'Turn away from violence', funeral of feud victim told
Those planning to avenge a young man shot dead as part of the Drogheda feud "should observe the rule of law", the victim's funeral has heard.
Keith Branigan was laid to rest yesterday morning after being gunned down at a Louth caravan park last week.
The 29-year-old is the first person to be killed in the escalating Drogheda feud, which has involved more than 80 violent crimes.
Hundreds of mourners turned out at his funeral mass at the Church of the Holy Family in Ballsgrove, Drogheda, to pay their respects to the young murder victim.
There was a significant garda presence in the area and the church was swept by garda sniffer dogs before the service.
Uniformed gardai and plain-clothes detectives also kept a presence, while members of the Armed Support Unit (ASU) patrolled the area around the church.
The funeral mass took place at 11am after Mr Branigan's remains were brought from his nearby home in Ballsgrove to the church.
Mourners heard how the newlywed was a "bubbly" and "much-loved character" who was "callously murdered last week".
Fr Phil Gaffney also made a plea from the altar at the Church of the Holy Family for the men and women involved in the feuding to stop the violence.
The parish priest said people should observe the rule of law, "particularly for those who could be planning revenge" for the murder of Mr Branigan.
"The music has stopped in our town, not just because the Fleadh has finished, but because some people want to continue the feud which has blighted our town for the last 15 months," he said.
"Last week, when schools were preparing to open for a new year, someone was planning to end the life of a young man.
"Our sorrow can only be eased by the men and women turning away from violence and observing the rule of law, particularly those who could be planning revenge at this time.
"When will it stop, Who can make it stop?
"Only the men and women of Drogheda who want a better future for their children," Fr Gaffney said.
A picture of Mr Branigan was placed on his coffin, along with flowers during the mass, while floral tributes were placed beside the casket as it made its way from the church to Calvary Cemetery for burial.
Fr Gaffney also spoke about how children in the town should not see helicopters hovering over their homes as a regular part of life in Drogheda.
"[Mr Branigan] was a bubbly character full of life, and was deeply loved," he said.
"You only have to see the grief over the loss over the last few days, and the torment and torture his family has gone through."
Mr Branigan, who is survived by his wife Rachel, mother Iris and sisters, as well as his wider family, is the first person to be killed as part of the feud.
The 29-year-old was shot dead in a caravan park in Clogherhead, Co Louth, on Tuesday of last week.
Although not believed to be centrally involved in the dispute, his close link to one man leading a gang in the feud is being treated as the motive for his killing.
He had been working on decking at a mobile home in the Ashling Caravan Park when he was blasted a number of times by a hitman.
A number of threats have been issued since last week's killing, which has led to fears of an escalation in violence in the feud.
Senior investigators have said that they will continue to deploy armed units across the town as part of Operation Stratus, the anti-gangland initiative in Drogheda.
Superintendent Andrew Watters also moved to reassure the community that "everything is being done" by gardai to stop the violence.
Speaking to reporters last week following the gun murder, he said: "We have an operation in place in Drogheda, and we have made a number of very serious detections, arrests, prosecutions.
"Everything is being done by An Garda Siochana in terms of resources, equipment and IT.
"Everything is being done both locally and nationally to attempt to protect the people of Drogheda and surrounding areas," Supt Watters added.
Gardai are continuing to appeal for anyone with any information in relation to the murder of Mr Branigan to come forward.