Tuesday 25 April 2017

Twelve bloody months of murder and mayhem - Gangland feud has left 11 dead

Ken Foy looks back at the gangland feud that horrified the capital in 2016 and resulted in 11 men being shot dead

This time last year, the capital's gangland scene seemed to be functioning well away from the spotlight.

Hundreds of thousands of euro in profits had been made by dealers across Dublin during the busy festive season as recreational drug use boomed.

To observers of organised crime, there could be no doubt that the Kinahan cartel were the undisputed kingpins of the narcotics trade, yet there was something extremely menacing lurking in the background.

It started with whispers from the underworld about a major dispute between former close allies Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch (53) and Christy 'Dapper Don' Kinahan (59).

Regency Hotel
Regency Hotel

Gardai struggled to get a full picture of exactly what was going on, but the cartel had murdered The Monk's nephew, Gary Hutch, in Spain three months earlier and Gary's associates had carried out a botched revenge murder attempt on the cartel at the Red Cow Hotel a few weeks later.

However, this latest development, an apparent dis- agreement between the State's two biggest crimelords, was extremely sinister.

BOTCHED

It was in late December 2015 that solid information finally came in that The Monk was refusing to meet Christy Kinahan (below) to discuss the murder of 34-year-old Gary.

Christy Kinahan.jpg  

It was around this time that Darren Kearns (33) was shot dead outside a pub on Blackhorse Avenue, and key hitmen for the cartel were suspected.

Garda ASU
Garda ASU

Kearns, killed on December 30, 2015, was suspected of involvement in the botched Red Cow shooting.

Soon afterwards, it was reported that The Monk survived an assassination attempt on New Year's Eve in a pub in Lanzarote, while information also got out that a notorious Kinahan-linked hitman had taken up a contract to murder a junior associate of Gary Hutch.

The situation was now at boiling point, but no one could have expected what was to come next.

Due to the simmering tensions, there was an expectation that there would be an armed garda presence at the Regency Hotel on Friday, February 5, for a boxing weigh-in that was going to be attended by senior members of the Kinahan cartel.

Inexplicably, this did not happen, but reporters and photographers from the Herald were present to capture the events that would make worldwide headlines.

Children and boxing fans cheered in the hotel function room as boxers took to the stage for their weigh-in, but as the event wound down a small group of revellers suddenly ran towards the exit doors.

"It's kicking off in there," they screamed as shots rang out.

Cartel associate Aaron Bugler (25) was hit first and suffered serious injuries.

Key cartel member David Byrne (35) was shot and wounded and then shot fatally.

During the panic that followed, another key cartel associate, Sean McGovern (30), was shot in the abdomen, but managed to stagger around the car park outside before being tended to by paramedics.

BLOODTHIRSTY

In an unprecedented development, the bloodbath was caught on camera.

The entire landscape of gangland Ireland had changed for ever, and a round of murders of associates of The Monk began, with the shooting of his brother, Eddie Hutch Snr, at his north inner city home three days after the Regency attack.

Eleven men have now been murdered, 10 of them by the bloodthirsty Kinahan cartel, including the latest victim, 62-year-old Noel Kirwan, a childhood friend of The Monk, who was shot dead outside his home in Ronanstown.

He first became a target when he was spotted with The Monk at Eddie Hutch's funeral.

Kirwan's killing bears simil- arities to that of Noel 'Kingsize' Duggan (55), who was shot dead last March.

Neither man was involved in the feud, but they were close friends of The Monk. That alone was enough to make them targets. There have also been innocent victims, including father-of-three Martin O' Rourke, who was gunned down by the cartel on Sheriff Street in the north inner city last April 14.

Intended target Keith Murtagh (32) (below), a known associate of the Hutch gang, was not injured in the attack.

HITMANS_2.jpg  

 

MISTAKEN

Another innocent victim was Dublin City Council worker Trevor O' Neill (41), who was gunned down on a street in Majorca last August 17 in a case of mistaken identity.

The intended target was The Monk's nephew, Jonathan Hutch. Only weeks after Mr O'Neill's killing the cartel tried to kill Jonathan's father, John Hutch Snr, but failed.

Heavily armed gardai are now a regular sight manning checkpoints in both the north and south inner city areas.

Earlier this month, a new armed support unit was unveiled.

The Garda ASU, comprising 55 officers, is to respond to critical incidents and support planned operations mainly targeting feuding gangsters.

A special crime task force has also been set up, and gardai have spent almost €1.5m in firearms training for elite units.

Despite the bloodshed, gardai say they foiled 15 feud-related murders last year and seized 18 high-powered weapons, more than €1m in cash and drugs worth €22m.

The fight will continue well into this year, with gardai admitting they are braced for another spectacular attack from the Hutch faction.

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