Relief across city which has not seen a murder in 19 months

John Dundon is driven under escort from the Special Criminal Court  after being sentenced to life in prison for the murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan. Photograph: Eric Luke

John Dundon is driven under escort from the Special Criminal Court after being sentenced to life in prison for the murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan. Photograph: Eric Luke

 


John Dundon’s conviction was met with widespread relief across Limerick, where there has not been a murder for 19 months.

“They said Shane Geogheghan was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said independent city councillor John Gilligan. “How could you be in the wrong place at the wrong time if you’re hundred yards from your own house? It simply goes to show the complete callousness of the people who sent others out to kill.”

Mr Gilligan, who was mayor during some of Limerick’s most high-profile violent incidents, including the murder of businessman Roy Collins, said the verdict was proof Limerick would “no longer cow down under gun law.”

Mr Geoghegan, he said, should be remembered as a decent, hardworking person who was loved loved by all who met him. “I don’t want to remember him in conjunction with the scumbags who murdered him.

The crime situation in Limerick had altered dramatically in a short number of years, Mr Gilligan added.

“When John Fitzgerald [former head of Limerick Regeneration] came to Limerick city, the first thing he insisted before any regeneration took place was that we were short 100 gardaí. We got 100 gardaí, they took on the task with renewed vigour and I’m delighted to say it is now accepted that they have smashed all the major drug gangs in Limerick.

“You will always have problems where you have illicit drugs, but Limerick city has now become one of the safest cities in Europe and that’s due to the extra gardaí. You can’t have policing on the cheap, it simply doesn’t work.”

The chairman of the joint policing committee in Limerick, councillor Michael Hourigan, paid tribute to gardaí and said the bravery of the witnesses must also be acknowledged.

“We need that message to go out to the people involved in criminal activity that the ordinary citizens of Limerick city and ordinary people are prepared to say their piece in the court.”

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan said his thoughts and prayers were with the Geoghegan family and he was aware of how difficult yesterday was for them. Mr Callinan said the Special Criminal Court decision endorsed the capacity of the State to deal with the most serious and difficult criminal cases.

Mayor of Limerick Kathleen Leddin said the verdict brought closure to a difficult and prolonged campaign for justice by the family and friends of Mr Geoghegan, “a much loved, honest and respected member of the local community”.

Ms Leddin paid tribute to his family and friends, who worked tirelessly to ensure his legacy would amount to more than just another crime statistic.

Much of these sentiments are echoed by people who have lit a “candle for Shane” on a special online condolence page set up by the Limerick Leader newspaper in the wake of the killing. The site has attracted more than a million visits since 2008, says its editor Alan English.