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Tuesday 28 March 2017

Jail release sparks fear of renewed feud

Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

A GANG feud which began 12 years ago with a "bloodbath" at an industrial estate in west Dublin could be about to erupt again.

The recent release of a leading figure in the notorious republican terror group, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), from prison in the UK has apparently resurrected the animosities which began with a horrific melee which took place in the empty factory in the Ballymount Industrial Estate.

An INLA member, Patrick Campbell, 22, originally from Belfast but living in Dublin, was beaten and hacked to death with a machete in the mass brawl between members of the INLA and west Dublin-based criminals in October 1999. The INLA had lured six members of the Dublin gang to the warehouse with the ruse of settling a row which had begun with a fight between teenagers outside a chip shop in Tallaght and escalated to damage of a van belonging to an associate of the INLA gang.

The six "ordinary" criminals who went to the warehouse were armed with knuckle-dusters and knives but were confronted by INLA members with firearms. They beat the criminals, stripped them and poured boiling water over them. One was also anally raped. Another member of the criminal gang who had been waiting outside called for support and a larger group of criminals armed with guns and other weapons arrived. They attacked the INLA gang, leading to Campbell's death in the melee. In all, 14 men received serious injuries. More fighting broke out later at Tallaght Hospital.

After Campbell's murder, a series of killings took place at the hands of a man whom gardai describe as a "phantom killer". They had no intelligence about him until recent years when they were able to point to a former Provisional IRA man from Belfast who had joined the INLA. They believed that other INLA figures in Dublin followed members of the criminal gang and once they identified their whereabouts, the killer was called from Belfast, carried out the murders and returned North. There was never any evidence to link the man to the murders and he remains free.

His first victim was Patrick Neville, 31, who was shot dead outside his home in St Michael's Estate in Inchicore in April 2000. An INLA member from Dublin was later sentenced to four years for gathering information for an illegal organisation. Shortly before Neville's murder, a pipe bomb had been placed under his car.

One of the INLA figures who was questioned by gardai about the bloodbath in Ballymount was shot dead in July 2000 in Dundalk. 'Mad' Nicky O'Hare, 34, was a notorious criminal who specialised in extortion based on his reputation for violence. At first it was thought he was killed because of his role in the feud but it later emerged he was killed by the IRA because he had shot dead an innocent publican, Stephen Connolly, 22, in Dundalk after Mr Connolly refused to pay O'Hare protection money.

In June 2003, the INLA assassinated Ronnie Draper, 25, from Tallaght as he worked as a doorman in a bar on Eden Quay in Dublin city centre.

Four months later, the Dublin gang struck back, abducting and murdering Lee Conkey, 32, an INLA member from Larne in Co Antrim but living in St Teresa's Gardens in Dublin. Conkey was taken to farmland at Togher in Co Louth and strangled. A plastic bag was tied over his head.

On May 24, 2005, the gang shot dead Anthony Creed, 36, the man who had set up the INLA trap at Ballymount. It was Anthony Creed's van that had been damaged at the outbreak of the feud and he had called associates in the INLA to exact revenge.

The feud then appeared to die down again, partly, it was thought, because key members of the INLA were imprisoned for other offences. However, in 2008, following releases from jail, the feud erupted again. Christopher 'Git' McDonagh, 27, was shot dead by gunmen who burst into his home in Ronanstown in September 2008.

Shortly after this, gardai made more arrests of INLA and criminals involved in the feud and it settled down again.

The recent release from prison of one of the key INLA figures has sparked off threats between the two sides again. This time, however, figures from both sides are in alliances with a variety of criminals and dissident republican criminals. The fear is the feud could spread and draw in other elements, all of whom are heavily armed.

Last month there was an attempt to abduct the former INLA leader, Dessie O'Hare, 55, in Clontarf in Dublin. O'Hare managed to fight off three men but was injured before he escaped. He was admitted to the Mater Hospital for treatment for facial and shoulder injuries which he told gardai were caused by a hit-and-run driver.

Sunday Independent

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