Well-placed sources say the shooting was an elaborate plan to lure members of the Keane/Collopy gang out onto the street where they were to be ambushed.
Six houses in St Mary’s Park, which is an enclave of one of the city’s feud gangs, were raked with automatic gunfire on Tuesday night. Nobody was hurt.
The car, which was abandoned in Shannon, was being examined last night.
Its Dublin origins emphasise the links Limerick gangs have forged with Dublin criminals who supply them with drugs and guns, Garda sources said.
Sources added that the shooting was “too well a thought-out plan to be just a driveby shooting”.
Justice Minister Brian Lenihan and Garda commissioner Fachtna Murphy will today get a face-to-face briefing from Limerick Garda bosses on what is being regarded as one of the most audacious attacks in the city feud.
McCarthy/Dundon gang members drove into St Mary’s Park, the Keane/Collopy stronghold, at about 8.45pm on Tuesday and opened fire.
The silver Mercedes was stolen in Rathfarnham in Dublin on St Patrick’s Day and then put in safekeeping in Limerick. The vehicle, fitted with a false taxi rooftop sign, was abandoned at Cronan Grove, Shannon, after the shooting and the gunman and his driver left there in a black Toyota Corolla.
Insp John O’Reilly said: “The shooting happened at 8.45pm and is feud-related. Six houses were hit by automatic gunfire. A high-powered silver Mercedes with the registration number 00 D 19824 was used.”
The attack is being seen as retaliation for recent shootings in which four women — two of whom are widows — were targeted by both sides.
The women have links to families who are involved in the two main rival factions.
Councillor Kevin Kiely, FG, chairman of the city’s joint policing committee said that Mr Lenihan should consider emergency legislation to intern gang members.
He said: “It has got to the stage where emergency legislation is needed to deal with the matter and I think he has to look at internment so that these people can be locked away.”
St Mary’s Park is constantly patrolled by armed gardaí.
Shortly before noon yesterday in the estate, a local delivery man was returning after his morning round. As usual, his van was followed by two heavily armed detectives in an unmarked patrol car.
As the deliveryman is related to the Keane family he has to have armed protection every time he heads out on his rounds.
Such is the nature of life in St Mary’s Park.
Despite the heavy Garda presence, members of the McCarthy/Dundon gang used the Mercedes fitted out as a taxi to slip into the estate without attracting notice.
A local source said: “Taxis don’t attract suspicion.”