THE Collins family, who emigrated from Ireland under the Garda Witness Protection programme, returned to Limerick at the weekend for the marriage of Steve Junior to his sweetheart, Ciara Clancy.
And Monsignor Daniel Neenan, celebrant at the wedding on Saturday with Fr Tom Carroll, said that the Collins family were “the pride of Limerick.”
He described them as a remarkable family, who were admired by all for their courage, after their son Roy was murdered.
Stephen Collins, his wife Carmel and two of their children, Leanne and Stephen Jnr, recently made the decision to leave and go into a garda witness relocation programme and flew out of Shannon in March.
At the time Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter said that 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 culminated in the death of Mr Collins’ son Roy in April 2009.
But they all flew back home last week for the big wedding, which proved a big success.
“While Roy was remembered at the wedding on Saturday and there were a few tears it was mainly a joyous occasion with about 170 guests attending,” said one friend of the family that attended.
The couple got married at Monaleen Church and later guests travelled to Ballykisteen for the wedding celebration.
“There was a fairly strong Garda presence as the family are continuing to get protection while here. They are heading back out of Ireland in a day or two,” added the source.
The wedding was not a big secret; there were a large number of guests in attendance and both Roy and Carmel were spotted shopping in the city last week in the lead up to the big day.
“It was a really lovely occasion. Leanne, sister to the groom, was a bridesmaid and Fr Neenan spoke beautifully and described the Collins family as remarkable people and the Pride of Limerick,” one of the guests told the Limerick Leader.
When the Collins’ family will return to Limerick remains unsure as they are due to fly out again this week to continue their new life abroad. While he has decided not to do any media interviews during his return to Limerick, Steve Collins said before he left in March that they simply “had enough of looking over our shoulders”, following the death of Roy, 34, over three years ago.
But he insisted they were “not going into hiding” and would not be losing their own identities as they want to keep their family identity.
Mr Shatter said that it was vital that the State is seen to stand by the Collins family.
“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,” the minister said.