Three youths involved in a fabricated feud in Athlone that has escalated through social media to petrol bombing appeared in court this week (June 4 ) to be formally charged.
Gardaí believe up to a dozen were involved in the numerous retaliatory events over the last few weeks, and expect charges will follow for another nine or 10 perpetrators.
Because two of the alleged protagonists are under 18, a number of reporting restrictions are in place to limit their identification.
Detective Garda Chris Browne told the court that the trouble dated back to a burglary at an address in Battery Heights, where the stolen items were then found in a shed behind the home of another family in the same estate.
This second family got blamed for the burglary, and individuals began to align themselves with the factions as the accusations and threats grew.
However, Garda Browne explained the alleged burglary was the responsibility of a third family, and another row developed between this family and those already accused of the offence.
“All have taken sides,” said Garda Browne, although he did not give any background information as to why the one family attempted to allegedly fit up the other one.
Gardaí were called to deal with the dispute between the initIal two protagonist families on Monday May 26, where one man was arrested, and there were reports of retaliatory window breakages elsewhere in the estate that evening.
So far, one of the youths has been charged with possession of a slash hook during one of the fracas last week, another with vandalising a house in another estate, and the third with throwing a petrol bomb at this house. It is believed this incendiary device only caused minimal external smoke damage.
“There are a number of individuals trying to escalate the situation,” said Garda Browne.
All three were given highly conditional bail, which included a 10pm-8am curfew; stay free of drugs and alcohol; stay out of a number of named estates; and each to avoid any contact - including via social media - with any of the named families.
All three were bailed to re-appear on July 2.