(CNN)Keane Mulready-Woods should have been celebrating his 18th birthday this week. But the Irish teenager's life came to an end last month, in a murder so brutal in nature that it has drawn comparisons with TV show "Narcos."
How drug wars in Ireland led to the murder and dismemberment of a teenage boy
Ireland's ancient town of Drogheda -- pronounced Draw-head-a -- has become the setting for feuds between drug-dealing gangs that have claimed three lives in grisly tit-for-tat attacks.
A day after Mulready-Woods went missing on a cold Sunday evening, parts of the boy's dismembered body were found in a Puma gym bag in north Dublin, 50 kilometers away, police say. Other body parts were found in a burning car in the capital. Irish media reports say Mulready-Woods' limbs were in the bag, and his severed head, hands and feet in the burning car. His torso is believed to still be missing.
The murder paints a dark picture of Ireland's changing underworld, which is increasingly recruiting boys and young men to carry out acts of violence, often to enforce debt payments as the country's addiction to drugs like cocaine grows. Years of austerity have left Drogheda without adequate social services and opportunities to keep young people off the streets, residents there say.
Irish politicians have descended on Drogheda in the weeks leading up to Saturday's general election, amid growing concerns over crime and gang violence.
The Drogheda drug feuds escalated in July 2018 with the shooting of a man linked to crime in the area, according to the Irish Times. He survived the hit but was left paralyzed. Tit-for-tat reprisals have been going on there ever since.
The violence has been largely contained to a small number of social or council housing estates in the town's north, but thousands joined a march in the town center recently, in a show of unity against the gangs.
At the rally was Louise Mahony, manager of the Red Door Project, which offers services to people with drug and alcohol problems.
"Today, we march to say enough is enough," she said to a crowd at the rally, according to video posted on Twitter. "Enough under-resourcing, enough short-term quick fixes, enough of Drogheda being treated as a second-class town."