Thursday 27 July 2017

Stripping rival biker of colours 'led to murder'

Trial is told of a turf war among an alliance of local groups and a rival international club

Victim: Andrew O'Donoghue was a member of the Road Tramps
Victim: Andrew O'Donoghue was a member of the Road Tramps

Eoin Reynolds

The little-known world of Irish bikers was laid bare last week amid revelations at a murder trial that groups such as the Devil's Disciples and the Outlaws have formed an alliance to keep international rivals out of Ireland.

The territorial dispute allegedly resulted in the shooting dead in June 2015 of Andrew O'Donoghue (50), a member of the Road Tramps, which is a group of about 20 bikers based in the small village of Mountfune in Limerick. The man accused of his murder is Alan McNamara, a 50-year-old from Mountfune and a member of the international Caballeros biker group, which set itself up in Limerick City in late 2014. He denies the murder charge.

The rivalry between the native and international groups has formed the backdrop to the trial. According to Road Tramps' member James McCormack, homegrown biker clubs, with names like Devil's Disciples, Vikings and Outlaws, formed the alliance in 2015 out of concern at the arrival of the Caballeros.

"We had heard they wanted rid of us and they were going to get rid of us," he said on day two of the trial. So the Irish groups came together. The alliance covers parts of Limerick, Wexford, Waterford and Dublin. A new badge was created to symbolise that alliance and it is worn today by bikers across those territories, he said. The badge contains various symbols and includes the "1%" logo. When pressed as to what that meant, McCormack gave a short history.

The "1%" sign, he explained, originated in America in the 1940s when a number of bikers at a rally had "too much fun", partied too much and broke some laws. A spokesperson told the press that 99 per cent of bikers were good people but a few had given them a bad name. That was turned on its head, said McCormack, so that the "1%" logo came to be a sign of "going against the grain". By wearing that on their clothes, he said they were showing that they are part of the "1% club of bikers".

McCormack also revealed a little of the structure of the Road Tramps club. They have a president, to whom all important incidents are reported. "Someone has to call the shots," he explained. They have a treasurer and they have a sergeant-at-arms. McCormack himself was described as a "handy man in a row" by defence barrister Hugh Hartnett SC, who asked him to stand up to show the jury his size. This happened in light of the incident the prosecution alleges preceded the shooting of Andrew O'Donoghue. McCormack, Seamus Duggan and Raymond Neilon, all fellow Road Tramps, confronted Alan McNamara when he strayed into Road Tramps territory sporting the colours of the Caballeros, a black sleeveless waistcoat with an emblem patched onto the back. He had been spotted in Kelly's pub in Doon. Both Duggan and McCormack explained that Doon, Cappawhite and Murroe are Road Tramps areas while Limerick City is for the Caballeros. "We wouldn't go to Limerick City drinking," Duggan told the court.

There was a scuffle and McCormack accepted that he punched McNamara in the face and took his waistcoat off him - a great insult to McNamara and his fellow club members. As they drove off with the waistcoat, the Road Tramps say McNamara threw his helmet at them and shouted to Neilon, "you're dead". The following day, according to the prosecution, McNamara went to the gates of the Road Tramps' club and shot Andrew O'Donoghue in the head.

Following the shooting, McCormack handed McNamara's waistcoat over to gardai. It had been partially burned, but none of the witnesses so far has been able to say who burned it. When asked about it, McCormack said that after the incident with McNamara, he gave the waistcoat to the club president and after the shooting, he took it back. It had been burned in the meantime.

Every club has its own colours. The Road Tramps are black and white with the various badges symbolising the club and its alliances sewn into their clothing. On the heavy iron gates that protects its clubhouse, a Road Tramps emblem marks it as its property. What gardai found inside that clubhouse following the shooting formed the focus of the defence's cross-examination on day two of the trial.

There was a bar and meeting room but of more interest to McNamara's defence counsel was the pepper spray, axe handles, iron bars, a hurl and other sticks. In a car and caravan on the grounds, two shotguns, pepper spray and knuckle-dusters were found.

Duggan said some of the items were "for protection". The knuckle-dusters, he accepted, would be used so that when you punch someone, you are punching them with brass and not just your fist.

The trial continues.

Sunday Independent

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