Violence in chaotic north Dublin dispute has seen man shot dead and threats to families
A gang war between two factions has led to one murder in Balbriggan already. Ken Foy reports that there has been a series of incidents in a feud there over the past year - and claims of more killing to come
It's the vicious feud that first broke out in Balbriggan, north Dublin, has already seen one brutal murder, and has spread to surrounding counties.
Gardai are struggling to cope with the bitter dispute that began two years ago and led to the savage daylight gun murder of Benny Whitehouse in September 2014. The dispute has also spread to counties Meath and Louth.
Along with the murder of Whitehouse (35) last year, there have been a number of other high-profile incidents in the dispute which have been witnessed by dozens of innocent people.
Among these were a bloody street brawl which occurred in Drogheda last month, as well as a series of terrifying incidents which have seen armed gardai forced to patrol outside a primary school in Balbriggan to keep men involved in the feud apart.
Benny's older brother Clifford (40) was jailed for four months earlier this year at Dublin Circuit Court for violent disorder for his role in one of these incidents at the school on Chapel Street in Balbriggan, which took place on November 11, 2013, ten months before his brother's murder.
The incident happened at 9am that morning as a large number of mothers and children, including infants in prams, were on their way to school. Ten of these mothers gave statements to gardai.
The court heard that during the incident a vehicle mounted the footpath and a number of people, including a woman who was due to give birth to her baby that day, had to jump out of the way.
Mothers also had to push prams into driveways to avoid being struck.
Judge Martin Nolan said that vehicle had "made its escape in a very dangerous manner".
Before being jailed this year, Clifford Whitehouse spoke to the Herald and claimed that the gangsters who murdered his brother were now trying to "wipe out" all of his family including their devastated 74-year-old mother.
"I'm in fear for my own life, my 74-year-old mother is in fear, we are all in fear. We have been told that this is not over and I have been told that I am next to be killed," Whitehouse stated.
He also revealed that he received a number of menacing phone calls since his brother's murder in which the person on the other line made grunting noises on the phone.
"It has also been made known to me that they are planning to murder me and then my other brothers next. We don't think that we are getting enough protection from gardai," he said.
"Benny and me and another of my brothers were all brought in to Balbriggan Garda Station in January  and given an official warning that our lives were under threat, Benny was also issued with another one of these warnings in the summer, I think it was May that the gardai warned him again.
"But they would not even give him a bulletproof vest when we asked because Benny did not have any money to buy one.
"The fact that he had no money shows you that he was not a drug dealer like what is being reported - he died without a penny in his pocket.
"He was a good-hearted man who lived for his family, especially his two little girls who have been left without a father. He bred dogs, he was never into drug dealing. My brother's murder was never about drugs or any drugs debt," Clifford Whitehouse said.
Whitehouse, who has a number of previous convictions for offences such as drugs, motoring and burglary related crimes, also said that his family "do not want revenge or retaliation".
However, there has been a number of incidents since, many of which have been organised by the gang boss who is suspected of ordering the murder of Benny Whitehouse.
This gangster was arrested last May by gardai investigating the Whitehouse killing.
He is also the chief suspect for the sinister disappearance of Tallaght man Willie Maughan and his Latvian partner Anna Varslavane who were last seen in Gormanston, Co Meath on the afternoon of April 14, 2015.
He cannot be named here for legal reasons. However, the gang boss has not been responsible for all the incidents in recent months, which have included houses being smashed up, petrol bomb attacks and cars being rammed off the road.
A typical incident linked to the feud happened last October when officers from the Regional Support Unit were called out when a close associate of Benny Whitehouse was involved in a car chase with a senior member of the mob who are suspected of shooting Whitehouse.
The terrifying car chase began when members of one faction saw the other at a rural location in Duleek, Co Meath. Threats and abuse were traded between the two factions as children travelled in both vehicles involved in the incident.
However, the chase came to a halt at the Donore Road roundabout on the outskirts of Drogheda when armed gardai arrived at the scene - just seconds after one van smashed into the back of another van.
There has been numerous incidents like this in recent months and sources say that it "astonishing" that the feud has only claimed one life so far.
However, there is little sign of it ending.