Armed Gardaí on patrol after violence erupts in Limerick town

One of the vehicles damaged in the incidents reported in Rathkeale today.

ARMED Gardaí are patrolling the town of Rathkeale tonight after violent incidents erupted between rival groups, leaving the town “like a war zone”.

A number of vehicles were damaged in ramming incidents and machetes were said to have been produced, as Gardaí sealed off a large section of the town.

Local Fianna Fáil councillor and former Garda Kevin Sheahan suggested that Gardaí use whatever was in their power – including clearing perpetrators from the streets with batons to restore order.

At least three separate groups are involved in a local feud that locals fear will result in serious injury or worse.

Sources said a gang linked to a notorious crime family, which it is claimed have tried to extort lands and properties from locals, have been causing havoc in the town for several weeks.

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Concerns of Christmas chaos were voiced three weeks ago by Cllr Sheahan, when he said he had been warned that he was a possible target for one of the feuding groups because he raised the issue of rising tensions at a meeting of local councillors.

Locals said the town was on a “knife-edge” over the last few weeks after Gardaí seized weapons at a property in the town, shots were reportedly fired at a car, a mobile home was attacked by men armed with slash hooks, and a Garda was injured in a ramming incident.

It is understood that the injured Garda underwent surgery but has since returned to duty.

Cllr Sheehan warned at a local council meeting last month that “law and order has gone out the window” in Rathkeale.

Speaking tonight, he said: “This is shameful that this could happen at a time of the year when extra steps are taken by Gardaí in anticipation that this type of thing is likely to happen.

“It is a disgrace that the town of Rathkeale is getting negatively labelled again. I know a lot of people in the settled community and the Traveller community and the overwhelming majority of them are A1. They are good citizens.

“The ones who come home for Christmas and triple the population – they are not the people causing this grief – they are people who come home to have celebrations. There might be incidents but they are manageable incidents,” said Cllr Sheehan.

He claimed those involved in the current feuding in the town are “outsiders that were previously in Rathkeale and they are back here now.

“It may not be a popular solution, but I believe that the heavy-handed approach that these people are taking in Rathkeale, needs to be responded to with heavy-handed treatment from Gardaí.

“This means you get in and clear them off the streets with batons or whatever, and you use whatever resources are available to you, and you have to do it with numbers. You can’t do this with half a dozen Gardai.

Cllr Sheehan said Gardai “have to absolutely crack-down and put a stop to this, and let it be known by the people who contemplate doing these things that this is not acceptable and will not be accepted.

“The ordinary people of Rathkeale, both the settled and Traveller community are totally opposed to all this. They don’t deserve this. No community deserves this.

Videos of the aftermath of violent incidents were shared on social media Monday showing several cars extensively damaged and left abandoned on the street.

Two of the vehicles that were damaged in Rathkeale with what appears to be a machette on the road.

Local Fine Gael councillor Adam Teskey said he had been inundated with calls and texts from concerned local people.

He called for an armed Garda unit to be present in the town for the foreseeable future.

“I’m shocked and appalled by this. I have been in touch with the Chief Superintendent’s office and I have made my feelings and concerns, and those of locals, known to him.”

“I understand this is an ongoing Garda matter,” said Cllr Teskey.

Local sources said there was scenes of mayhem in the town today

“There are cop cars everywhere, there are Gardai everywhere. There is evidence of weapons thrown on the street,” said one source.

“There is a feud between rival factions and it’s starting to boil over now. Those involved are not to be messed with,” warned another.

Some locals have called for the army to be deployed to the town

“These people are not afraid of the Gardaí,” they added.

“A large section of the town has crime scene ribbons put across it. A large proportion of it has been sealed off towards the fire station.”

In a statement issued this evening, a Garda spokeswoman said: “Gardaí are investigating a public order and dangerous driving incident in Rathkeale this afternoon. Gardaí received report of a number of vehicles engaged in dangerous driving on the R523 Road in Rathkeale town and attended the scene.

“Gardaí directed a number of people present to disperse and closed the road for examination.

“Investigations are ongoing. Gardaí are appealing to anyone who may have witnessed this incident to come forward.

“Road users who were travelling in the area between 2pm and 4pm this afternoon who may have camera footage (including dash cam) is asked to make it available to Gardaí.

“Anyone with information should contact Rathkeale Garda Station on 069 63 222, the Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111, or any Garda station.”

What appears to be a machette discarded between two of the damaged vehicles in Rathkeale today.