Sunday 18 March 2018

Minister: lives of sports fans threatened by gang warfare

Officers keep watch among fans as relative of Hutch takes to the ring hours after gun attack

Gang Feud: Gardai cordon off the scene of the attack outside the National Stadium
Gang Feud: Gardai cordon off the scene of the attack outside the National Stadium

Wayne O'Connor and Paul Williams

Gardai mounted a huge security operation around Dublin's National Stadium yesterday, following Friday night's drive-by gangland shooting which left two people injured, one an innocent student.

Gardai are treating the shooting as an attempted murder.

Yesterday on the southside of the city, boxing fans attending an event in the stadium were scanned upon entry by members of a private security firm with airport security-style metal detector wands.

Gardai also maintained a strong presence ringside among onlookers as a relative of the Hutch family, with no links to crime or the ongoing Hutch-Kinahan feud, boxed in the national under-22 championship.

The area around the stadium remained sealed off before and after the lunchtime bout yesterday and the atmosphere was tense in the south inner city. Traffic restrictions and cordons were put in place to limit the movement of people in and out of the area as detectives and special investigators carried out an investigation of the scene of Friday night's shooting. They are now hunting two men linked in relation to the incident.

Gardai are investigating if the shooting is linked to the Hutch-Kinahan feud but detectives are also examining the possibility of a further link to a separate feud in Ballymun, north Dublin, which claimed the lives of mother-of-six Antoinette Corbally (48), and Clinton Shannon, a 30-year-old Dubliner, last August.

Christy Kinahan Snr
Christy Kinahan Snr

They were shot dead outside the Corbally family Ballymun home in an attack intended for Ms Corbally's brother Derek 'Bottler' Devoy (38). He escaped uninjured.

The intended target of Friday's attack outside the national stadium was a man in his 40s with close links in the past to both feuding clans. He is a known career criminal with previous convictions for drug offences and armed robberies.

He was hit with a shotgun blast outside the stadium on Friday night when a car pulled up outside the boxing venue at 9.45pm on Friday night and two men - one wearing a balaclava and the other wearing a ski mask - jumped from the vehicle and opened fire. He was left with injuries to his leg.

An innocent bystander, a student in his 20s from the UK, also received pellet wounds to his hand.

The scene of Derek Coakley Hutch’s shooting last weekend. Photo: Tony Gavin
The scene of Derek Coakley Hutch’s shooting last weekend. Photo: Tony Gavin

Both men were rushed to St James's Hospital but their injuries were described as minor.

They fired multiple shots before making their escape in a black car. Witnesses at the scene said more shots were fired from the vehicle as it sped away. Two high-powered cars - a Lexus and a Mercedes - were later recovered burnt out near Blanchardstown. Gardai are now investigating if these are linked to the attack.

And Minister for Sport Shane Ross has condemned what he called "the latest gangland atrocity" after the two people were injured.

"Crime has sunk to a new low when sports fans' lives are threatened by gang warfare," Minister Ross told the Sunday Independent.

Fianna Fail Senator Catherine Ardagh said locals in the area were living in fear because of the two shootings in the city in six days.

"This latest incident has increased fear levels among locals," said Crumlin Senator Catherine Ardagh.

"The rise in shootings and violent crime across the city is extremely worrying and people living in these areas, particularly older people, are concerned for their safety. The fact that innocent bystanders are being injured in these senseless attacks adds a worrying new dimension to this feud.

"What happened on Friday night must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. This incident caused widespread panic in the area. The public nature of this callous attack could have seen more people injured," she said.

"The perpetrators of this vicious and violent crime must be brought to justice and I am appealing to anyone who was in the area last night and saw anything that could help the investigation to come forward and talk to the gardai."

Gardai had already made efforts before the shooting to make sure yesterday's boxing event which featured the boxer who is related to Hutch family would pass off peacefully. The weigh-in time before the fight was moved and gardai had already mapped out a detailed security plan specifically for the event.

Uniformed gardai patrolled the streets outside the stadium yesterday and a 600m stretch of the South Circular Road was closed to traffic yesterday. Pedestrians walking up to the venue could approach only from the west side of the stadium with footpaths cordoned off as detectives arrived at the scene before the fight.

Two gardai patrolled inside the event yesterday and maintained a visible presence ringside from 12pm.

The boxer, who is related to the Hutch family and has no involvement in crime, spent most of his time during the event inside the dressing room area of the stadium. He emerged before 1pm and entered the ring shortly after before departing after his fight which he won.

Yesterday, in the aftermath of yet another gun attack, the mood in the city was sombre.

"It is a miracle that no one was killed or that more were not injured or accidentally hurt both in the panic that followed or as an accidental target," said Labour Councillor for Dublin South Central Rebecca Moynihan.

She said this was another wake up call for the gardai.

"Communities are gripped by fear and terror, and it is clear some elements have no compunction about firing shots where innocent bystanders may be collateral damage.

"It is time to take on the escalating number of gun shootings by committing the resources to tackle this feud once and for all."

Last week about 300 people assembled in Dublin's north inner city for a candlelit vigil in memory of the latest gangland murder victim.

Sunday Independent

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