This week has seen the unwelcome return to the national media of a familiar gallery of hardened criminals and assorted gang members (many indisposed – as in behind bars).
The attempted murder of Christy Keane, a pivotal figure in the gangland feud that claimed an estimated 18 lives, was a shocking event in itself. That the shooting took place on the campus of the University of Limerick made it all the more abhorrent.
Within hours of the incident, there were any number of theories about what may have triggered the attack on Christy Keane and much speculation about who was responsible.
For Dublin’s red-top tabloid newspapers, the Limerick feud represented endless box-office fodder when at its height. Their intense interest in the comings and goings of the Dundon-McCarthys, the Collopys and the Keanes was a contributory factor in wider, negative perceptions of Limerick that have taken years to dissipate. Amid fears of reprisal attacks, there has been real concern locally that the excellent progress made in presenting a vastly more positive picture of Limerick to the rest of the world could be undermined.
It was no surprise to see one notorious gangland member who is serving a long prison sentence dragged into the front-page coverage of Monday’s shooting. Whether or not he had any part in the attempted killing – and there is no evidence to suggest he did – had little or no bearing on the decision to put him centre stage once again. He was there to sell newspapers and help flog the old story about Limerick’s feud. During those years when gangland activity was at its worst, the Leader reported extensively on the murderous activities of men who are mostly in prison now. We have also, of course, given prominence to this week’s shooting, but like all who have Limerick’s best interests at heart we fervently hope that there will be no escalation in the kind of violence activity that set us back years.
There has been something depressing this week about the media’s regurgitation of the origins of a feud that we had hoped was consigned to history. And yet given Christy Keane’s central involvement in the drugs trade that provided the battleground in the first place, it was to be expected.
In recent times, gardai in Limerick have sounded warnings about the emergence of a potential new generation of thuggish criminals cut from the same cloth as those who were taken out of circulation by determined policing, aided by tough new legislation.
If there were those who may not treated these concerns with the seriousness they deserved, the events of early Monday morning will surely have been sobering.
Increased policing resources made all the difference in tackling the gangland scourge and any possibility of a resurgence must be ruthlessly and comprehensively addressed, because the last thing we need is another array of vicious young criminals on the front pages.
Limerick has come too far since their predecessors went behind bars.