State buys Collins family pub to help them flee Limerick
New life abroad only option for Steve Collins after constant threats of attack
THE State has bought a pub from the terrified family of a murder victim to help them start a new life overseas.
Limerick publican Steve Collins, his wife Carmel and their adult children, Steve Jnr and Leeann, flew out of Shannon Airport yesterday afternoon on an Aer Lingus flight.
The family felt they had no option but to emigrate because they have lived under the constant threat of attack since Steve's son, Roy, was shot dead by the McCarthy-Dundon gang.
They will use the proceeds from the pub sale to help them set up abroad.
Roy Collins (34) was shot dead in his casino on April 9, 2009, four years after members of his family testified against Wayne Dundon.
The family has been under 24-hour armed garda protection since then.
Former Limerick major Cllr John Gilligan said today that Limerick owed the Collins family a debt of gratitude for the stand they had taken against the gangs.
He said on RTE’s Morning Ireland that the family could never forget the killing of Roy as every time they went home, or even to the shops, it was with an armed guard.
“How much Limerick owes them...it was a very, very difficult decision to make to speak out. What Steve achieved must also be recognised. Since those very dark days the backs of the McCarthy-Dundon gang have been broken, many are dead or in prison,” he said.
Armed gardai will protect members of the extended Collins family, who will continue to live in Limerick.
Ryan Lee, Steve's adopted son -- who was shot twice by a masked gunman at Brannigan's pub in 2004, after he refused entry to Wayne Dundon's underage sister -- remains under protection.
Wayne Dundon was convicted of threatening to kill Mr Lee.
Before leaving the country yesterday, Mr Collins told the Irish Independent that he wanted his family to have a life where they would not be looking over their shoulders.
"It is too much. Everywhere we go, the guards have to go with us. It is not a normal life," Mr Collins said.
"You are constantly thinking what could happen next. It is time for us to move on and unfortunately we cannot do that in Limerick with everything that has happened," he said.
The state agencies involved will not disclose whether the Collins family have received any other assistance in their relocation. Information on relocation or witness protection programmes is kept under wraps.
However, to facilitate the move abroad, Limerick's Regeneration Agencies has bought the Steering Wheel pub at Roxboro shopping centre. The pub and adjacent casino where Roy was shot dead cost just over €500,000.
Chief executive of Limerick's Regeneration Agencies Brendan Kenny said it was hoped that the pub and casino would be developed into a community facility.
"We have a few things in mind already that we are looking at, but we will have to wait and see. Whatever is planned, it will benefit the local community," Mr Kenny said.
The State will also purchase Brannigan's pub on Mulgrave Street in the city, owned by Mr Collins. This sale has not yet been completed. The pub was destroyed in an arson attack in 2005 while Wayne Dundon awaited trial for threatening to kill Mr Lee.
Following his son's death, Steve Collins had repeatedly vowed never to leave Limerick as he wanted to be close to Roy's grave.
The family have been under constant garda protection, but have decided to relocate abroad. However, they will continue to use their normal identities.
Speaking before he left, Mr Collins said: "The trauma of the past three years became too much for us as a family.
"We have had to live with the constant threat that the Dundons and their henchmen will do everything in their power to undermine our quality of life.
"We are going to start a new life but we are not going into hiding and not losing our identities," Mr Collins said.
His wife, Carmel, said she lived "in constant dread of something happening to my husband or my other children".
"Anything has to be better than the way we are living now. This has been hell," she said.