We want to come back home, says brave Steve
STEVE Collins and his family want to return to live in Limerick.
The family moved abroad as part of a witness relocation programme in 2012 amid fears for their safety.
Under constant threat from the Dundon gang, they were left with no option but to flee the country.
They have come back to Ireland on several occasions for visits but are now hopeful that they can return and live here for good.
One son, Roy, was murdered by the Dundon gang. Their adopted son Ryan Lee was maimed previously in 2004 by a masked gunman.
But Steve Collins, originally from Ballyfermot, described his family as brave and said he hoped they would be able to come home.
"I'd like to think that we could now," he said.
"It's not nice to be exiled, to be told to leave a country. If you want to do things like that, that's fine, but if you're forced to do it, it's not so good."
"I'd like to think that some day we can come back and try to rebuild our lives back here again because this is our home. This is where our families are and I'd like to think that could happen some day."
Prior to leaving, Mr Collins and his son, Steve Jnr, had round the clock armed garda protection.
"We never wanted to go away but we didn't have a choice.
"People make a decision to emigrate because they want to go away and do certain things.
"But when this is forced on you it is completely different. None of us wanted to do it. We all stood by each other and stuck with each other and we left together," he added.
"It has been so hard on me and Carmel. Our kids were forced to leave their friends and go to a new country and start to make friends again."
Mr Collins, who successfully campaigned for tougher laws to tackle organised crime in the wake of Roy's murder, said he feared that Dundon might not be convicted.
Speaking after the verdict, he said their ten-year nightmare was finally over.
"As we listened to the judge's summing up we were worried because there is so many twists and turns. It seemed to be touch and go but thank God we got there and justice has been done," he added.
Mr Collins paid tribute to the detectives who investigated his son's murder and thanked them for their perseverance in bringing Limerick's most dangerous men to justice.
"The gardai put in a huge amount of work and they fulfilled all the promises that they made."
Meanwhile, the businessman said that the tough new anti-gang laws introduced in the wake of Roy's murder were part of his legacy.
"I am just looking forward to getting my family together around me now and re-building and repairing our lives. This has been hanging over our heads for so long, now it is over."
Mr Collins praised his home community saying: "To the people of Limerick, who came out and marched with us and helped to campaign to get justice for my son. It just wouldn't have happened without these people," he said.
"I'm just glad that Limerick is going to repair itself from all these thugs," he added.
He admitted that he thought that this day might never come. He said it was surprising that criminal gang associates and relations testified against the murderers.
"His evidence was credible," he said of Anthony McCarthy - first cousin to Wayne Dundon. "He'd nothing to gain from it. That was proved in court. When you've nothing to gain from it, you have to take it at face value."
Speaking of the ordeal or requiring armed garda protection he said it was tough to have to wear a bullet-proof vest and be escorted everywhere by officers.
"It's a horrible experience and nobody should have to go through this," he said. "We were innocent people, just running a business and these people came into my life. It could happen to anybody."
"They just destroyed my life, destroyed my business, destroyed everything, destroyed our family, their young lives destroyed, the way they couldn't even go out.
"I'm just glad it's over and glad that justice has been served."
For an exclusive video interview with Steve Collins by Paul Williams, log onto www.independent.ie