Many leaders of a prolific crime scene have been jailed, writes Jimmy Woulfe
A major "fracturing" of Limerick’s feared McCarthy-Dundon gang has led to a dramatic fall in organised feuding crime in the city, according to the head of the Limerick Garda division, Chief Superintendent David Sheahan.
The McCarthy-Dundons have long been one of the most feared criminal outfits in the land. Once thought indestructible, they now show all the signs of being in disarray.
The most recent crime stats for Limerick tell their own story. In 2007, there were 103 shootings in the city — representing almost 33% of all firearm offences in the State. Last year, this figure had fallen to 15. In 2012 to date, there have been just four incidents involving the illegal discharge of firearms.
Up to 60 hardcore gang members are in jail. Drugs figures for last year show Limerick’s gangs lost drugs worth €2.4m in garda raids, compared to €1.3m in 2009.
Chief Supt Sheahan said: "A major development over the past two years has been the fracturing of the gangs, particularly the McCarthy-Dundon gang. That has seen the break-up of the gang away from the McCarthy-Ryan gang in Moyross and also away from Collins’s in Ballinacurra Weston.
"That has reduced the capability of these gangs to operate within the city. The [rival] Keane-Collopy gang in St Mary’s Park have been seriously depleted and the main figureheads who have been jailed for long periods and that has reduced their capability to have a significant effect on serious crime in the Limerick area.
"On the McCarthy-Dundon grouping nearly all bar one or two are in custody. As a result of Operation Redwing [targeting the McCarthy-Dundons], seven of the McCarthy-Dundon gang were imprisoned for terms of five years plus and another four are serving long sentences for serious crime. These were all serious players in respect of criminality and that has had a major impact.
"On the other side, the [Keane] Collopys have taken a serious hit: Brian Collopy is doing eight years, Kieran Collopy is doing five years, Philip Collopy is deceased, Vincent Collopy and Jonathan Collopy are under arrest in Bulgaria for drugs and firearms offences and awaiting trial, Kenneth Collopy is doing life for murder, Damien Collopy is doing five years, Shane Mason, their cousin, has been jailed for attempted murders. These would have been driving the feud on the Keane-Collopy side."
The McCarthy-Ryan faction in Moyross received a huge blow this year when their main figure, "Fat" John McCarthy, was jailed for 14 years at Limerick Circuit Court for running a heroin-processing factory.
Ed and Kieran "Rashers" Ryan, sons of Eddie Ryan, whose murder in the Moose Bar in Nov 2000 sparked the feud, are also serving long sentences.
They were caught with a gun in Ballyneety in May 2010. Ed got six years and "Rashers" eight.
The McCarthy-Ryans struck up an alliance with the McCarthy-Dundons after Eddie Ryan’s murder in order to get revenge on the Keane-Collopys.
Philip Collopy and Kieran Keane, both dead from bullets to the head, were the two gunmen who murdered Eddie Ryan.
Kieran Keane’s nephew, Liam Keane, gained national notoriety when his murder trial for the brutal murder of a shop worker collapsed after six witnesses failed to back up statements given to gardaí.
Liam Keane was charged with the murder of Tesco worker Eric Leamy, aged 19, in Aug 2001. He walked free from the Central Criminal Court when his trial collapsed in Nov 2003.
As he swaggered from the courtroom, Liam Keane gave two fingers to photographers. He caused a public outcry and outrage in the Dáil. The case led to a significant change in the laws of evidence of section 16 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006, which allowed statements to be adduced as evidence, even if a witness refused to affirm what he/she had given in the statement.
Chief Supt Sheahan said: "This has been very important legislation in relation to gangland crime and organised crime, and there has been a number of significant convictions in respect of that piece of legislation."
Keane was jailed for 10 years in Jan 2009 after being caught with a loaded gun after a high-speed car chase. He had been out of prison only 17 days when he was caught by gardaí on what they suspect was a murder mission.
Chief Supt Sheahan said a combination of pro-active police work has led to the transformation of gang crime in Limerick.
"A lot of the gang-related matters are now going before the [non-jury] Special Criminal Court and the DPP has taken a strong line now that a lot of our cases go to this court. That has a major impact on criminality. The new bail law which allows us detain people in custody on the evidence of a chief superintendent and that has worked very effectively here in Limerick.
"We have also seized a lot of assets. Many of these gang figures have lost their houses, vehicles, and cash. Their resources have been targeted."
Chief Supt Sheahan said that while gardaí in Limerick have met with major success in tackling serious gang crime, there has to be no complacency. "As a result of many of the things we saw here in Limerick we made recommen-dations to our own commissioner who made recommendations to government in respect of change of laws that was required to deal with such high level activity, and that was seen from the Roy Collins murder [which resulted in new anti-gang legislation], and arising from the changed legislation it has aided us in the way in which were able to investigate crime.
"Coupled with that, there has been serious effort and energy put into training our people with the senior investigators course and lot of upskilling in interview techniques and all of that to aid us in how we do our job. All of these things have seen a major shift on how we do our business and that has brought about efficiencies and certainly has shown to be very effective."
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