THE Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter, said today that the State is giving Steve Collins and his family “every assistance possible” as they try to built a new life abroad, after leaving Limerick at the weekend due to ongoing threats and intimidation.
The minister said the family “paid a dreadful price for the courage which they showed” after testifying in a trial against a criminal gang in the city, which culiminated in the death of Mr Collins’ son Roy 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.
“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 he regrets that Mr Collins had to take this decision but he fully understands it. “I am sure all right thinking people will wish him and his family well in their move,” said the minister.
The family bid an emotional farewell to Limerick at the weekend as they flew out of Shannon airport on Sunday to start a new life abroad.
The Limerick Leader understands the family, who were under Garda protection for a number of years, held a number of private parties last week where they told close friends and family of their decision to leave and start a new life in another country.
Stephen Collins, his wife Carmel, two of their children, Leanne and Stephen Jnr eventually made the decision to leave and go into a garda witness relocation programme.
It is understood they left together on a flight from Shannon Airport yesterday morning, aided by a specialist security team.
Mr Collins said they simply “had enough of looking over our shoulders”, following the death of Roy, 34, nearly three years ago.
But he insisted they are “not going into hiding” and will not be losing their own identities as they want to keep their family identity.