The mayor of Drogheda has called on Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to make a public statement on policing in Co Louth after the murder of a man in a popular caravan park on Tuesday.
Keith Branigan, 29, a married man from Ballsgrove, Drogheda, was shot multiple times as he worked on decking outside a caravan in the park in Clogherhead.
Gardaí believe his murder is linked to the ongoing feud between organised criminal gangs in the Drogheda area.
A number of people said that men, suspected of being involved in one of the gangs, had been seen in the Clogherhead area recently.
Mr Branigan is the first person to be murdered in the feud but there have been three other attempted murders by shooting and numerous petrol and pipe bomb attacks as well as assaults and shootings in the last 13 months.
The Garda superintendent for Drogheda, Andrew Watters, said the Clogherhead murder was “a particularly indiscriminate and callous act carried out in a very busy caravan park”.
“There were a lot of families, women with young children in particular close to the area of the shooting,” he said. “Indeed some of these children enjoying the last days of the Summer holidays, some were back to school today.”He said it was not a drive-by shooting as reported initially.
“We are satisfied a red Lexus car, registration 05C 24473, entered the caravan park, the gunman approached the deceased and fired a number of shots at him. A number of stray shots caused damage to two cars in the vicinity in the car- park as well.
Acting State Pathologist Dr Linda Mulligan carried out a post mortem on Mr Branigan’s remains at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.
As part of the investigation, the caravan park remained closed to all vehicular traffic for most of yesterday and the 20 or so people on site had to use a pedestrian entry and exit route.The Mace shop and local post office, in whose car park two cars were damaged by stray bullets, remained closed for the day.
Mr Watters appealed for the public’s help in a number of areas including identifying the route the Lexus took before it was found burnt out at Whiteriver, near Collon, and in tracing the movements of the Toyota Avensis the gunman and another man took from Whiteriver until it was found abandoned in the Clonmore estate in Ardee.
Gardaí are also seeking anybody in the Clogherhead and surrounding areas who may have noticed any unusual behaviour in the 48 hours leading up to the shooting on Tuesday. such as any unusual cars or people. and indeed in the immediate run up to 2.50pm Tuesday (such as) any unusual cars or people.”
An incident room has been established in Drogheda Garda Station. The superintendent said gardaí have an operation in place in the Drogheda district to deal with serious organised crime and he sought to reassure locals that officers have made a number of very significant detections, arrests, prosecutions.
Anyone with information on the shooting can contact Drogheda gardaí on 041 987 4200 or the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111.
Mayor of Drogheda, Cllr Paul Bell, said: “I am calling on the Garda commissioner, who I have really good regard for, to make a public statement to the people of Drogheda and south Louth to assure them that the reforms he is implementing for An Garda Síochana will not dilute his force’s ability to deal with serious crime and in particular the ongoing feud which is live in the south Louth area, not just Drogheda.”Cllr Pio Smith, who works in addiction services said, questions are being asked about the apparent failure to use gangland legislation to tackle the ongoing feud.
“People in Drogheda are fed up. They feel that while the guards are making great strides and efforts to make community safer that the DPP is not giving answers as to why the gangland legislation is not being used.”
“Everybody knows who is controlling both gangs but they are allowed to walk the streets.”
He said there is gangland legislation that could be used against them and that, “it defines what it means to be a member of a gang and what it means to be the organiser of a gang.”
Meanwhile Gardai confirmed that the four people arrested in relation to the attempted murder by arson at a house in Drogheda in July were all under 18 years of age.They were released without charge yesterday but a file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to the incident.