Page last updated at 14:25 GMT, Monday, 17 November 2008

Anger erupts over Limerick murder

The recent murder of an innocent man has outraged Limerick - an Irish city that for decades has been blighted by feuds between rival gangs, the BBC's Michael Buchanan reports.

The funeral of Shane Geoghegan in Limerick on 12 November 2008
Shane Geoghegan's murder sent shockwaves across Limerick

Just over a week ago, Shane Geoghegan spent the last day of his life gorging himself on his passion - rugby.

He first captained the Garryowen club's third team to victory before revelling in Ireland's thrashing of Canada later in the day, a match played in his home town of Limerick.

Within hours of celebrating that victory, Shane was dead - shot several times as he walked home - the innocent victim of a decades-old feud that has blighted Limerick.

His death led to a huge outpouring of anger, horror and revulsion throughout the city.

We... are not going to allow my city to be handed over to a bunch of scumbags who have no place in our society
Limerick Mayor John Gilligan

The mayor of Limerick, John Gilligan, says the fact that the 28-year-old was so steeped in the city's pastime, rugby, made his death that much more keenly felt.

"We're really a rugby-mad city. For us rugby is a huge thing. Shane was one of us and the people of Limerick are absolutely shocked because you couldn't get a bigger divergence between the person that they murdered and the people who went out to kill him."

'Forgotten communities'

The feud centres on two sets of families and their ongoing battle to control drug supplies in the city - with some extortion, money laundering and arms smuggling on the side.

The Moyross estate in Limerick
The Moyross area is controlled by the Keane-Collopys

The McCarthy-Dundons, who are suspected of being responsible for Shane's death, control the south of the city.

Estates like South Hill and Ballinacurra are their home ground - forgotten communities living in two storey houses with few facilities and much anti-social behaviour.

Young children, "under 12", according to South Hill parish priest Father Pat Hogan, are both perpetrators and victims of the violence that mars the area.

But while the continual presence of the extended families on the estate is undoubtedly a bad influence, Father Pat says it is too simplistic to blame them for all the problems.

"A lot more of it is about the excess of drinking, drugs, violence, intimidation, and poverty; people with a lot of time on their hands, bullying each other and pushing their way around."

'Slam-dunk' monk

Cross the River Shannon to the north of Limerick and you get to Moyross and St Mary's Park, estates controlled by the other side of the feud - the Keane-Collopys.

Sylvester Mann
Sylvester Mann says a lot of problems come from the lack of opportunities

Here, the leaders may be different but the problems are the same - low levels of employment and high levels of drug abuse.

One of the more unusual community activists here is Father Sylvester Mann, a Franciscan monk from the United States who, along with his colleagues are known as the "slam-dunk" monks due to their fondness for basketball.

Father Sylvester says a lot of the problems in the Moyross estate come from a lack of opportunities.

"When I first heard that people didn't get employed if they live in Moyross - if they have a Moyross address they won't be hired - I didn't believe it; I thought it was a bit glib.

"I now realise that there is truth to that, people literally have to put someone else's address down if they want to get a job."

'Stab City'

The murder of Shane Geogheghan has brought back painful memories for the relatives of other innocent people killed in the city in recent years.

Ray Poland's brother, Sean, was murdered on New Year's Eve 2002.

"Sean was shot dead at the front door of his own house. We don't know why, we don't know how. They say it was for money. He'd sold a car that day and they seemingly came back for the money - 1,000 euros."


Victim's family demands justice

In the 1980s, Limerick was nick-named "Stab City" due to a spate of vicious knife assaults.

And in the minds of many people in Ireland it does have a violent reputation - Shane Geoghegan was the 14th person to be killed in gang-related murders in the city since 2000, and the fifth so far this year.

But according to Professor Dermot Walsh from the Centre for Criminal Justice at Limerick University, that reputation is undeserved.

"There have been a few examples of an extremely brutal ruthless murder that captures the public imagination, which is picked up by the tabloid media and is used to generate panic among people who feel they are drowning in a sea of organised crime.

"The reality, of course, is that they are not. The numbers and the rate of these killings are relatively low by international standards," Prof Walsh says.

But Mayor Gilligan says he is determined to stamp out all killings: "We have an awful lot to be proud of; we have an awful lot to give.

"And we most assuredly are not going to allow my city to be handed over to a bunch of scumbags who have no place in our society, and the sooner they are taken out, the better."

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