Saturday 21 September 2019

Paul Williams: 'Murderous Drogheda gang feud must be snuffed out or innocent will be caught in crossfire'

The crime scene. Photo: Arthur Carron
The crime scene. Photo: Arthur Carron
Paul Williams

Paul Williams

The young man who said he worked as a runner for one of the drug gangs involved in the deadly Drogheda feud which claimed its first life this week didn't mince his words when he shared his insider knowledge of the type of people responsible for the country's latest mob war.

"Scumbags to the highest degree - they're all junked up, they're all on steroids... they're all f**ked up in the head, they're manic in the head, they're very dangerous people," he told the reporter, adding that he lives in fear for his life and the lives of his family because "they threaten your mother's house".

He claimed he had witnessed an "awful lot of beatings" being dished out to customers and dealers who owed money or were being deliberately extorted for money they didn't owe.

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Shot dead: Keith Branigan
Shot dead: Keith Branigan

The "drug runner" was interviewed - his voice heavily distorted to retain his anonymity for pretty obvious life-preserving reasons - as part of a wider report covering the escalating violence in the historic town for the Seán O'Rourke radio show and was broadcast three months ago.

The feud has indeed gradually worsened since that interview and on Tuesday afternoon those same "junked up… manic in the head… dangerous people" dramatically ratcheted up the violence when gangster Keith Branigan was gunned down as he laid a decking at a mobile home in a caravan holiday park in Clogherhead, Co Louth.

This was a well-planned and co-ordinated execution and the gunman, who was armed with an automatic weapon, sprayed a fusillade of bullets in the direction of his intended target.

He showed absolutely no concern for the safety of the innocent women and children who were in the immediate vicinity.

Children

A stray bullet smashed through the window of a woman's car as she was returning with her two children from the shop next door to where Branigan was working.

It was typical of the reckless daylight attacks that have characterised this feud over the past year as the gunmen did their shooting in busy public places.

The murder of the 29-year-old getaway driver and convicted criminal represents a likely turning of the tables and a massive body blow to the dead man's own "junked up" associates, who thought up to that point they were winning the war against their former pals and now deadly competitors in the narcotics business.

Over the past year Branigan's gang - who are seen as the new kids on the block - have been responsible for most of the violence as they have moved to wipe out their competitors and terrorise the people of the Moneymore estate.

And from the appalling catalogue of more than 70 violent incidents recorded so far, the innocent people have good reason to be fearful.

Since last July, Branigan's gun-toting associates attempted to shoot and kill four men, all of whom were injured in different incidents; two of the men were seriously injured, with one of them left paralysed.

A man who was abducted was rescued by gardaí and there have been dozens of arson attacks on homes in the same area of the town.

There have also been stabbings, beatings and the use of pipe bombs.

Gardaí on the ground say that Branigan's gang, which is led by a notoriously violent young man in his 20s, may have now bitten off more than they can chew.

Boss

Detectives are working on intelligence that a dangerous, much more experienced crime boss from a rival drug gang has stepped up to take on the dead man's associates.

He has already been linked to three murders in 2015, including the disappearance of a couple, William Maughan and his girlfriend Ana Varslavane, who vanished without trace.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris visited local gardaí in Drogheda earlier this week.

The gardaí clearly need to take swift action and tackle this bloody feud before it has a heavier impact on the innocent community of Drogheda - or claims another life.

Irish Independent

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