Paul Williams: This unequal gang war was always going to lead to a bloodbath
Published 25/05/2016 | 02:30
The death toll in the Kinahan/Hutch feud now stands at seven following the cold-blooded execution of Gareth Hutch yesterday morning.
The underworld's one-time man of respect, Gerry 'The Monk' Hutch, has now lost two nephews, a brother and his best friend as the Kinahan cartel seeks to make good on the threat which they made to him in January - to wipe out his family.
The carnage has also claimed the lives of Hutch ally and dissident Republican Michael Barr, and Martin O'Rourke, an entirely innocent man shot in a case of mistaken identity for another Hutch gang target.
And all the evidence suggests that the death toll is going to continue to rise because there is no end in sight for this unprecedented blood lust.
A year ago, it would have been considered madness to predict that, within a few months, two of the country's veteran godfathers, Gerry Hutch and Christy 'Dapper Don' Kinahan, would be sworn enemies.
The all-out war that has erupted as a result is unprecedented in the history of Irish gangland, which is quite a distinction when one recalls the darkest days of the Crumlin and Drimnagh feud, but particularly the campaign of terror waged in Limerick by the notorious McCarthy/Dundons, dubbed Murder Inc.
The fact that four men have been gunned down in the streets of a small area of the north inner-city - three of them in just five weeks - is a first in gangland history.
The killers in the pay of the Kinahans, who are trying to outdo each other in raising the body count, mostly come from the same neighbourhoods where the wider Hutch family also live.
It means that the hit-men have in-depth knowledge of the local warrens of streets and rat-runs to enable them shoot and then scoot even though there are armed garda patrols throughout the area.
Senior, experienced gardaí who have been working the organised crime beat for decades were openly admitting yesterday that they have never witnessed a feud like this before.
What has happened is that a bloody civil war has broken out after a bitter split in a once close-knit, powerful criminal organisation.
The battle lines were drawn when the Kinahans broke an agreement and murdered Gary Hutch - a cousin of Gareth Hutch - in Spain last September.
Gerry Hutch had paid the Dapper Don's son Daniel €200,000 to spare his nephew's life.
But Kinahan had other ideas and then came looking for another €200,000 or else he would have Hutch and his family wiped out.
Then followed the extraordinary scenes at the Regency Hotel and the rest of the story is very well known.
It may read like a storyline from a Mario Puzo novel or an episode of 'Narcos', but what we are witnessing is all terrifyingly real.
The two sides that emerged from the split in the gang could not be more unevenly matched.
The Kinahans have the money and the weapons to pay and equip some of the most dangerous young psychopaths in gangland.
They effectively control the entire drug distribution trade in Ireland and a large chunk in Britain and mainland Europe.
Members of the cartel can use the gang's network of safe houses and apartments in Spain, Holland and Belgium and they also rub shoulders with the big international crime players.
On the other hand, the Hutch family and their wider circle of associates have no sophisticated money machine or organisation behind them.
In many ways, the underdogs in this feud are easy prey for former friends-turned-executioners. The Achilles heel of those being targeted by the Kinahans is that they are home birds who rarely leave their neighbourhood and thus can be easily attacked.
Gardaí are now openly conceding that the cartel is determined to wipe out an entire family and that they have the money and the killers to achieve their diabolical goal.
As the killers get more brazen, the danger of more innocent civilians and gardaí being caught in the crossfire also grows.
There is a chilling realisation among those on the - very - thin blue line between the belligerents that this feud is careering into uncharted territory where it will reach a horrific nadir before hostilities cease.
The Kinahan/Hutch war is a prime example of what happens when organised crime bosses and their murderous underlings see themselves as being untouchable.
For this type of narco-terrorism poses a fundamental challenge to the legitimacy of the sovereign state and its national police force which is charged with maintaining law and order.
There are two areas where modern police forces cannot be seen to fail and for very obvious reasons: terrorism and organised crime.
One of the big concerns is that the murder gang seems to be shadowing the gardaí investigating the Regency Hotel attack: Gareth Hutch's car was recently seized by the gardaí for forensic examination in connection with the attack.
There is also a serious scarcity of intelligence coming from the underworld, especially from the wider Kinahan crime circle, which supports claims that gardaí have not had the resources to recruit informants.
Sources also point out that the garda response is fragmented and operating from separate "silos" of intelligence which is not being shared.
Many veterans point out that a dedicated, fully resourced task force should be established with a long-term objective to smash the mobs.
If the bloodshed escalates further, garda management will be faced with yet another crisis of confidence.