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It is way past the time to shout stop

• What does it say about our country that Steve Collins and his family -- decent, law-abiding citizens -- are forced to leave their home and travel thousands of miles away, in fear of their lives, while the gang lords and thugs continue unabated in their reign of terror?

Everyone knows who these people are -- not just in Limerick, but throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. They live in their own communities, impervious to the laws of the land. They create their own 'laws', which are generally steeped in violence.

Our justice system will decree that someone goes to prison for stealing the proverbial loaf of bread, yet these individuals are rarely brought to account. They assume that if they terrorise their victims, only the really brave will speak out.

Roy Collins paid the ultimate price for his courage; he was murdered in cold blood. How the law interprets such callous acts is up to the skills of a lawyer on the day.

Civil-liberties groups will, of course, claim that these people are marginalised in our society and emphasise their rights as human beings. But very little is ever mentioned about their duties to obey the law and live as a part of a civilised society.

It is a sad indictment of our country, our Government, our justice system and the gardai that fear and intimidation have triumphed over decency and humanity. At what stage do we shout stop?

It is worth recalling the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller about the inactivity of German intellectuals after the Nazis' rise to power. He survived Dachau and Sachsenhausen concentration camps.

He said: "When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent; I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.

"When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.

"When they came for me, there was no one left to speak."

John O'Connell
Wilton, Cork

Irish Independent