Sunday 19 February 2017

Gang feud fears as garda cuts restored

Published 03/04/2016 | 02:30

Photo: PA
Photo: PA

Renewed garda overtime restrictions could hamper efforts to prevent further bloodshed following the return of two of the most notorious gang figures, 'Fat' Freddie Thompson and John Gilligan, sources say.

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Gilligan (64) is believed to have returned to deal with the remaining legal and financial matters over the seizure of his properties by the Criminal Assets Bureau. It is also understood that he has fallen out with criminals in the Irish Traveller community around Birmingham where he had been staying since leaving Dublin in March 2014.

His arrival alongside, but not connected to, Thompson's return to Dublin is causing headaches for garda managers as armed units are being deployed to ensure that he does not become the subject of another assassination attempt. Two attempts were made on his life after he was released from Portlaoise Prison in October 2013 before he fled the country.

The armed units to watch Gilligan and prevent further attempts on his life are being diverted from operations to prevent further bloodshed in what is being termed the 'North-South' feud in Dublin since the Regency Hotel attack in February.

Restrictions on garda overtime were lifted in the run-up to the 1916 Centenary celebrations in Dublin and all garda leave was cancelled on the weekend of the main events. But this effectively ended last Sunday with almost all garda units returning to their regular rostered work.

One senior source last week expressed concern that it would be "only a matter of time" before the gangs - whose drug distribution territories are effectively divided by the Liffey - realised that the armed patrols that had been in place after the ­Regency attack have been reduced.

As well as effectively guarding Gilligan, gardai face the extra task of watching southside gang figure Freddie Thompson (34). Thompson was out socialising with a group of men in Dublin city centre last Wednesday night. His public appearance was seen as a deliberate ­provocation of the northside gang after Eddie Hutch (56) and Noel Duggan (55) were shot dead in retaliation for the killing of southsider David Byrne at the Regency Hotel on February 4.

The feud began in Spain last September when the southside criminals also murdered Gary Hutch (34), nephew of Eddie and Gerry 'the Monk' Hutch.

During the period when restrictions on garda overtime were lifted prior to the Easter weekend, gardai were very successful in preventing further retaliatory violence arising from the feud.

However, the rundown of the additional overtime budget left gardai trying to cope with the extra work of protecting high-profile targets Thompson and Gilligan.

One garda source summed up their return last week as a "pain in the arse".

Garda sources last week said the most immediate threat is actually in prisons where dozens of figures linked directly to the feud are incarcerated alongside each other.

Gardai praised the work of the prison authorities in preventing serious violence since Gary Hutch's brother, Derek 'Del Boy' Hutch, was attacked and stabbed in Mountjoy Prison two weeks after Gary was shot dead.

This attack came only days after the northside gangsters attempted to murder associates of David Byrne in southwest Dublin.

Gardai said last week both sides are being contained on either side of the Liffey with the river acting as a barrier.

With the extra armed patrols allowed by the additional overtime, gardai were able to control movement across the Liffey and to provide high-profile patrolling in the areas where the gangs are most active in the north and south inner cities.

Sunday Independent

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