herald

Thursday 23 January 2020

Armed units deployed 24/7 to combat female directed feud violence

The Armed Support Unit has been redeployed to patrol the area
The Armed Support Unit has been redeployed to patrol the area

Detectives have identified a number of women who are centrally involved in directing feud violence in a midlands county which has led to armed gardai patrolling the area over Christmas.

Gardai are investigating more than 60 violent incidents linked to the spiralling Longford dispute, which includes shootings, attempted hits, stabbings and petrol bomb attacks.

The situation has become so severe that the Armed Support Unit (ASU) has been redeployed to patrol the area on a 24/7 basis on Christmas week.

Six Traveller families are involved and criminals from Dublin are now also taking part.

In an unusual development, a number of females are suspected of directing and orchestrating much of the violence and as a result have also been the targets of murder bids.

One woman is currently in custody over a feud incident, and since being put behind bars, the number of attacks carried out by her faction has decreased significantly.

"This woman is very much the brains behind one of the feuding outfits in Longford and things have quietened down since she was taken out of circulation," a source told the Herald.

"While mainly men are being arrested for carrying out acts of violence as part of feuding in Longford, it seems a number of women are very much the driving force behind the violence."

The involvement of other women directly involved in the violence has led to them being the targets of shootings.

In one high-profile incident in recent weeks, gardai believe a woman, suspected of an assault, was the target of an assassination attempt linked to the feud.

To date, gardai have made 52 significant arrests as part of their investigations into the feud between the six families.

Six firearms have been seized and on two occasions, gardai intercepted suspected gunmen equipped with firebombs and forensic cleaning kits to be used after a shooting to frustrate gardai in identifying them.

In an effort to clamp down on the feuding gangs, almost 1,800 proactive measures have been taken, including the strict monitoring of bail conditions.

The CAB has also been carrying out investigations into the feuding gangs' finances, while local gardai have been involved in mediation talks between the disputing families.

Local garda management has also secured extra gardai for the area.

"The support from the local community, from local councillors and working with the Joint Policing Committee (JPC) and the assistance is CCTV is also integral in tackling those involved in the feuding," a source said.

The situation has escalated to such a level that extra security measures have been put in at local courts and concerns have also been expressed by the judiciary about the violence.

Acid

The extreme measure of banning drinks inside Longford courthouse was also brought in this month over fears that an acid attack would be carried out during a sitting.

Extreme measures have been taken in the past to prevent any further violence, including in January when a graveyard was searched for weapons and bombs ahead of the funeral of Maureen Stokes (93) at St Mel's Cathedral in Longford

In June, garda management directed that the ASU patrol the area on a 24/7 basis for the first time

It came after shots were fired at a house at Clonbalt Wood with a man in his 40s narrowly avoiding injury.

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