Communities living in fear from lethal feuding thugs
"BUYING a gun is almost as easy as buying a bag of chips."
These are the grim words of a community worker in Tallaght, the Dublin suburb where law-abiding members of the community fear an "all-out war" between rival gangs.
A very small minority are holding this respectable community to ransom -- and law-abiding citizens there are fearful that more people are going to lose their lives in feud-related violence.
Teen Melanie McCarthy McNamara (16) was the victim of an increasingly vicious gang feud.
The levels of violence in the area can be witnessed in Tallaght District Court.
In one recent case, the court heard of a shooting victim who armed himself with a slash hook, razor and a hatchet for protection.
In recent weeks, a 14-year-old boy was caught with a handgun and a 15-year-old boy had to pay off his drug debt by firing at a house.
"Some of the kids have actually no choice," said one local. "They owe a drug dealer money, they are beaten to a pulp and ordered to hide drugs."
The tragic death of Melanie has turned the spotlight on Tallaght and the increasing violence by gangs.
Community activists say feuding gangs in Tallaght are becoming increasingly vicious as they struggle for control over the drugs trade.
In recent months, it is claimed, there have been three shootings and one pipe bomb attack in Jobstown.
Furthermore there have been numerous families run out of the area and there have been countless burglaries.
In addition, boys as young as 12 or 13 are openly selling drugs, carrying knives or machetes, and even guns.
"Teenagers regularly have weapons for their own protection, be it knives or knuckledusters.
"Often they will have a gun, it's easy to get a gun these days," said one worker.
Local TDs have also raised the issue, saying they believed that incidents such as shootings, pipe bombs, petrol bombs and burglaries were not being report to gardai for fear of retaliation.
And amid fears of an escalation of violence in the southside of the city, community workers have appealed for calm, saying that justice can only be achieved through the courts.