THE largely docile women characters portrayed in the latest series of hit TV show Love/Hate definitely do not reflect the reality of Dublin's inner city gangland "molls", but the portrayal of a young woman carrying a gun to and from the most recent episode's double murder is accurate, gardai say.
Women play key roles in Dublin and Limerick's crime worlds, and in several gangs they control the day-to-day business which their volatile husbands and partners often neglect as they are caught up in feuding and partying, according to detectives well-versed in the ways of the gangs.
Some of Ireland's criminals are in partnerships with "girls from good backgrounds", one source said last week, but added that more are in relationships with women who already come from established criminal families. These women, gardai say, are often the "brains" of their partner's criminal operations. They are also, in a number of instances, the instigators of violence.
While Love/Hate's women are largely passive characters – and in the opening episode one a victim of rape – garda sources say the women they encounter are often strong, clever and calculating. Gardai say women play key management roles in the drugs networks in working class areas of the inner city.
In north inner Dublin, women were forced to take control of their husbands' and partners' drugs and other criminal enterprises during the four years of murderous feuding that broke out in 2007 after a split in the local IRA/criminal drugs and robbery organisation. Women on each side stepped in to run the drugs trade in the area, supplying much of the heroin, synthetic opiates and other drugs. Many men were also forced to flee, with more than 60 receiving official warnings from gardai that their lives were in danger.
As the north Dublin women assumed control of the drugs operations, their men were relegated into subordinate and even non-positions. Gardai say that on either side of the feud, men who were formerly employed in the drugs trade and other crime are now paid "pocket money by the women" to spend their days drinking in local pubs on strict condition that they avoid any form of conflict. The arrangement appears to have worked and the feud, once the most volatile in the State, has died down, with no murders in the past two years.
These criminal women, gardai say, are held in considerable respect and none is known to have been crossed by any males in the area. They also have good instincts in regard to avoiding arrest and prosecution. None has come before the courts on serious charges.
In south inner city Dublin there is a similar tradition of strong women characters who come from backgrounds where their mothers and grandmothers were often breadwinners as well as homemakers. There are strong matriarchal elements at play in the major criminal gangs, including the one which is generally referred to as "Fat" Freddie Thompson's gang. Thompson has been absent from the country in recent years, but the gang he led is still intact and its operations are, to a large extent, controlled by a network of women, most of them with criminal family backgrounds.
These women are the opposite of the Love/Hate female characters described in one Twitter posting last week as "one-dimensional and only there to be sex objects".
Sources in Limerick report similar characteristics in the roles of women in the city's main drug gangs. Again, the establishment of women in the key money-making roles was assumed as their men brought their gangs to the brink of destruction through feuding.
The Love/Hate-type moll is more akin to the young women attracted to rising criminal figures in Dublin's outer suburbs, gardai say. Often with no crime in their backgrounds, young women in these suburbs are often drawn to the type of young men for whom drug-dealing and other crime is a career choice in areas where poverty and drug-taking are rife.
And there are examples of girls from middle class backgrounds also being attracted to men who are among the worst criminals in the city.
Last month gardai became suspicious at seeing a relatively new luxury car parked
outside the south Dublin home of a member of one of the city's most notoriously violent criminal families. The car belonged to a family in middle class south Co Dublin but was not reported stolen. A watch was placed on the vehicle and gardai noted an attractive young woman leaving the criminal's house in the early morning and driving off. The car belongs to her father and she was returning home. She is apparently in a steady relationship with the criminal, who was released from his latest prison term earlier this year.
The one female character in last week's episode, however, who gardai say is an accurate portrayal is Lizzie, the sister of one of the IRA gang formerly led by the Git character who carried out the rape in the opening episode and was murdered. She carried the gun which Darren uses to murder an innocent man and his wife. "That's right," one experienced garda said last week. "Women have been carrying guns around this town for years. Guards will check fellas, but the girls just walk past them. They're the ones who move the gear."
The partners of Dublin criminals can also be the very opposite of passive. During the recent trial of Garrett O'Brien, 34, for the murder of Shay O'Byrne at Tallaght in March 2009, the Central Criminal Court heard remarkable evidence from Mr O'Byrne's partner and mother of his infant son, Sharon Rattigan.
Ms Rattigan, whose brother Joey was shot dead at the outset of the Crumlin-Drimnagh feud in 2002 but who has never had any involvement in crime, tackled O'Brien and was herself shot and injured as he opened fire on her partner. Ms Rattigan, 29, was putting their child in the back of the family car when O'Brien, wearing a balaclava and armed with an automatic handgun, approached and started shooting.
She told the court: "I saw a chap walking along wearing a tracksuit, then he just turned towards Shay and started shooting him."
She described how the man then turned the gun on her and she ran at him, grabbing him by the chest. "He kept whacking the gun off my head, I didn't know I'd been shot at the time. I somehow reached up and got the gun out of his hand."
Ms Rattigan said she could hear her son screaming and could see Mr O'Byrne lying on the ground. Then she and the gunman fell over a wall into the neighbour's garden as the struggle continued.
"He was on top of me, hitting me, punching me, screaming, 'Give me the gun'! I wouldn't let go of it, I thought he would shoot me."
O'Brien ran off and she opened the door of her car and threw the gun inside before going to help her partner, who was struggling to breathe. Mr O'Byrne, 27, had been shot four times. The court heard that a fifth bullet that went through Ms Rattigan's thigh also went into her partner's body.
Under cross-examination by Feargal Kavanagh SC, defending, Ms Rattigan denied that she or Mr O'Byrne had been involved in drug-dealing in any way. When pressed on the issue, she said she was "100 per cent certain" that her partner had never been involved with drugs. She said he had worked hard all his life at a number of different jobs and had been trying to set up a car-valeting business at the time of his shooting.
Ms Rattigan said he was out of work in 2009 because his arm had been paralysed in an accident.
O'Brien was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence.
Love/Hate is on RTE1, Sundays, 9.30pm