THE latest murders in Limerick have have tipped the statistical scales to make the feud-blighted city Europe's murder capital.
The Shannonside city has the highest per capita homicide rate in Western Europe, after overtaking Glasgow to claim that dubious distinction.
Limerick has a ratio of over seven homicides per 100,000 population, according to CSO data, while Glasgow recorded just over five killings per 100,000 of its population.
Gardai are seizing an average of 500 firearms a year in Ireland
-- 10 times more guns than they were seizing from republicans and criminals during the Troubles.
Despite having so many guns and the city with the worst homicide rate, Ireland is still rated the safest country in Europe. A WHO study on homicide rates in Europe puts us at the bottom of the league, just below Malta. The highest murder rates are in Latvia, followed by Lithuania and Estonia
Figures released by the Minister for Justice, Mr Brian Lenihan show an apparently inexorable rise in homicides involving firearms
in Ireland. In the past decade, the annual number of deaths from gunshot wounds has risen fivefold.
The worst year to date was 2006 with 26 firearms deaths.
With nine already this year, 2008 is showing signs of being another record or near-record year for gun homicides.
The minister also revealed last Thursday that since the garda's Operation Anvil was set up in May 2005 to target criminals gangs, their guns and drugs, gardai have seized a total of 1,491 firearms. The bulk, some 857, were uncovered in Dublin and a large portion of the remaining 634 weapons were seized in Limerick.
Local people say that shooting has become so common that many incidents are not reported.
During an outbreak of violence in the city last year, Limerick Councillor John Gilligan said on a morning radio interview that he had heard shots fired on four occasions the previous night -- none of which were reported.
The figures contrast with claims made at a seminar organised by the Press Ombudsman in Galway last Thursday that "elements of the media" were primarily concerned with tarnishing Limerick reputation in their coverage of the crisis.