Paul Williams: 'Tactics used to undermine stranglehold of mob law in the past can help quell latest drug war'
Now that the Drogheda gang feud has escalated from attempted murder to murder and with the prospect of further violence almost inevitable, gardaí may have to deploy the same in-your-face tactics used by their Limerick colleagues to bring an end to a war that raged in that city for almost 14 years.
While this lethal feud between drug-dealing criminals is currently classified as the most dangerous in the country, by comparison it is nowhere near the same level of ferocity witnessed in the mid-west in those dark years during the noughties.
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Unlike any other gang in our history the blood-thirsty McCarthy/Dundons deliberately gunned down completely innocent people with the same level of enthusiasm they showed to their hated criminal foes, as the death toll eventually reached over 20 dead with scores more maimed for life.
And it will be cold comfort to the people of Drogheda that their feud would also be measured on the violence meter as being behind the notorious Kinahan/Hutch feud which has claimed 18 lives over the past three years.
The only reassurance that can be given to the people living in the midst of this latest conflagration is that history has shown that no matter how long it takes, gardaí have always emerged as the ultimate winners in these affairs.
Gardaí have the expertise required to smash the killer gangs but it takes time involving a long, drawn-out process of intense surveillance, both physical and electronic, and painstakingly compiling evidence before the tables are turned, which they invariably are.
It also requires the co-operation and good will of the public.
Keith Branigan is the latest addition to the gangland death toll which has claimed over 300 lives in the past 20 years since a new breed of young ruthless gangsters emerged on the back of the Celtic Tiger generation's love of cocaine.
The excesses of young middle Ireland fuelled an unprecedented boom for organised crime as the prodigious drug profits made gangsters greedy - and dangerous.
A depressingly normalised pattern to gang feuds has developed with the only difference between the shootings and murders being the locations, the gangs involved and the names of the dead.
Everything else then fits within the same paradigm: young, volatile and violent men get embroiled in the hugely lucrative drug trade building their power base in a local community and staying under the radar to keep the police away.
It is only when they -inevitably - fall out and begin shooting each other in full public view, with little concern for the safety of the innocent, that their stranglehold on their own communities becomes apparent.
- Read More: At least two people believed to be involved in 'callous' murder of Keith Branigan in Drogheda - gardai
One of the important social positives to come out of the Limerick feud and the Kinahan/Hutch war is that they focused the minds of Government on the need for regeneration in the communities worst affected by the violence in the two cities.
The belligerents in this case all come from the same relatively small working-class area of the Moneymore Estate in Drogheda where the sense of fear is palpable.
People are terrified of getting caught up in the madness so survival means keeping their heads down and mouths shut.
Local sources say the people no longer openly engage with their community gardaí for fear that being seen talking to them could result in a beating or a house burned down.
That is why the tactics used by gardaí in Limerick could also work in Drogheda as specialist units began repeatedly stopping and searching the main gang players on the streets, in full public view.
Over time it showed the people of the working-class estates where the thugs reigned supreme that they were not untouchable or above the law.
And that was the beginning of the end for mob law.