SEEN back in Limerick over the holiday period was Steve Collins, who was forced into exile with his family last year as he remained a target of city criminals.
Mr Collins began a new life overseas in March 2012 under the state’s witness relocation programme and the former city publican was afforded full Garda protection during his brief visit home this Christmas.
He was spotted ringing in 2013 with a group of friends in a city pub on New Year’s Eve.
“He was looking well and seemed to be enjoying being back. To look at him, you would never think he had been through all he has been through,” said one new year reveller.
Mr Collins’ son Roy was murdered in April 2009 four years after members of the Collins family testified in court against Wayne Dundon, evidence that resulted in a lengthy prison sentence for the notorious Limerick criminal.
The family continued to be the subject of threats even after the shocking gun murder, which resulted in new anti-gang laws being introduced and a crackdown on Limerick criminals.
Leaving Limerick, Mr Collins said he was beginning a new life abroad as the family “had enough of looking over our shoulders”.
“It is too much. Everywhere we go, the guards have to go with us. It is not a normal life,” he said.
The Christmas visit is the second time members of the family have returned to Limerick since being forced to quit these shores. The Collins’ came back in June for the wedding of Steve Junior, an occasion on which Roy was tearfully remembered.
One of Mr Collins’ business properties, the Steering Wheel pub in Roxboro, was bought by the Limerick Regeneration Agency prior to the family’s departure.
At the time of the €500,000 purchase of the pub, Limerick Regeneration’s Brendan Kenny said it was the plan to transform the Steering Wheel into a community facility for the southside.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the Government was supporting the family to relocate overseas. “Mr Collins and his family stood by the institutions of this State. They paid a dreadful price for the courage which they showed,” Minister Shatter commented.