Three men who gardai believe are among the main protagonists in the Longford feud walked free from court yesterday after receiving suspended sentences over a violent incident that inflamed the dispute.
The shocking attack happened at the Texaco Service Station on the Dublin Road in Longford at 5pm on June 2 last year.
The Longford feud has resulted in numerous violent incidents including shootings, arson attacks, assaults and death threats, which have led armed gardai to carry out dozens of major operations.
Willie Hannafin (32), of Dublin Road, Longford; Thomas Hannafin (40), also of Dublin Road, Longford; and Denis Hannafin (39), of Curry, Athlone Road, Longford, and two juvenile defendants appeared before Judge Keenan Johnson at Longford Circuit Court.
Thomas and Willie pleaded guilty to violent disorder and were each given a three-year suspended jail sentence which was backdated until April 7 last when they were first remanded in custody by the local district court.
They were both ordered to pay €2,000 to St Vincent De Paul charity in Longford and they had to sign a 10-year bond to keep the peace.
Denis Hannafin was given a one-year suspended sentence, also backdated to when he was remanded in custody on April 7, for possession of weapons in the fracas.
The trio had been refused High Court bail in the lead-up to yesterday's sentencing hearing because of security concerns and other matters, but they are now free men.
The two male juveniles who were identified in court as the main protagonists in the incident were remanded in custody to Oberstown Detention Centre until a court sitting on July 6. They cannot be named because they are not adults.
In a previous court sitting, gardai outlined the facts of case that the five males pleaded guilty to yesterday.
Garda John Hanley, of Longford Station, said the injured party in the case - Ronan Stokes - was assaulted by three males and that one of the males could be seen on CCTV "slitting his back".
He alleged that two of the men punched the injured party while a fourth accused swung an axe which did not make contact with Mr Stokes.
He said a fifth male drove the others to and from the service station.
The garda added that the incident started when one of the charged males emerged from a jeep when the victim was in the shop.
Two other males made their way to the front of the shop where one "punched him and the other pulled a blade up the back of the injured party".
Gda Henley agreed that the victim was slashed on his back through his clothing, which resulted in him requiring 12 stitches.
The officer said Mr Stokes escaped the scene, and an axe that was allegedly swung at him but did not make contact in the incident had not been recovered.
The victim made a complaint and gardai had obtained "very good CCTV", he said.