Sunday 15 September 2019

Promising GAA player 'The Beast' led Real IRA in a bloody war on drugs gangs

Aidan O'Driscoll pictured at a protest against the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 2012. Picture: Collins Photos
Aidan O'Driscoll pictured at a protest against the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 2012. Picture: Collins Photos

Cathal McMahon

He was nicknamed 'The Beast' and many believed it was because of his imposing and violent tendencies.

However Aidan O'Driscoll earned the moniker, which would follow him throughout his adult life, on the GAA pitches of north Cork.

In interviews with this reporter he claimed that he played underage football for Cork but while many of his contemporaries went on to grace Croke Park, The Beast would take on a very different game.

The stocky Corkonian became involved in the Real IRA as a young man and in his mid 20s he was before the Special Criminal Court where, along with four others, he was convicted of membership of an illegal organisation.

Sentenced to three years at Portlaoise Prison, O'Driscoll would use the time to forge important relationships with fellow dissidents.

He shared a landing with Dubliner Alan Ryan (below), who was himself serving a sentence for weapons offences and the pair became close friends.

PL18014701Alan Ry.jpg
Alan Ryan. Photo: Collins Court

This deadly alliance would result in a notorious round of blood letting and the deaths of both Ryan and now O'Driscoll.

His conviction was overturned on appeal and O'Driscoll moved to Dublin in the latter part of the last decade. He ultimately assumed command of the Real IRA in the capital and both he, and Ryan, waged war on drug dealers flooding the country with their product and making huge money.

They claimed, in interviews, that they were taking the drug dealers' money and weapons and running them out of communities.

However senior sources say the Real IRA was simply demanding large sums of cash off criminal gangs and if they refused to pay up they became targets for the feared dissident gang who traded under the IRA name.

The group were responsible for the murder of Colm 'Collie' Owens in July 2010.

O'Driscoll also sanctioned the murder of drug-dealer Sean Winters, who was shot twice in the head outside an apartment in Portmarnock in September 2010.

In his native Cork O'Driscoll ordered the murder of Gerard 'Topper' Staunton who was gunned down outside his Wilton home in an ambush-style killing in January 2010.

A year later the Real IRA had major Dublin drugs trafficker Michael 'Micka’ Kelly killed.

O'Driscoll was an imposing presence in the capital during the Queen's visit in May 2011 and was pictured protesting her appearance.

At the time he acted as a spokesman and leader of the organisation and claimed responsibility for the attempted bomb murder of Real IRA informant Paddy Dixon in August 2011 on behalf of the group.

Their violent campaign brought them into direct conflict with a number of dangerous criminals including Mark 'The Guinea Pig' Desmond (41) who was shot dead last Friday in Lucan.

Sources say O'Driscoll was especially close to David Dodrill (35) (below).

David Dodrill

Taxi driver Dodrill was jailed for six years in 2012 after he pleaded guilty to extorting €260,000 from a chip shop owner.

News of Dodrill's criminality and conviction sent shockwaves through the Dublin branch and O'Driscoll, as its head, bore much of the blame. The cracks soon began to show in his relationship with Ryan in particular and O'Driscoll returned to his native Cork City later that year.

He handed over control of the Dublin organisation to Ryan and it is not believed that the pair spoke again.

Sources say Alan Ryan ultimately expelled O'Driscoll from the Real IRA. In a statement the Real IRA claimed he was kicked out of the association for "un-republican" activities - code for criminality.

Ryan was murdered in September 2012 and O'Driscoll became even more isolated from the central command. O'Driscoll was warned not to go to Ryan's funeral.

He was eventually kicked out of the Real IRA and shot in the legs in June 2013 as a parting gift. Although this was painted as a punishment attack, many within the Northern and Dublin leadership were critical that it didn't go far enough.

Some even claimed that O'Driscoll was spotted drinking with his "attackers" a short time after the incident.

Most recently O'Driscoll had been linked to a notorious cigarette smuggler and former provisional IRA member. This man is currently living outside the country and is said to be worth several millions.

He was also connected to a dangerous group of new INLA members who have been active in the Munster region.

And while drugs gangs will be examined by gardaí as part of this latest murder investigation gardaí are not ruling out the involvement of the IRA.

Aidan O'Driscoll (37) - nicknamed 'The Beast' (Photo: Sunday World)
Aidan O'Driscoll (37) - nicknamed 'The Beast' (Photo: Sunday World)

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