Gardai fear New IRA bomb blitz as killing brings 'third force' into brutal gang war
Terror group dragged into Kinahan/Hutch murder spree after Regency hit guns linked to pub victim
The murder of New IRA man Michael Barr by members of the Kinahan drugs cartel will inevitably lead to bloody retaliation by the terror group which have already used a sophisticated under-car bomb to murder a prison officer in Belfast, according to northern sources.
The emergence of a dangerous "third force" in the murderous gang war has heightened fears that it is only a matter of time before more innocent members of the public are killed in the crossfire of an increasingly reckless blood feud.
Barr, from Strabane, Co Tyrone had been acting under orders from the group to set up a fundraising operation in Dublin - even though this meant receiving money from drug traffickers just as the Provisional and other dissident IRA groups have done in the past.
Barr was blamed by the Kinahan mob's representatives in Dublin for supplying the AK47-type assault rifles used in the Regency Hotel attack. Barr was also a known associate of the short stout Tyrone man wearing a flat cap who was pictured leaving the hotel along with a young Dublin associate of the Hutch gang dressed in women's clothes.
The Garda Special Branch, which had Barr before the Special Criminal Court on an IRA membership charge, has kept a lid tightly on the dissident groups, but northern sources say Barr was regarded as an important figure in the new incarnation of the IRA, known as the New IRA, and close to its leadership. The main concern of Special Branch and other gardai is that the group will import its bomb-making capabilities into the Republic to strike back at the Kinahan mob.
The group has re-engineered a magnetically attached under-car bomb that was originally used in the 1980s by republican groups the IRA and Irish National Liberation Army in the North. This type of device was used to murder the senior British Conservative politician and close aide of Margaret Thatcher, Mr Airey Neave, in March 1979. The device exploded as he was driving up the ramp from the underground car park in the House of Commons.
The bomb which killed prison officer Adrian Ismay (52) in Belfast on March 4 this year contained Semtex H explosive, which was imported into Ireland by the Provisional IRA from Libya and is now in the hands of the so-called dissidents. Mr Ismay died five weeks later after suffering horrific injuries to internal organs caused by metal fragments which were blown upwards into his body by the blast.
The Garda Special Branch is working very closely with the PSNI and the British Intelligence Service, MI5, to counter the growth of the New IRA group, but the murder of Mr Ismay showed the terror group is capable of counteracting the high levels of electronic surveillance and large number of paid informers deployed against it.
The prime target of the republican terror group, according to garda sources, is a man in his late 50s who is said to be directing the 'annihilation' campaign against the so-called Hutch gang on the northside of the Liffey.
This man was a close associate of David Byrne who was shot dead in the Regency Hotel attack on February 5. Gardai have told the Sunday Independent that this man has given orders for the Hutch gang to be 'wiped out' over the Regency killing.
While there is concern the republican group could bring their improvised explosive device (IED) skills to bear on the feud in Dublin, some gardai last week said they don't believe the group is strong enough to take on the Kinahan cartel.
One of the reasons Christy Kinahan relocated to Spain was to avoid being targeted by the Provisional IRA which carried out at least a score of murders of Dublin drug dealers in the 1980s onwards. This was done to force criminals to pay protection money to the 'Republican Movement'.
Kinahan and the other major criminal gangs in Dublin had always avoided direct confrontation with the republicans even though they could have easily assassinated its Dublin-based members. The murder of Michael Barr may have changed that, according to some garda interpretations of current events surrounding the 'feud' in Dublin.
The feud has come at a difficult time for the garda which has lost the bulk of its experienced detective cadre over the past decade. The strict implementation of the 2006 Morris Report recommendation, following the investigation of garda corruption in Donegal, that detectives no longer be allowed to handle informants has had a devastating effect on policing, according to senior sources.
The traditional role of the district and divisional detectives in nurturing and using criminal sources for intelligence gathering and covert penetration of the gangs has been replaced by centralised non-detective information-gathering units known as CHIS (covert human intelligence sources). Penetration of the drug gangs at high levels no longer exists, according to sources.
These sources also say that one proven method of tackling major organised gangs - by the use of 'accomplice witnesses', also known as 'supergrasses' to turn State evidence in return for reduced sentences - is not being used at all in Dublin. This was at the core of the major investigation that ripped apart the Gilligan gang in Dublin after the June 1996 murder of journalist Veronica Guerin. It was also used successfully against the Limerick gangs.
Sources have also told the Sunday Independent that the Criminal Assets Bureau is also having little or no effect on the major gangs.
The last annual report of CAB for 2013 shows that it made a loss in terms of the amount of money it costs to run and the amount of revenue it seized for the State. The total staff and administration costs for 2013 were €6.45m and the amount returned to the State in seized assets and tax was put at €5.4m.
Meanwhile, estimates by authorities in Spain suggest the Kinahan mob may be one of the first drug syndicates to be worth more than €1billion and is now a major force in western European crime.
Its associates include the north African mafias which have been responsible for dozens of murders in Holland in recent years, including the decapitation of a man whose head was left in a bucket on a pavement outside a kebab house in Amsterdam in March. Gardai believe that one of the hired assassins involved in this and at least one other murder in Amsterdam may have been in Dublin working for the Kinahan gang.
The North African gangs control the export of cannabis from countries like Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia where impoverished farmers are generally paid around €10 to €15 per kilo for cannabis which "retails" in western European countries for around €2,500 a kilo. The Kinahan gang is also believed to be linked to the rising Cape Verdean mafias who have made the south Atlantic holiday island - with a population of only around half a million - one of the main world hubs for cocaine smuggling.
The Cape Verde gangs have become major players in the drugs world in western Europe and the eastern seaboard cities of the United States due to their involvement in the South Atlantic cocaine trade. They are also heavily involved in trafficking Central and South American-produced heroin into the United States.
Most of the heroin imported into Europe from southwest Asia still comes via Turkish mafias who have long established links with British and Irish gangs. The Taliban in Afghanistan has again become one of the major suppliers of heroin in the world.