small group of criminal godfathers is directing the gangland violence which has claimed the lives of 11 people in Limerick in the past eight years, a chief state prosecutor revealed last night.Limerick state solicitor Michael Murray, who has overseen landmark convictions following the murders of crime boss Kieran Keane and night-club doorman Brian Fitzgerald, said the criminal masterminds remain untouchable because a steady supply of willing lieutenants are willing to risk jail to serve them. Mr Murray said the good work of the country's leading gardai was being undone by the ready availability of disadvantaged aspiring criminals to do the dirty work for their seniors.
Up to four crimelords based in the Mid-West region are conducting the notorious gangland criminality in Limerick which has led to the violent deaths of at least 11 men since 2000 and Mr Murray describes their activities as "unrelenting". "So long as the godfathers are there, they will always manipulate the vulnerable," Mr Murray said. "The reality is the city (Limerick) is in a grip of a feud by organised groups. They are creating all sorts of problems. It is unrelenting.
"The problem really is that drugs are so lucrative, there are people at the top end that are not coming up on the radar screen and are orchestrating all of this, that is the problem. "There is no more than three or four in the Mid-Western region. They are in the background. That is their real strength, their ability to remain in the background. "Once their operatives are put out of the way, they just go around and find somebody else to put in their place," he added. The solicitor said a cross-section of all ages -- vulnerable adults and children -- were being used by senior gang members. "There has been a problem and a difficult problem for the courts to deal with. Indeed, adults who are not known to the gardai are often coerced to do things for drugs people on the basis that they are persuaded that they have no previous convictions and haven't been in the courts before," Mr Murray said.
"They are not likely to be caught first of all and even if they are caught, they are going to get a light sentence.
"Now, that has gone a step further where they are finding it is easier to manipulate young fellows on the basis that they can be persuaded -- 'you are a young fella, even if you are caught, nothing will happen to you.' I have no doubt that is happening". New legislation may be required to stem the ongoing criminality.
"The problem is in order to address that, the courts should in one sense treat the vulnerable more severely," Mr Murray said. "I suppose the theory should be that the vulnerable should be more afraid of the courts than they are of the criminals. That, unfortunately, is unpalatable in itself. It is a difficult one.
"In fairness, the guards have kept a lid on it as best they can. But it is a little bit like rolling a stone up a hill. Once it gets to the top it rolls back down and you have to start all over again."