A grandfather was savagely beaten and then fatally stabbed after trying to protect a relative during a street brawl between two feuding families outside a packed pub.
Gardai last night stepped up security in the Togher and Ballyphehane areas of Cork after the fatal assault on Gerard Delaney (51) amid fears of a reprisal.
Garda Superintendent Charlie Barry warned people against taking the law into their own hands. He urged all witnesses to the vicious street fight -- in which knives, pick-axe handles, batons and clubs were used by up to 30 people -- to contact gardai.
The armed Regional Support Unit (RSU) is now on standby to assist gardai if required.
Mr Delaney's death is being treated as murder.
Gardai yesterday cordoned off a 60-metre stretch of roadway outside the Manhattan bar on Lower Friars Walk in Ballyphehane where the brawl erupted at 12.30am.
Garda forensic experts conducted a detailed examination of the scene which included apparent blood stains on both the pavement and a nearby wall.
Gardai also recovered a number of weapons believed to have been used but are still searching for the knife used to fatally attack Mr Delaney.
He had only gone to the area after receiving a phone call that relatives were in difficulty. He had been babysitting at his Mahon home with his wife, Mary.
The brawl erupted when members of one family travelled to the area to confront members of another family who had been out socialising. Both families have been involved in a bitter feud for the past five years.
The confrontation occurred on the roadway directly outside the Manhattan pub, which was packed with St Stephen's night revellers.
The feud has resulted in several previous assaults as well as threats, intimidation and damage to property.
Mr Delaney's brother -- Finbarr 'Finny' Delaney -- was the victim of a savage assault last February when he was attacked with a slash-hook and a machete.
A 26-year old subsequently received a prison sentence over that attack.
The Irish Independent understands the St Stephen's night brawl was triggered by an incident between the two families just days before Christmas.
The confrontation resulted in a series of running battles on the roadway with one man and two women being injured before almost 30 people became embroiled in the melee.
The melee then split into two groups, with Mr Delaney in one group and apparently desperate to help escort a relative to safety. However, he was confronted by two men and suffered multiple stab injuries before collapsing to the ground.
While lying on the roadway, he was beaten and kicked repeatedly in the head.
One garda source indicated that Mr Delaney suffered "a savage attack".
Eventually his friends managed to drag him away from his attackers and he was taken to his brother's house nearby for safety.
When the serious nature of his wounds was realised, he was immediately rushed by car to Cork University Hospital (CUH).
However, surgeons were unable to stabilise his condition and he was pronounced dead shortly after admission.
A post-mortem examination was scheduled to conclude at CUH last night with gardai expected to formally launch a murder investigation once its results are known.
Mr Delaney lived in Mahon with his wife Mary and two children, Karen and Gerard Jnr.
He was described by childhood friend, Councillor Chris O'Leary (SF), as a hard-working man who was utterly devoted to his family and neighbours.
"It is sad to think a father's life would be taken on St Stephen's Day. He was a very decent man, a family man who was doted on by his kids. Gerard was very much respected in the community," he said.
Supt Barry last night appealed for calm: "I would hope that anyone involved in this incident would keep the peace and let the gardai deal with it. Christmas is not a time for people to take matters into their own hands," he said.
"If anyone wants to speak to me personally in confidence, I am always available to them."