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Gardai fear gang feud could escalate after drug dealer Robbie Lawlor's murder in Belfast

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Murdered: Robbie Lawlor

Murdered: Robbie Lawlor

Murdered: Robbie Lawlor

Gardai are predicting an upsurge in violence which will extend far beyond the feud-hit town of Drogheda following the murder of drug dealer Robbie Lawlor in Belfast.

Detectives believe the Limerick gangsters suspected of setting up the drug dealer to be killed in Ardoyne on April 4 are on the hunt for their payment for facilitating the attack.

Lawlor (36) was shot in the head outside a house in Etna Drive, where he had travelled to collect a drug debt from a criminal. The money - believed to be €50,000 (£43,900) - was seized by detectives last week in Portlaoise. They believe it was part-payment for the contract to murder Lawlor.

The money was seized from two women who were stopped by gardai driving from Co Laois to Limerick last Monday.

Both women were released without charge.

"This is going to be bad for Drogheda," said a senior source. "It will not be good for Drogheda and it will not be good for Garda resources."

While gardai all over the Republic have been deployed to frontline duties enforcing the Covid-19 travel ban, the monitoring of key players in the Drogheda feud has not been disrupted. Police protection for some of those drawn into the feud has even increased in recent days.

The PSNI is working with gardai to unravel the many suspects and possible motives behind the murder.

Lawlor was the prime suspect for the shooting that kicked off the Drogheda feud. His botched gun attack left criminal Owen Maguire paralysed but alive.

According to one source, the puzzle is why the Limerick-based McCarthy-Dundon gang, traditionally aligned with Lawlor, double-crossed him.

The gang was at the centre of a long-standing violent feud in Limerick that raged across the city for almost a decade.

Dubliner Lawlor was the chief suspect in at least five murders, most recently the savage killing of 17-year-old Keane Mulready-Woods.

Lawlor travelled to Ardoyne last Saturday morning with members of the Limerick gang to confront a drug dealer about a debt, reportedly €20,000.

He was shot at close range in the garden of the house shortly before noon.

The three people - two men and a juvenile - who accompanied Lawlor fled the scene but were later arrested. At least one is believed to be an associate of the McCarthy-Dundon gang.

All three were released without charge. Two other men were arrested later in the week.

Belfast Telegraph