Young guns blamed for spate of new gang attacks
New generation taking over streets with more sophisticated weapons
A new generation of "young guns" recruited by the two warring south inner-city Dublin gangs in recent years are behind a spate of seven gun attacks and two pipe bomb attacks on houses in the past two weeks.
The attacks, none of which were made public by gardai, are seen as a continuation of the feuding in the city, with young criminals in their late teens and early twenties carrying on as proxies for the previous generation of gang figures, most of whom are now in prison or out of the country, mainly in Spain.
Gardai are increasingly concerned that this coming generation is becoming more sophisticated in the use of explosive devices. They have also received intelligence that one of the gangs is intent on carrying out a multiple killing in a grenade attack on a pub or other premises used by members of the opposition faction, led by Freddie Thompson, who has been in Spain since last summer.
Thompson and his contemporaries are now in their early thirties and have effectively passed on the day-to-day running of their drugs businesses to younger men, who were recruited in their early teens as runners.
The Thompson side more or less won the south inner-city feud that claimed the lives of 16 people and left others permanently injured. The other gang is now confined to an area around Dolphin House. The home of one of its members was among the houses attacked by gunmen in the recent spate of attacks.
Gardai still believe that this gang is capable of serious violence and say there is no real end to the feud in sight now that younger men have taken over.
The majority of active "senior" members on both sides were arrested by gardai and are serving substantial sentences, unlikely to return to the city streets where they previously did business.
Elsewhere in Dublin, gardai report the advance of other young criminals barely out of their teens, who are rising through the ranks of organised crime and showing an extraordinary capacity for violence. One young gang in the Coolock/Artane area in the north of the city is led by a 25 year old who is suspected of already having carried out three murders -- all of older drug dealers -- in the area.
In Limerick, which has had some relief from the bloody family feuding in the past year, there are also concerns about teenagers moving their way up in crime and drugs. Local sources say that gang leaders aged as young as 16 or 17 are employing boys aged 10 to 12 to move drugs around the troubled parts of the city.
Widespread intimidation of people, adults as well as teenagers, by these young gangs continues in parts of Moyross and Southill, with people still being forced out of their homes.
The stalled regeneration of the city's poorest areas has also left some of these areas undeveloped and some families are left isolated and vulnerable to attack.
Teenage heroin addiction in Limerick has also become a major problem, leading to rises in theft and, in some cases, overdoses and suicide. Local people say that an almost complete lack of facilities for young people at night-time is contributing to drug taking, outdoor drinking and the almost inevitable violent disorder.
Gardai say that they are also seeing a rise in criminal activity among teenagers and younger in the Travelling Community. Like the young gangs in south Dublin, young Traveller gangs are increasingly using improvised explosive devices. Gardai say that while most of these devices are crude and often unworkable, last year saw a worrying improvement in their design and lethality.
The increase in the use of bombs, gardai say, shows that this latest generation of young criminals is learning new and potentially far more lethal techniques than their predecessors. Ten years ago almost no criminal gang in the country had access to or knew how to use bombs. Last year the Army's Ordnance Corps dealt with 22 "viable" bombs.
Gardai are also seeing a small but significant rise in the use of military grenades. In one attack in Drimnagh last year, believed to have been carried out by teenage members of one of the gangs, a military fragmentation grenade wrecked the interior of a house and the elderly couple and their grandchild who were in the house were lucky to have survived unhurt. A garda who attended the scene said it was a "miracle" that no one was killed.
One common factor among all the rising young criminals, gardai say, is that although they have lengthy records from juvenile court, few have spent any significant time in detention because of the lack of accommodation for under-age offenders in Ireland.