it helped the whole country."
Even as a close family friend, who also chronicled their journey over the past 15 years, it is impossible to fully appreciate the pain and suffering experienced by Steve, his wife Carmel and their children, Steve Jr, Ryan, Paul and Leanne.
The murder of Roy 10 years ago yesterday, Holy Thursday, 2009, was to be the turning point in an unprecedented gang war which lasted for almost 14 years. The young businessman was shot dead when brothers, John and Wayne Dundon, the leaders of Murder Inc, sent a teenage hit man to murder his father.
Steve Collins brought the people of Limerick out on to the streets to protest against the violence and he forced the Government to take action by providing Garda resources and anti-gang legislation which has seen Limerick emerge as a peaceful, progressive and hopeful place.
Roy's murder marked the nadir in a conflagration which had engulfed the medieval city following the murder of rival gang leader Kieran Keane in 2003. At its height the feud made Limerick Ireland's murder capital with the highest rate of gun crime per capita in western Europe.
Between 2000 and 2014, when the last of the Dundons were sentenced to life for Roy's murder, the city had lived through an astonishing crime wave that included drive-by shootings, arson attacks, abductions, stabbings, bombings and executions.
The savagery shown by the McCarthy/Dundons was often much worse than what we have witnessed in the Kinahan/Hutch feud.
Murder Inc was responsible for the majority of more than 20 recorded killings recorded and the scores of people left wounded and maimed, not to mention the innocent civilians, particularly children, who were left traumatised by what was happening on the streets of the city's working-class enclaves.
It is hard to believe now that once the warring factions strutted around the streets wearing bullet-proof vests and driving armour-plated cars. And there was nowhere that could be considered immune from the toxic tribal hatred between the two sides.
Even the city's courts became a popular flashpoint with violent clashes taking place in full view of the police and judiciary. The mobs even tried to burn down the courts complex and did succeed in burning the offices of Limerick's chief state solicitor who also had to receive armed police protection.
Gardaí and prison officers were regularly intimidated and threatened. The Dundons even tried to negotiate from prison the purchase of enough military-grade weapons and explosives to equip a company of army soldiers.
So, it is not an exaggeration to say that if it were not for the bravery of Steve Collins and his family the murder and mayhem might have lasted longer and claimed more lives.
The Collins family can still pinpoint the actual minute when Wayne Dundon came to turn their lives into a nightmare. The CCTV images recorded at Steve's popular pub, Brannigans, captured the moment - 9.25pm on the night of December 19, 2004 - when Wayne Dundon threatened to kill his son Ryan after he had refused to allow Dundon's 14-year-old sister into the premises.
A short time later Dundon came back into the bar and shot the 18-year-old in the legs as he stood behind the counter. Steve and Ryan agreed to testify against Dundon for making threats to kill and for which he was jailed in 2005.
For doing their civic duty the Collins family has paid a heavy price. No family is more deserving of a bright and positive future.