Paul Williams on the life and crimes of Godfather Eamon Kelly
Eamon Kelly was at the birth of organised crime and remained at the helm until the Real IRA killed him, writes Paul Williams
EAMON Kelly became an OAP just two weeks ago when he celebrated his 65th birthday. In a line of work where longevity is rare, Kelly was one of the country's longest-surviving gangsters – having played a key role ushering in the era of organised crime in Ireland when it first emerged in the late 1960s.
Even though he knew he was a murder target and had already survived another attempt on his life, this State's 'Capo dei Capi' displayed no concerns for his safety.
It's easy today to see how the boss of bosses, made himself an easy target for a hitman to watch. He spent most of yesterday afternoon doing what he did every day – betting on horses at Ladbrokes in Killester, north Dublin.
In fact, former associates of murdered RIRA thug Alan Ryan had originally planned to hit Kelly just before his birthday but the new boss of the dissident gang decided to postpone his day of reckoning.
The elderly crimelord became a target for Ryan and his 'republican' associates because he had refused to pay them protection money for years.
They also knew that he was a powerful and influential figure in the criminal underworld that he helped create and still controlled.
Despite a botched murder attempt by the RIRA rabble two years ago, Kelly stubbornly refused to pay up or even change his daily routine.
Kelly, who saw himself as 'the Godfather', felt that taking obvious security precautions would have been a sign of weakness: that he was afraid of his enemies. And in Kelly's eyes, fear was seen as "respect".
After all the mob boss had, in his own view, been a man of respect for almost four decades. He had no respect for the RIRA or any other mob.
Kelly was a central member of a de facto crime council made up of a handful of other veteran villains who between them effectively controlled Ireland's organised-crime scene.
He mentored many of the country's most notorious criminals, including a young hood called Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch, whom he had taken under his wing 30 years ago.
He had also advised and coached the likes of Martin 'Marlo' Hyland and Eamon 'the Don' Dunne – a man he would ultimately set up.
Security intelligence sources believe that it was Kelly and his fellow bosses who decided that his former protege, Eamon Dunne, had become a liability to the "business" and gave the go-ahead for his murder in 2010.
But such was Kelly's power that Dunne's former associates remained close to him as did several other drug gangs – including the one responsible for Alan Ryan's murder.
The Real IRA also objected to his continued friendship with former INLA leader and psychopath Dessie O'Hare, the 'Border Fox', who often stayed with Kelly at his home.
Such was the depth of feeling towards Kelly that the RIRA also refused to allow another INLA thug, Declan Wacker Duffy, to join their ranks.
Duffy who is serving a sentence for the murder of a British soldier, had been trying to join Ryan and his associates for the past few years.
The murder is another milestone in the history of organised crime in Ireland. After all, Kelly is one of those responsible for the current culture of violent organised crime, which has now seen the taking of his own life.
He was involved in criminal activity since he was a young teenage tearaway in the early 1960s. He joined the IRA and later stayed with the Official IRA after the split with the Provos in 1970.
WITHIN a few years, he was well known to gardai in Dublin as a hardened armed robber with a fearsome reputation for violence.
He used a business in the north inner city as a front for criminal activity.
In 1981 the company was wound up by the High Court and a liquidator appointed on behalf of the Revenue Commissioners over unpaid bills.
He became involved in wholesale racketeering and threats to witnesses.
In 1984 Eamon Kelly, who lived with his family at Furry Park Road in Clontarf, was charged with stabbing a 21-year-old man in the chest in an attack outside the old Workers Party Club on Gardiner Street. He was subsequently convicted of wounding and jailed for 10 years.
However, the case was appealed and after a re-trial he was convicted of assault and his sentence reduced to three years.
In 1992 Kelly became the first gangland figure to be arrested in possession of a large shipment of cocaine. In May 1993, he became one of the first people in Ireland to be jailed for smuggling a major shipment of cocaine into the country.
He was sentenced to 14 years after he was caught with almost a kilo of high-quality cocaine worth an estimated €500,000.
By the time he was released, gangland had undergone huge changes and Kelly quickly immersed himself in the new underworld order.
The man who led the undercover investigation which nabbed Kelly was Martin Callinan, the current Garda Commissioner.
Two years ago, Kelly and another major crime figure, Troy Jordan, were arrested by the Garda Organised Crime Unit, who were investigating a sinister debt collection business.
Since then the hardened godfather also suffered the loss of his wife and a son – who died as a result of a drug habit.