New IRA hedonism led to second Ryan murder
Old-school republican terrorist 'decency' has long since given way to drug-dealing and gangsterism, writes Jim Cusack
Published 06/03/2016 | 02:30
The former chief of staff of the Provisional IRA, the man who oversaw the massive bombing campaign in England in the 1990s, lives in a farm labourer's cottage in north County Monaghan.
In his 70s, he has very clearly never benefited financially from the 'secret revolutionary organisation', as outlined in the 1916 Proclamation.
He is unlike the many latter-day Provos, who have become millionaires from organised crime, and is a very far cry from the likes of Vinnie Ryan, who was machine-gunned to death last week as he munched on a breakfast roll in his parked car in McKee Road, Finglas.
Vinnie (25) like his older deceased brother, Alan, who was 32 when he was assassinated in September 2012, briefly enjoyed the bling life of a common gangster. In fact, the Ryans were the Dublin leaders of the 'Real', as they termed it, version of the IRA, that made the full transition from ascetic revolutionary republicanism to drug-dealing.
Whereas the Proclamation eschewed those who dishonoured the Cause through 'inhumanity or rapine', the two Ryan brothers and their associates very much enjoyed torturing and intimidating other criminals into handing over drugs money.
Alan Ryan was the first 'republican' leader who was okay with drugs and drugs money. The Garda Special Branch made two significant raids on Ryan's arsenal in north Dublin in 2008 and on both occasions came away with guns and explosives, but also drugs, €350,000 worth of cannabis and cocaine, with an estimated street value of €100,000.
The raison d'etre of the Real IRA was that it was perfectly acceptable to extort cash and drugs from drugs dealers, so long as this was in support of the end cause of somehow establishing a 32-county united and 'free' Ireland.
Predictably, this strategy had its shortcomings. When they embarked on their plan to raise a fortune from Dublin's drug dealers, they first targeted their neighbourhood dealers in the Coolock area, led by Michael 'Micha' Kelly, who refused their demands for republican 'protection'.
Kelly and his gang had murdered their way to supremacy in the northern suburbs, killing at least eight and possibly as many as 12 rivals in their rise to control the local drugs supply.
Vinnie Ryan, armed with an AK47 assault rifle, shot dead Kelly, 32, as he pulled up outside a girlfriend's apartment in Clongriffin in September 2011. It was said that Vinnie was laughing uncontrollably while shooting Kelly at close range. Ryan was also said to have deliberately driven the getaway car over Kelly's head as he lay, already dying from the gunshot wounds.
Kelly's gang, since headed by his business partner, who is known in crime journalism as 'Mr Big', struck back exactly a year later, killing Alan Ryan near his home only a few hundred metres away in Donaghmede. In March 2014, they also murdered the Ryans' close associate, Belfast man 'Fat' Declan Smith, 32, who they gunned down as he walked his daughter to a creche in Donaghmede.
Before he died, Alan Ryan, with his younger brother and a few other hard cases in tow, had been living very gangster-style in Dublin on the surprisingly large amounts of money they were able to extort from minor drugs gangs. Alan had a pair of bolt cutters in the back of his car, which he used to chop off fingers from two recalcitrant drug dealers.
Ryan's extortion paid for foreign holidays and extensive clubbing. Alan, Vinnie and Declan Smith had their picture taken as they lounged in the swimming pool of an expensive hotel in Budapest in 2009. They were happy to share the image on Facebook.
Whether or not he used cocaine remains a matter of dispute but Alan Ryan was a familiar figure in the city's club life, picking up young women and having multiple affairs.
He had two children, a boy and a girl, with two young women, one a foreign student living in Dublin who has since returned home. Neither was aware of, or in any way connected with, Ryan's criminal activity.
Alan was killed both as revenge for the murder of Micha Kelly and also because his extortion had grown too big to be ignored by the main drugs gangs in the city.
He was always on a short growth trajectory in an environment as violent and unforgiving as the Dublin gang world, gardai observed.
After Alan's murder, the 'Real' IRA in Dublin fell into disarray, turning in on itself with a series of internal murders and double crosses, leaving several of its members serving lengthy jail terms.
Vinnie Ryan also became a marked man. He made some futile attempts to re-establish the kind of organisation his brother had formed but failed. Former 'republican' associates turned violently against him as he tried to rebuild his big brother's organisation. Last October, he was slashed with a knife across the throat as he walked from the Rotunda Hospital with a young woman in Parnell Square. He almost died from loss of blood.
The end for Vinnie, a barber by trade, came predictably enough. He was, his remaining associates say, dedicated to somehow continuing what he saw as his older brother Alan's work of extorting money from drugs gangs and using (some of) it to further the cause of militant republicanism. Experienced gardai who dealt with the 'real thing', as they term the old Provisional IRA and its inscrutable leaders like the old chief of staff in the farmer's cottage in Monaghan, say there is no future for the likes of the Ryan/Real IRA mob. Vinnie, one said, "didn't have a button left. If he had a tenner in his pocket, that was it."
Another former officer who knew the Ryans from when they were teenagers and joined the then relatively new 'Real' IRA in the mid-1990s said they were inculcated in the spirit of republicanism but "lost the plot a long time back". He observed that it was Alan Ryan's 'ego' that led him on the destructive path of mixing republicanism and gangsterism and that his younger brother then made the foolish error of following him to an early grave.