THE STATE should have helped Steve Collins and his family to leave Ireland years ago, Fianna Fail deputy Willie O’Dea has said.
Deputy O’Dea said he made representations to a number of Government departments within the last five years urging them to purchase Mr Collins’ pubs in Limerick and allow him leave the country, following the murder of his son Roy in 2009. It has now emerged that the Limerick Regeneration Agencies have purchased The Steering Wheel pub in Roxboro and the neighbouring casino owned by Mr Collins to allow him and his family to emigrate under the witness relocation programme.
Brendan Kenny, chief executive of the regeneration agencies, said they intend to use these premises for a community facility such as a youth or law information centre.
Speaking to the Limerick Chronicle, Mr O’Dea said: “It’s a pity they didn’t agree to purchase his properties sooner. They could have dealt with his financial situation a lot sooner.
“They’re buying the pubs now, but that’s what he wanted all along. For the last five years at least I’ve been trying to get them to buy his pubs, but I was talking to a brick wall. If they had bought the pubs earlier he would have been in a position to leave then.
Deputy O’Dea said he approached both the departments of the environment and justice, the regeneration agencies, Limerick City Council and the Garda Commissioner and “each one said that it was a matter for the other.”
“It was an obvious solution but it took an awful long time to accept it as such,” he added. “It was a bad decision on the part of the State to delay this.”
He said he now hopes that the Collins family can live a “peaceful life abroad”, but said it was also “very sad” that they felt compelled to leave Limerick.
“He was getting very close police protection but people don’t realise how much that disrupts your life. It’s no fault of the police, but obviously it’s extremely uncomfortable, extremely awkward and it still can’t guarantee your safety 100%. Therefore people who go into court and give evidence of these gangs should be accorded national hero status. You really are putting your life, and your liberty and everything on the line.
Independent councillor John Gilligan, who was mayor when thousands of people took to the streets in protest of Roy’s murder, said Mr Collins was “put under enormous pressure, unbearable pressure.”
“If he wanted to go anywhere he had armed guards with him. Normal family life for them came to an end. I don’t think things were going to get any better.
“But we have a totally different Limerick city. I believe the courageous stand that they took has broken the backs of the gangs in Limerick city. The price that they paid is enormous, far too much, but Limerick city owes them an enormous debt of gratitude that we can never repay them,” he said.