Sworn enemies: gang feud threatens anarchy on our streets
Christy Kinahan and Gerry Hutch are household names due to their reputations as godfathers of organised crime.
And until last Friday at least, it was fair to assume that this pair in particular would buck the gangland trend by dying as old men, peacefully in their beds.
In Mafia parlance, they are men of 'respect' - clever, well organised gangsters who were considered untouchable.
A year ago, it would have been inconceivable that anyone in the underworld would cross the Rubicon and challenge their authority.
But then no one envisaged that the actions of the younger generation would plunge the once 'friendly' organisations into an unprecedented bloody feud.
For in the equally volatile worlds of gangland and politics, a week is a long time.
Over the course of four days, to paraphrase Yeats, the game has changed, changed utterly.
Now the former friends - two of the most influential men in the underworld - who soldiered together for over 30 years, have become sworn enemies.
From now on, they will have to be constantly vigilant and keep looking over their shoulders whether they are in Dublin, Amsterdam, Puerto Banus - or anywhere.
There are major concerns that the feud has gone too far for either side to back off any time soon. Like all gangland feuds, evil begets evil; with each murder requiring another to balance the books.
The terrifying and audacious attack at the Regency Hotel was a declaration of war emphasised by three of the killers dressing in paramilitary gear, and armed with AK-47 assault rifles.
It was carried out in broad daylight in a busy hotel with almost military precision.
But the mission wasn't as successful as planned: the prime target, Kinahan's son Daniel, and other key players got away.
Still, they did claim the life of David Byrne from Crumlin, a violent criminal who was an important member of the gang.
The speed with which the mob retaliated, executing Gerry Hutch's beloved older brother Eddie, was equally audacious.
The attack was carried out with the knowledge that the gardaí had deployed extra armed units across the capital and their victim lived in the heart of Hutch territory, which would have been under surveillance.
The killers of David Byrne and Eddie Hutch expressed their gang's absolute hatred of each other using the same gruesome tactics employed by the Sicilian Mafia during internecine feuds.
Both were shot in face. As shocking and repulsive as it may sound, it is necessary to report this fact in order to try to comprehend the cold, brutal reality of what these criminals are capable of.
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But in recent days this escalating madness has taken on another sinister dimension with the revelation that gangland criminals have made threats against two journalists working for Independent News and Media (INM) titles.
The shocking images of the hit team storming the Regency Hotel and then making their escape were captured by photographers from INM.
These photographs, which circulated the globe, show gangland violence in its most terrifying form.
The fact that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the murder of Veronica Guerin puts the recent death threats into perspective.
Unlike many other media organisations, INM has suffered the brunt of terrorist and gangland violence and intimidation over the past three decades.
This week, after consulting with the reporters involved, it was decided to make the threats public to highlight the danger posed to the media.
In a supposedly civilised, modern democratic society, this level of gangland violence cannot be tolerated because it threatens anarchy.
But that can only be achieved by the rule of law and doing what the gardaí did in Limerick: maintaining an implacable and sustained offensive against the gangs.
Through the unprecedented events of the past week, gangland has blasted its way, totally unexpectedly, into the centre of the General Election campaign.
In particular, it has focused minds on the drastic effects of sustained budgetary cutbacks on garda resources - which threatens the force's ability to confront this very clear and present danger.
To ensure that there are enough officers available to prevent further bloodshed and bring the various killers to justice, the government must commit many millions of euro in overtime to bridge the personnel gap.
The ripples of the gangland crisis has even engulfed Sinn Féin, with Gerry Adams's disturbing plans to shut down the Special Criminal Court and undermine the laws needed to smash the crime cartels.
The Sinn Féin President even went so far as to deny that gangland even existed.
It would be interesting to know which party Gerry Hutch or Christy Kinahan supports - although politics, like the rule of law, are very low among their current priorities.