THE Mayor of Limerick says he would love if the family of murder victim Roy Collins could return to Limerick and “safely walk the streets again” in the wake of the guilty verdicts which were handed down at the Special Criminal Court this week.
Cllr Michael Sheahan made his comments after Roy Collins’ father, Steve, said he hopes he can move back to the city to rebuild his life.
Speaking outside the Special Criminal Court following the conviction of Wayne Dundon and Nathan Killeen for his son’s murder in April 2009, he said Limerick is his home and where his family and friends are.
“It’s not nice to be exiled and to be told to leave a country; if you want to do things like that, that’s fine but if you’re forced to do it it’s not so good,” he told reporters.
Flanked by his wife, Carmel, and other members of his family, Steve told reporters: “I would like to think that someday we could come back and try and rebuild our lives back here again because this is our home, this is where our families are and I would like to think that that can happen some day.”
Steve Collins and his family, who have been under garda protection for almost a decade, left Limerick and moved overseas in March 2012 due to ongoing threats and intimidation.
While members of the Collins family have returned to Limerick on occasion since for brief visits, there are still considerable garda fears for their safety. It was reported this week that €500,000 was offered to have Steve Collins killed in advance of the trial of Dundon and Killeen.
Despite this, Steve returned to Ireland earlier this year and attended every day of the lengthy trial which was heard at the non-jury court.
In his victim impact statement, he said he and his family have paid dearly for standing up to criminal elements.
“We have paid the ultimate price for that. One child maimed, another murdered. Our business ruined, forced us to leave our home, our family, our friends and the country we love to live, we have to live in exile in a place where we know no one,” he told the packed courtroom.
While echoing Steve Collins’ hopes that he and his family might be able to return to Limerick in the future, Mayor Sheahan says ensuring their safety must be the top priority.
“I would love to get to the stage where I could welcome the Collins family back and that they would be able to walk the streets of Limerick safely and confidently and without fear or favour but really that is a matter for Steve and the gardai, it’s not a matter for me,” he said.
Speaking in April 2012, after Steve Collins and his family moved abroad, the then Justice Minister, Alan Shatter it was seen as a necessary step taken in consultation with the Collins family.
The minister said the Collins family had “paid a dreadful price for the courage which they showed” after testifying in a trial against a criminal gang in the city, which culminated in the death of Roy Collins in April 2009.
“It is vital that the State is seen to stand by them. Despite the great progress which the gardaí have made in tackling the gangs in Limerick - to which I pay tribute - it remained necessary for Mr Collins and members of his family to have intensive Garda protection,” he told the Dail.
“For some considerable time, we have been in contact with Mr Collins as to how the State could best assist him and his family. These discussions culminated in Mr Collins deciding that the best hope for himself and his family to lead a better life is to move abroad,” he said.
While, Steve Collins has indicated his family’s desire to return to Limerick, it is unlikely to happen in the short term.
“That would be between the garda authorities and Steve and his family because of the security implications,” said Mayor Sheahan, who said even if the Collins family are to to return to Limerick in future, he does not expect there will be a fanfare about it.
“It would be a massive statement, but it is not a statement that would be broadcast in advance, I think he could arrive wherever he would be living and that would be that,” he said.