TENSIONS are on the rise in Rathkeale amid fears of violent clashes that could “bring the town to its knees”.
Concerns were raised after weapons were seized, a Garda was seriously injured in a car ramming incident, a local politician was threatened, and shots were reportedly fired at a car in the town.
Armed Garda patrols have been stepped up to try to keep a lid on rising tensions after a violent gang descended upon the town.
The gang is linked to a notorious criminal family who, it is claimed, have attempted to extort land and property from locals and are causing “havoc”, according to local sources.
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Kevin Sheehan told a recent meeting of elected representatives that “law and order has gone out the window” and that he has been warned that he may be attacked by associates of the gang if he ventures into certain areas of the town.
Others have expressed concern that tensions will explode over Christmas period, when the town’s population traditionally trebles as families return home for the holiday season.
“An innocent person might get killed if they get caught up in the crossfire of all this,” said a local source.
The source claimed the gang has already successfully extorted property and land from local families in recent weeks.
They have threatened to burn out local families or threaten to harm their children if they fail to hand over properties, the source claimed.
“The Gardaí have a duty of care to both the settled and Traveller community to reassure them they will do everything they can to stop this getting out of control.”
“The Gardaí need to stand next to the residents and not let things escalate.”
Local sources described the gang as ruthless and said it is being led by a young generation of “thugs who have no fear of the law”.
Another local source said they have witnessed a noticeable Garda presence on the streets and that people are afraid to go out at night for fear of being caught up in violence.
A number of weddings scheduled to take place in the town over the Christmas period have been cancelled, such is the level of fear among residents of the town.
Gardaí confirmed they are actively investigating a number of violent incidents and have also seized weapons in the town.
A Garda spokeswoman said that “Gardaí seized a number of weapons at a property in Rathkeale, on November 21 as a result of a search operation”.
Gardaí are also investigating a video shared online of a mobile home being damaged in Rathkeale in recent days.
The video shows masked individuals attacking a mobile home with slash hooks.
“Gardaí have received reports of an incident of criminal damage at approximately 11.35am on Friday, November 18 in the Rathkeale area”.
“No arrests have been made and investigations are ongoing”.
Garda sources also confirmed that they were investigating reports of shots being fired at a car and a caravan in the town two weeks ago.
They said that a Garda was seriously injured when a patrol car was rammed on October 27.
“An official Garda vehicle was rammed during this incident and a Garda was later taken to University Hospital Limerick to receive treatment for his injuries,” said a Garda spokesman.
The Garda is understood to have undergone surgery for his injuries but has since returned to duty.
Gardaí said the alleged ramming occurred on October 27, and that a man in his 40s was arrested and charged before Limerick District Court with endangerment on November 3.