gang probe | 

‘Trusted' member of Owen Maguire gang being quizzed over Drogheda feud murder

The 47-year-old man is extremely well known to gardaí for offences including serious assault

Keith Branigan was shot dead in August 2019

Ken Foy

Two people with links to the gang led by paralysed gang boss Owen Maguire remain in custody being questioned about the gun murder of Keith Branigan (29) in August, 2019.

Mr Branigan became the first fatality in the deadly Drogheda feud when he was shot dead at a caravan park in Clogherhead, Co Louth, in broad daylight on August 27 that year – there has since been three more murders linked to the bitter feud.

“A woman (20s) and man (40s) are currently being detained under Section 50 of the Criminal Justice Act, 2007, at Balbriggan and Drogheda Garda Stations,” a garda spokesman said in a statement.

The arrests happened on Monday in Ardee, Co Louth, where both suspects are based and they are the first detentions in the lengthy murder probe which has been ongoing for almost three years.

Detectives have been working on the theory that Mr Branigan was targeted by the Maguire gang because of his association with the leader of the rival Drogheda mob who is currently based abroad and facing serious feud related charges before the courts.

Owen Maguire

Mr Branigan was not considered a major criminal but was very friendly with a number of senior members of the so-called anti-Maguire faction.

The 47-year-old man is extremely well known to gardaí for offences including serious assault and was considered a trusted member of the Maguire gang but he may have fallen out with his former pals in recent times.

He has also been involved in a number of separate serious feuds in the Ardee area.

Sources say that he has also been investigated for two gun attacks on the rival gang leader that occurred in 2019 before Mr Branigan was shot dead.

The 26-year-old arrested woman has also come to adverse garda attention and was living with the arrested man at one stage.

Speaking in the aftermath of the murder, Superintendent Andrew Watters made an appeal for information over Branigan's cold-blooded murder, which he described as "indiscriminate and callous".

He said at least two people were involved and expressed his condolences to the victim's family.

"This was a particularly indiscriminate and callous act carried out in a very busy caravan park," Supt Watters said.

"There were a lot of families, women with young children in particular, close to the area of the shooting. Indeed some of these children were enjoying the last days of their summer holidays."

He said gardai had established that a red Lexus with the registration 05C24473 entered the caravan park and a gunman got out of the car.

He then opened fire at Mr Branigan, with a number of stray shots also hitting two parked cars nearby.

Gardaí believe that the gunman then fired another volley of four shots at Mr Branigan who was caught in between two pieces of decking that he was working on.

Mourners at Mr Branigan’s funeral mass heard how the newly-wed was a "bubbly" and "much-loved character."

Fr Phil Gaffney 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 also said people should observe the rule of law, "particularly for those who could be planning revenge" for the murder of Keith Branigan.

However this plea fell on deaf ears with dozens of criminal incidents linked to the feud happening since then, including the murders of Keane Mulready Woods, Robbie Lawlor and Richie Carberry.

But the feud has been calm for over a year at this stage with many of its main protagonists either locked up or out of the country.

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