Attempted hit on 'The Monk' Hutch escalates gangster feud
Gerry Hutch's days as the untouchable godfather of organised crime may be coming to an end, like those of so many of his predecessors, at the business end of an assassin's gun.
Reports that two masked gunmen burst into a Spanish pub with the intention of killing him have been taken seriously.
The incident threatens to escalate into a full-blown war between the country's two biggest criminal organisations. For this is the first time anyone in the criminal underworld dared to cross the gangland Rubicon by sending a hit team to shoot The Monk.
Tensions have been running high since the murder last September of Hutch's nephew, Gary Hutch, by the drugs cartel controlled by The Monk's former close associate Christy Kinahan - aka the Dapper Don.
Members of the wider Hutch gang have been keeping their heads down, and some have fled the country, as Kinahan's lieutenants here and in Spain have been equally watchful.
Despite the soft image Gerry Hutch has tried to paint of himself as the retired old villain, he is considered to be what the Mafia term as a "man of respect". In Garda intelligence and underworld circles, he was seen as being part of an influential group of elder gangsters who controlled the activities of the more hot-blooded younger villains.
Insiders say Kinahan sought the approval of his peers within this loose grouping when he decided that Eamon 'The Don' Dunne was becoming a nuisance.
The same committee of thugs also decided they were not going to get involved when the Real IRA executed one of their own, Eamon Kelly, in December 2012.
By reaching pension age, Kelly - who had been Dunne's mentor - had (almost) become one of the country's longest surviving godfathers.
But when viewed with the jaundiced eye of experience, the murders of Kelly and Dunne are nothing compared with a deliberate attempt to kill Gerry Hutch.
The very fact a hit team missed their target a few nights ago will be enough to dangerously escalate the feud.
Hutch has been synonymous with organised crime since the 1980s.
In 1987, he made his name in the underworld hierarchy when, at the age of 24, he led the north inner-city gang that robbed £1.3m from a security van in Marino Mart on Dublin's northside.
The spectacular heist, the biggest cash robbery in Irish criminal history, catapulted Hutch into the big league.
Some of the money was subsequently traced to two bank accounts in Hutch's name in Newry and seized by the Northern authorities.
In 1995, Hutch and his gang were the prime suspects for the robbery of £2.8m from a cash holding facility in north Co Dublin. Despite several investigations and arrests, Hutch managed to escape prosecution - although he was forced to pay CAB over £1.2m.
In recent years, Hutch claims to be retired and divides his time between the Canaries and Dublin.
The murder of his nephew, Gary Hutch, was the first time a member of the family had been targeted by gangland killers. It followed allegations by Kinahan's mob that he was a police informant.
Sources said the murder followed a meeting between Kinahan's representatives, Gary Hutch, and his uncle Gerry Hutch, after which it appeared the dispute had been resolved.
It is understood Kinahan gave Gary Hutch money he had been owed and the two biggest Irish gangsters parted company.
Since his nephew's murder, Gerry Hutch has refused to accede to requests from Kinahan to "sit down" to talks.
And now it appears that the oldest law of the gangland jungle has again been invoked: kill or be killed.