Bloody feud has roots in drug trade

CRIME gangs in Limerick battling each other to gain control of the drugs trade in the mid-west region are among the most organised and well armed criminals in the country.

Gardaí have seized dozens of sawn-off shotguns and rounds of ammunition as part of their investigations into the gangs. The criminals also have powerful handguns and machine guns.

The feud primarily involves four families from the city’s north side and has resulted in a spate of shootings over the past three years.

One family group has for many years dominated the illegal drugs trade in the region but its members have been reduced to less than 20. This gang has become increasingly isolated.

Gardaí aren’t confident the two factions will sit down to try and end the violent feud. One senior garda said: “It’s unlikely that will happen. Too much has gone on and one gang sees itself as totally superior to the other.” The latest phase of the inter-gang dispute was sparked two years ago when two teenage girls started fighting in a disco.

The girls were part of two families that had been involved in the feud for decades. Another fight between the girls in a field the following day, culminated in one of them biting the other’s ear off.

It’s believed that some days later the injured girl’s family captured the other girl’s mother and marked the letter S on her face with a knife. The families started wearing bullet proof vests that were ordered over the internet.

The feud escalated again when a gunman shot dead Eddie Ryan in the Moose Bar, close to St John’s Cathedral, in November 2000.

Gardaí have investigated 40 incidents following the killing of Mr Ryan, the father of missing brothers Kieran, 19, and Eddie, 20.

These mainly include shootings and petrol bomb attacks. The Lee Estate, home of Mr Ryan’s brother John, was also raked with bullets in March 2001. The following June, families involved in a feud allegedly urged all sides in the dispute to begin peace talks.

The Keanes and Collopys reportedly made a plea for peace through the then Alderman Michael Kelly.

“The Collopys and the Keanes have told me that they want peace on the north side and this gives us the opportunity to bring the feud to an end,” Mr Kelly said at the time.

Back then Alderman Kelly appealed to the family of Eddie Ryan, a man who he said was once his best friend, to open peace talks with the Collopys and the Keanes.

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