Guns of Limerick

In western Ireland, bloody feuding between rival drug gangs has instilled a climate of fear in the region. To deal with it, the government has drafted emergency legislation. But some judges and lawyers criticise the new laws as unconstitutional.

Published on 5 August 2009 at 17:28
Photo by Zach_ManchesterUK

In the turf wars being waged by Limerick's drug-dealing gangs, it's less the number of victims – which has nonetheless reached 14 – than the cold cruelty with which the murders are committed that worries the town, and the rest of Ireland as well. In November 2008, rugby captain Shane Geoghegan was gunned down in front of his house. One of the fifteen bullets shot by the killer hit him in the head. The next day, however, it turned out that Geoghegan had been the victim of a case of mistaken identity. According to police, the murderer, who belonged to the McCarthy/Dundon gang, believed he was getting rid of a member of the enemy Collopy crime family, who escaped an ambush in 2006. At that time, his car was riddled with twenty rounds from an automatic pistol.

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REACTION

133 lawyers defend the rule of law

On July 10, the Irish parliament, by a massive majority of 118 votes for and 23 against, approved a law to simplify investigative procedures and extend the powers of the Special Criminal Court to combat gangland crime. Two days earlier in a letter published in the Irish Times, 133 lawyers had voiced their opposition to the law, arguing that "Ireland will eventually be shamed before the United Nations and the European Court of Human Rights." The group further insisted that “it is quite simply astounding that we as a society would jettison ancient rights and rules of evidence without regard to the effect such impetuous legislating might have on respect for the rule of law in this country." A few days later, the Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, responded to the letter in a comment piece published in the same daily: "The bill respects human rights, but we would do well to remember that one of the most basic rights is the right to life."

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