Addicts become amateur assassins to pay off debts
Just five murders in capital this year but gardai expect feuds to escalate
Published 12/06/2011 | 05:00
Gun and bomb attacks as a way of paying off drug debt have become a feature of life -- and death -- among Dublin's crime gangs, gardai say.
Although there have been only five murders in the city so far this year -- there were 19 by mid-June in 2009 -- gardai say this isn't for the want of trying. They are aware that dozens of attacks have been planned or attempted but have failed or been thwarted for a variety of reasons.
After a period of relatively low murder levels since last Autumn, the pace of shooting has picked up again.
The latest murder of Continuity IRA man Liam Kenny early last Thursday in Clondalkin is the fourth gang-related murder in four weeks.
Gardai say that, despite there being only five fatal shootings in Dublin this year, they are aware of a variety of feuds and inter-gang rivalries that are all potentially fatal.
Gangs are actively seeking out real or perceived enemies but have been failing to carry out executions either because their preparations are botched or gardai have been in the vicinity and the killings called off.
In one 24-hour period in Drimnagh in March there were 10 shootings and one grenade attack but no casualties as those responsible were teenagers with little or no lethal abilities other than access to guns.
One source said it was a "miracle" there haven't been more killings this year but added that it reflected the fact that there aren't as many professional assassins operating in the city.
Dublin -- and Ireland's -- most prolific gangland killer, hired by at least two gangs and suspected of at least 12 murders, is in prison abroad since the middle of last year and facing charges that could see him in jail for a decade.
Another, who worked full-time for the murdered gang leader, Eamon Dunne, who was himself murdered in April last year, has been lying low and has not been active since his sponsor was murdered.
Two other "professional" assassins fled Dublin after they shot dead two innocent young men, Mark Noonan, 23, and his cousin Glen Murphy, at the Tesco filling station in Finglas on November 23 last. The killers, with links to dissident republicans in the North, had been targeting a northside criminal with a car similar to that driven by the cousins.
They placed a tracking device on the car and followed the young men, who had been visiting the girlfriend of one of them in Finglas, to the filling station and shot both repeatedly.
Killers like these had been demanding and getting fees of up to €20,000 to €30,000 to kill their targets. The assassin in prison abroad was reputedly paid over €100,000 for the murder of Anthony Cannon, 26, at Ballyfermot in July 2009, but there were three separate contracts out on Cannon's life, one for €50,000.
This is the highest amount ever paid for an assassination in Ireland but was, gardai say, a one-off because Cannon was not only heavily involved in the Crumlin-Drimnagh feud but had feuds with at least two other gangs.
'Amateur' assassination is now commonplace, gardai say. They know of several instances where men were forced into shooting people in order to discharge debts to drug dealers.
These type of 'contracts' are regularly botched but a number have succeeded.
The latest murders this year were carried out for various reasons.
Nineteen-year-old David Byrne, who was stabbed to death in March, was killed by a young gang member in a row over a mutual love interest. Several youths have been questioned and a file has gone to the DPP and charges are anticipated.
Paul McCarthy, 19, was shot dead on May 9 in Inchicore. Two men were questioned last Wednesday in Kilmainham garda station and released. Gardai are completing a file for the DPP and are hopeful of charges in this case, too.
Dean Johnson, 20, who was shot dead in Moorfield Avenue in Clondalkin, appears to have been murdered because of his chronic problem of getting into fights with people. He had a history of assault and disorder and is known to have stabbed at least two men with broken glasses in pub brawls. Johnston had many enemies and gardai in the Dublin Metropolitan Region West -- which has the highest rate of unsolved gun killings in the country -- are understood to have made little progress in the investigations into his killing so far.
The murder of 53-year-old Michael Taylor at a caravan park in Donabate in north Co Dublin last Monday night is related to a feud between two families in the north inner city. There were raucous scenes at Beaumont Hospital when associates of the dead men arrived at the hospital.
Tyres on an ambulance and garda car were slashed and gardai had to be called to restore order.
The feud began five years ago and has been flaring up regularly, with one other murder, several attempted murders, stabbings and beatings.
One side has links to the old Provisional IRA, which is believed to have supplied a military grenade that was thrown at the front window of a flat in the Summerhill area. There were nine people in the front room watching a soccer match and if the grenade had not bounced off the double glazed window there could have been several deaths.
This feud is not connected to the other north inner Dublin feud -- sparked by the rape of a young girl by robber and former IRA figure, Christy Griffin, now serving life imprisonment, which has claimed five lives.
These two feuds are sapping garda resources in the North Central Division, which is already beset by the highest rates of drug-related crime in the country.
Almost €1m a year is being spent on permanently maintaining armed and uniformed officers in and around the homes of the families involved in this feud.
The latest murder of Liam Kenny, also 53, in Clondalkin also stems from 'ordinary' crime, though Kenny and his associates claim membership of the republican group, the Continuity IRA.
There are animosities among the 'dissents' who are involved in drugs and extortion and it is thought this might have escalated as a result on an attack on another Dublin 'Continuity' man in Portlaoise Prison recently.
Gardai in Dublin say they expect the killings to rise. After the death of Eamon Dunne and the break-up of the cartel supplying heroin, cocaine and cannabis to Ireland from Spain a year ago, there has been re-aligning and splintering of gangs.
Inevitably, this is followed by turf wars as gangs seek to assert control over areas of supply. We might, gardai say, be entering into such a period and, as in the past, blood letting is inevitable.