The history of gangland violence in Limerick is intertwined with family feuds, money and control of the region's lucrative drug trade. While feuding in parts of the city go back decades, its modern roots are linked to a falling-out between criminals Christy Keane and his close ally, Eddie Ryan, in 2000.
A now famous schoolyard row between their daughters – in which one girl received a slash wound to the face – inflamed a widening rift between the former associates. Shortly afterwards, Keane was sitting in a parked car outside a school waiting for one of his two children. Ryan approached and produced a gun. The weapon jammed.
Two nights later, there was a reprisal. Two men entered a bar in which Ryan was drinking and shot him dead. On leaving the bar, the two masked gunmen sprayed the front of the bar with automatic gunfire.
As the feud developed, Ryan’s family formed an alliance with the McCarthy- Dundon faction, who were quickly developing a huge drugs network in the city.
The Dundon brothers were born in England, where their father Kenneth had emigrated. During the late 1980s or early 1990s they began to drift back to Limerick and linked up with their cousins, the McCarthys. They quickly established themselves as major players in the drugs scene from a base in Ballinacurra Weston, on the southside of the city.
The McCarthy-Dundon-Ryan alliance plotted to avenge the murder of Eddie Ryan. Keane’s gang was by now aligned with the Collopys, other major players in the drugs trade. The murders or attempted killings grew in savagery. One involved a man being stabbed 17 times and left for dead; another involved a man tortured and then shot. At least a dozen killings have been linked to this current feud, although some put the figure far higher.
Today, In all, almost 30 gang members are in jail. John Dundon and his brothers, Dessie, Wayne and Ger are all in prison for various offences, ranging from murder to intimidation. So too are associates of the Dundon gang, such as Nathan Killeen and Barry Doyle. The main members of the rival Collopy gang are also serving time. Kenneth Collopy is serving life for the murder of an innocent victim in 2008; other Collopy gang members are serving sentences of up six years for intimidation or threats to kill.