Streets of fear: Gardai on high alert for drugs kingpins' arrival
Security at highest level since Queen’s 2011 visit
Published 14/02/2016 | 02:30
Drugs kingpins at the centre of the vicious gangland feud that has caused mayhem in the capital are expected to fly in for the funeral of their murdered associate tomorrow, triggering the biggest armed security operation in Dublin since Queen Elizabeth's visit to Ireland.
Daniel Kinahan is expected to fly in for the funeral of David Byrne, in a show of defiance that is expected to further inflame the escalating tensions between the gangs.
Byrne was assassinated by gunmen disguised as gardai in the Regency Hotel last weekend. Kinahan, the son of Costa del Sol-based drugs kingpin Christy Kinahan, was the suspected target.
- Read more: Two veteran Irish criminals, one vicious feud, two cold-blooded assassinations. Who's who in the Gang War
Streets leading to Byrne's family home in Raleigh Square, Crumlin, are locked down this weekend as his remains are waked by his family in advance of his funeral tomorrow.
Eyewitnesses reported the extraordinary sight of children as young as 10 and 11 holding walkie talkies on the streets in the inner city. They were apparently "on lookout duty", monitoring passing cars and talking into their walkie talkies, a sign of the heightened tensions in the community amid fears of reprisals.
- Read more: Nothing will stop these gangs from bloody revenge...
- Read more: Mob have five murder cars 'ready to go' for next gangland hit
A security cordon will effectively shut down the Liberties in the south inner city tomorrow when a funeral service for Byrne, a father of two, takes place at the church of St Nicholas of Myra on Francis Street.
Gardai, meanwhile, are preparing for more reprisal killings as tensions escalate between the warring gangs. In a sinister development, chilling death threats were made to journalists working for Independent News & Media.
The feud between the Kinahan cartel and the Hutch gang in the north inner city has so far claimed three lives and brought armed patrols on to the streets on both sides of the Liffey.
It led to the Regency Hotel attack last Friday week. Eddie Hutch, a taxi driver who was not involved in crime, was gunned down in revenge last Monday. The armed garda presence surrounding the Byrne funeral is the biggest since the British monarch visited Ireland in May 2011 and is likely to deter any immediate trouble. However, experienced gardai in the city expect the violence to continue.
Up to 12 men are now suspected of being involved in organising the gun attack on the Regency. Gardai last week said six men carried out the attack on the hotel. However, up to six other known associates of the Hutch gang have been caught on security footage either in the hotel or in the vicinity at the time of the attack. Gardai are investigating whether they were acting as scouts for the gunmen.
In a further sinister development, external hackers are suspected of making two separate attempts to stop the record function in the CCTV system at the Regency the day before the attack.
Management said the CCTV system was interfered with on the Monday before, but security experts were brought in to repair it. On Thursday the system again stopped working when the record function was shut down. The apparent malfunction was picked up by hotel management who again called in security experts who suspected an attempt had been made to hack into the system.
Gardai are investigating whether the suspected hacking attempt was a deliberate ploy by the gang to shut down security cameras in advance of the audacious gun attack carried out in broad daylight in a hotel packed with 300 people.
Detectives are now satisfied that three gunmen armed with AK-47s were disguised as gardai and there is speculation that a fourth man who sat in a waiting getaway van outside the hotel was also armed and kitted out in garda riot gear.
Detectives also believe that all three men in the hit squad spoke with Dublin accents, ruling out speculation that they were hired assassins flown in from abroad.
A gunman dressed in drag and a man in a peaked cap who were first into the Regency have been identified as an associate of the Hutch gang from the north inner city and a Northern Irish man known to police.
- Read more: Son of Eddie Hutch Snr not granted compassionate leave for father's funeral
- Read more: Sworn enemies: gang feud threatens anarchy on our streets
Gardai are investigating whether former republican terrorists provided logistical support or weapons.
Crucial forensic evidence has been obtained from the getaway car used by four gunmen who shot Eddie Hutch dead. The gang were forced to abandon the car because of armed garda patrols, leaving behind a balaclava and fingerprints.
Tensions have reached panic levels in communities north and south of the city, according to garda sources, with innocent relatives of gangland figures believing they are now in line for assassination.
The murder of Eddie Hutch - who was targeted only because he was related to members of the warring Hutch gang - has "an awful lot of innocent people scared".
Gardai in Dublin were yesterday painting a bleak picture of the prospects for any quick solution to the crisis.
One source said: "There are lots and lots of innocent people here who are very scared. Eddie Hutch had nothing to do with any of the gangs and people know that, he was killed purely because of his name.
- Read more: Watch: Paul Williams documentary - why 'the Monk' was never a saint
- Read more: Will this outburst of violence have poll implications for the parties?
"People know it is open season on families, fathers, mothers, children.
"There is a fear, you can nearly feel it on the streets, people looking over their shoulders, looking at strangers they would never have looked at before. They're really spooked and these are people who are not involved. They were never targets before, but the belief is that anyone who is related to anyone in the gangs is a target."
Last night, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald vowed a major crackdown on gangland criminals which will see gardai "follow the money trail" of Irish gangs hiding out in Spain and elsewhere around the world.
She said she wanted to see more resources going into the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), including additional specialists and forensic accountants as part of a renewed effort to tackle organised gangs.
"The money has to be tracked down and this is about following the money," the minister told the Sunday Independent.