OVER the weekend of September 6-7, 1987, some 100 files were stolen from the Director of Public Prosecutions' office in St Stephen's Green. The building, containing some of the State's most sensitive and major criminal files, had no adequate security and it was simple to break in through the original 19th Century windows in the basement. The files were kept in filing cabinets which were easily jemmied open.
The burglars – it is thought up to three took part – were led by the man who was soon to become Ireland's most notorious criminal, 'The General' Martin Cahill. He was, effectively, at war with the State. He wanted to humiliate the Government and gardai through the secrets he believed the files contained.
Included in his haul were the DPP's files on Malcolm MacArthur, the man then serving life imprisonment for the murder of nurse Bridie Gargan in Phoenix Park in the summer of 1982. MacArthur, now free and living in south Co Dublin, was at the centre of a hugely publicised manhunt and subsequent trial.
The fact that he was arrested at the home of the then Attorney General Patrick Connolly, in Dalkey, had been one of the most bizarre elements of the story. Mr Connolly was socially acquainted with MacArthur and had been allowing him to stay temporarily at his home. The Attorney General, who was on holiday in the US, was totally unaware he was harbouring the State's number one fugitive.
Cahill believed there were secrets in the files that could bring down major government and legal figures.
He, like almost everyone in Ireland, was also well acquainted with the story surrounding the killing of Fr Niall Molloy during a lavish wedding at Kilcoursey House in Co Offaly in July 1985. The owner of the house, Richard Flynn, was charged with manslaughter and brought before the Central Court. In what was seen as a remarkable turn in the story, which had consumed acres of newspaper coverage, Judge Frank Roe suddenly brought the trial to a close after accepting a defence submission that there was no evidence to suggest Fr Molloy did not die of a heart attack. An inquest later found that he died from blows to the head. Cahill, who was illiterate, presumably failed to find anything that could bring down the Government in the files but decided to hold on to them anyway as a bargaining chip.
The Fr Molloy file would subsequently become just that four years later for his friend and criminal associate, John Traynor, who could read, and was good at deals.
In July 1990, Traynor was arrested in London while handling stolen bearer bonds with a value of £4m that had been snatched from a courier in the City of London. He was facing seven years jail in Wormwood Scrubs and was desperate to get out and get home. He made contact with Cahill and the gardai. Traynor was transferred to the low security Highpoint Prison in Suffolk.
He was given "temporary home leave" in November 1992 and travelled home to Dublin. Traynor was awaiting trial for possessing stolen cigarettes in Dublin and, given his string of previous convictions, was also facing jail time in the Republic.
A few weeks later he arranged a meeting with a lone detective near the Garda Social Club in Harrington Street in south Dublin. The detective arrived and Traynor directed him to walk down nearby Stamer Street. As he did so, Martin Cahill stepped out from behind a hedge and handed the detective the Fr Molloy file, which – as crime journalist and author Paul Williams recounts in his book Evil Empire – was contained inside a Dunne's Stores shopping bag.
Traynor and Cahill had been in business together since the early Eighties.
Traynor was involved in cheque forgery and any other scam that could net him money. A year after his return, however, a new face emerged on the major organised crime scene in Dublin. John Gilligan, having finished a five-year sentence in Portlaoise Prison had re-established links with his Lebanese hash trafficker in Amsterdam and had in place a major shipment, so long as he could raise the finance.
The deal was entered into and Gilligan's importation business took off.
Repayment of the loan and interest began in the summer of 1994, but didn't last long. Cahill was shot dead near his home in Ranelagh in August.
Two days later, the Dublin IRA issued a statement saying they had killed Cahill because he had been trading with the outlawed loyalist organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force. The UVF had never heard of Cahill but some of its members had been arrested in Turkey in 1993 trying to sell some of the paintings Cahill had stolen from Russborough House in 1986. The UVF men had acquired the paintings from Ireland's top criminal fence, Tommy Coyle, who had been handling the sale of the art collection for Cahill.
The IRA statement was a ruse, gardai discovered later. They had been bought off to cover for the real assassins, members of the splinter group the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), who had links to both Gilligan and Traynor.
Gilligan had befriended INLA members in Portlaoise Prison and Traynor was involved with them in a cheque fraud in Dublin.
Gilligan's operation flourished for two years under the radar of the gardai and journalists. Then, in 1995, the late Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin picked up Gilligan's name in a conversation with another journalist and double checked with one of her garda sources.
He confirmed that from nowhere Gilligan had suddenly become the richest criminal in Ireland and was probably the main supplier of hash in the country. Veronica had already established a rapport with Traynor as one of her main underworld contacts.
Traynor fed her stories about other criminals, diverting attention away from his cash-cow associate Gilligan. Veronica's stories led to death threats. Shots were fired at her home in October 1994 and in January 1995 a story that Traynor had given her about Cahill's remarkable double life with his wife and her sister led to demands by Cahill's associates – who knew of his contacts with Veronica – that she be assassinated.
The drug-addict gunman sent to kill her had a defective gun which misfired when he pointed it at her chest and pulled the trigger. The jam cleared and the bullet fired as the gunman shook the weapon, striking Veronica in the leg.
To avoid blame and show he was still amenable to the queries of the journalist, Traynor again turned to the Fr Molloy file which he had photocopied for future use. To divert Veronica's attention he again produced 'juicy' parts of the file to lead her away from Gilligan's life and drug trafficking network.
A story is a story and Fr Molloy was still news.
It was unlikely, however, that Veronica would miss out on Gilligan. Within days of hearing his name for the first time she had discovered Gilligan had set up home and had built a massive equestrian centre at Mucklon in Co Kildare. She set out for the house and confronted Gilligan on September 13, 1995.
He savagely attacked her and subsequently made threats to rape and kill her son. Gilligan was arrested and charged with the assault. A week before Gilligan was to have appeared in court on the assault charge the journalist was shot dead as she stopped at the traffic lights at Newlands Cross.
Since her revelations, the Fr Molloy case has cropped up again and again. Three years ago gardai agreed, in response to yet more publicity, to re-examine the file.
They did so and sent a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions who found no grounds for any further charges. Last week the Government concurred and refused a request for a public inquiry.