Body count rises as two tribes continue to wage war

THE discovery yesterday of a body partly buried in open ground in Limerick is almost certainly the 10th tit-for-tat murder in the continuing feud between two rival drugs gangs.

Feuding gang members have also been involved in three, and possibly five, other murders since 2000, mainly over drugs.

It is clear, however, that the internecine warfare and reprisal killings are born as much out of a deep pathological hatred as out of money and drugs.

The history of the feud goes back to November 2000 when there was a huge falling-out between Christy Keane and his close ally, Eddie Ryan.

A schoolyard row in which one girl received a serious slash wound to the face inflamed a widening rift between the one-time friends.

On the morning of November 8, 2000, Christy Keane was sitting in his parked car outside a school waiting for one of his two children.

Eddie Ryan approached, produced a gun, but when he went to fire the semiautomatic, it jammed and he ran off.

Two nights later, Eddie Ryan attended the removal of the remains of a relative at St John’s Cathedral.

After leaving the cathedral, he went to the nearby Moose bar and sat near the door with one of his two sons, Kieran.

Two men entered the bar at about 10pm and fired at Eddie Ryan, killing him. Luckily, Kieran Ryan was in the toilet at the time.

On leaving the bar, the two masked gunman sprayed the front of the bar with automatic gunfire. Bullets smashed through the front window and one female customer was hit.

Kieran Keane, a brother of Christy Keane, was believed to be one of the two gunmen.

As the feud developed the family of Eddie Ryan formed an alliance with the McCarthy/Dundon faction, who were fast developing a huge drugs network in the city.

The Dundon brothers were born in England, where their father Kenneth had emigrated in the 1970s.

During the early 1980s they began to drift back to Limerick and linked up with their cousins, the McCarthys.

They quickly established themselves as big players in the drugs scene from a base in Ballinacurra Weston. The McCarthy Dundon/Ryan alliance plotted to avenge the murder of Eddie Ryan.

They set an elaborate trap for Kieran Keane which led to his abduction and murder in January 2003.

They also tried to lure the second gunman who shot Eddie Ryan. Instead Owen Treacy, who had nothing to do with the Kieran Keane murder, travelled to the meeting where Keane was killed.

However, Mr Treacy survived when the gun used to kill Kieran Keane jammed. One of the five man gang proceeded to stab him 17 times and left him for dead. But he survived and his evidence led to the jailing of the five men on life sentences for the murder of Kieran Keane.

The Keane/Collopy gang struck again on a fine June evening in 2003.

John Ryan, a brother of Eddie’s, was laying a patio in Thomondgate when a pillion passenger jumped off a motorbike and shot him. John Ryan died a short time later.

News of his death sparked a big street party in St Mary’s Park, the stronghold of the Keane/Collopy gang. People danced on the streets and crates of champagne were bought in from off-licences.

One of the most vicious feud murders was carried out in October 2003, when Michael Campbell McNamara, a friend of the Keane/Collopy camp, fell into the hands of the vicious McCarthy/Dundons.

After being tortured he was shot in a most gruesome, sadistic manner.

The Keane/Collopys are suspected of carrying out the murder of Aidan Ryan in May 2006. His body was found at Blackwater on the outskirts of the city.

The Keane/Collopys are understood to have hired a notorious gunman to murder the McCarthy/Dundon’s key man in Moyross, "Fat Frankie" Ryan in September 2006.

He was ambushed and shot in the back of the head as he sat in his car at Pineview Gardens, Moyross.

Noel Crawford was shot dead in October 2006 in Southill when he was mistaken for his brother, Paul, a known associate of the McCarthy/Dundon gang.

In April 2007, Noel Campion, who was an associate of the man who murdered "Fat Frankie" Ryan, was shot dead by the McCarthy/Dundon gang as he travelled as a pillion passenger on a motorbike. As the bike stopped at a busy junction, a gunman stepped out from a phone kiosk and shot him dead.

Mark Moloney died last Saturday for the simple reason that he was a friend of the man suspected of shooting Noel Crawford dead.

Of the Dundon brothers, Dessie is doing life for the murder of Kieran Keane; John, who was last November acquitted on a charge of murdering security man Brian Fitzgerald, is serving four years for threatening to kill Owen Treacy at the Kieran Keane murder trial; and Wayne is serving seven years for threatening a Limerick barman — shot minutes later in a crowded bar by a gunman wearing a motorbike helmet. The gunman has never been identified.

Christy Keane was jailed in 2002 for 10 years after being caught by gardaí moving a large amount of drugs in a coal bag at St Mary’s Park. With remission he is due out next year.

A number of murders over the past seven to eight years have been carried out by members of the feuding gangs.

Security man Brian Fitzgerald was shot dead because he crossed the leader of the McCarthy/Dundon gang by taking a stand against the sale of drugs at Docs nightclub.

Richard "Happy" Kelly, whose body was found in a lake some weeks ago in Co Clare, may have been murdered after taking a car in which feuding gang members had stashed drugs. He was a known joyrider.

Robert Fitzgerald was shot in Moyross in 2003. Nobody has been charged but a feared feud figure is a suspect.

While drugs are a big part in the dynamics of the feud, it has been primarily driven by a deep-seated hatred — a hatred that is being passed on to children on either side of the divide.

A recent court case in Cork gave an insight into the kind of weaponry the gangs are equipping themselves with.

At the trial it emerged that one Limerick gang was trying to purchase an assortment of machine guns and rocket launchers in Britain.