Security at a number of potential flash points in Limerick City is under review following an attempted murder that gardaí fear may lead to a new gang feud.
The potential for violence in some of the local authority housing estates where members of the rival factions live is being assessed and Garda reinforcements will be deployed if required, including the Dublin-based emergency response unit.
In the past, Limerick courthouse on Brian Boru Square has been the scene of clashes between rival gangs, necessitating a significant armed Garda presence when the main feud in the city was at its most violent.
“We’ve had different sides appearing in the same court at the same time and often related to gang fights they’d been involved in with each other,” said one source.
“So you would have to be concerned that the younger guys now getting involved, the next generation of the feud if you like; might go at each other in the heat of the moment somewhere like that.”
Another source said such clashes and even verbal taunting in the past had deepened the hatred between the two sides of the feud and fuelled violence for years.
Potential flash point
The courthouse has long been regarded as a potential flash point because it is within walking distance of the city centre and some of the housing estates where gang members live. It means groups can congregate there quickly and also disperse easily.
A number of young criminals, gardaí now believe are becoming involved in the resurgence of feud-related tension, are currently charged with serious offences.
Their court appearances in the weeks ahead will likely give rise to significant security operations.
An armed Regional Support Unit is based permanently in Henry Street station in the city and offers rapid response and heavily armed back-up for local armed detectives and uniformed Garda members.
However, a heavily armed Garda presence has been much less visible in recent years compared with the height of the gangland feud between the McCarthy-Dundon gang and the Keane-Collopy rival faction.
That tit-for-tat violence claimed an estimated 20 lives, beginning with the murder of Eddie Ryan snr in the Moose Bar in Limerick city on November 12th, 2000.
With the main protagonists almost all in prison, and particularly the most violent members of the McCarthy-Dundon gang serving life for a number of murders; the feud has eased in recent years and the death toll has not increased.
But senior Garda officers in Limerick and in Garda headquarters in Dublin, now fear the shooting of convicted drug dealer and senior criminal Christy Keane outside a Limerick gym 12 days ago will inflame tensions that had already been re-emerging this year and last.
The investigating team is working on the theory that members of the McCarthy-Dundon gang have joined with another faction in the city, linked to murdered Eddie Ryan snr, and that that alliance was behind the attempt on Christy Keane’s life.
A number of younger criminals on both sides of the feud who are related to many of the older men in prison, have become active in for-profit crime such as drug dealing and have developed rivalries along feud lines.
Many senior gardaí believe the young men aligned to the Keane-Collopy-Ryan alliance will seek to avenge Christy Keane’s shooting, even though the 55-year-old survived the attack.
“If they were successful even once, you could very quickly find yourself back to the bad old days,” said one source.
Another said the timing of an effort to exact revenge would be crucial.
“Obviously Keane has been shot and tensions are running high, so you would fear both sides might lash out quickly and things could escalate very fast,” he said.
A number of people have been arrested for questioning about the gun attack on Christy Keane on June 30th, outside the gym at the University of Limerick. To date nobody has been charged.