Criminal gangs target Real IRA over Kelly killing


Four attempted murders in one week as rival crime bosses bury hatchet to fight dissidents

A GROUP calling itself "Criminal Action Force" was responsible for four attempted murders last weekend in retaliation for the murder earlier this month of the leading criminal figure, Eamon Kelly, by dissident republicans.

The attempted killings in north Dublin were reported to gardai and come as they step up investigations into the growing threat from the dissidents.

Last week it was revealed that a dissident gang had been plotting to murder a British soldier from Limerick on his return home on Christmas leave.

Gardai believe that the dissidents have attracted more members, including former members of the Provisional IRA in the past year.

Most have been attracted by the large amounts of money the Real IRA was making from its extortion racket run by Alan Ryan, who was shot dead last September.

But, as a consequence of the Kelly shooting, it appears Dublin's drugs gangs may be putting aside their differences to face down the republicans.

It is believed that gang leaders have adopted the name "Criminal Action Force" and gave orders for attacks to take place in a space of hours last Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

In one incident a door was smashed down with a sledge hammer.

Gardai believe that in two other incidents the intended victims were again not at home.

In another incident a man, who was at home with his daughter, answered the front door to a man with a plastic shopping bag over his hand covering what was suspected to be a handgun.

In all four incidents the people in the houses were innocent parties.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fail's justice spokesman Niall Collins hit out at Sinn Fein last week over their reaction to the arrest of nine men in Limerick over the paramilitary display at Alan Ryan's funeral in September.

Mr Collins said gardai uncovered the plot to murder the off-duty British soldier Limerick man serving with the Irish Guards Regiment as a result of the raids.

Speaking in the Dail last Tuesday, Mr Collins said: "I think it is pretty disgraceful that we have Sinn Fein sitting in the Dail and sitting in government in Northern Ireland at a time when some of their MLAs were protesting outside the PSNI headquarters because a member of the Sinn Fein party was in for interrogation, a Mr Padraig Wilson.

"They are conducting a two-faced strategy and I think we need to have a little bit of political honesty in relation to why some people in the Sinn Fein leadership and the Sinn Fein movement both in Limerick and around the country are affording a degree of respectability to these criminals. That's exactly what is going on and I get accused and the media get accused of political opportunism when I quote on the record what people have said publicly on the radio in Limerick and to the media.

"We have to have an honest debate about the role of our political parties in terms of supporting the Garda Siochana and it was anything but an over-reaction by the Garda Siochana in Limerick because it ultimately foiled the attempt on a man's life."

The raids in Limerick were part of the nationwide operation initiated by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in response to the large paramilitary display at Ryan's funeral in north Dublin.

After the Limerick raids, in which nine men were arrested, Chief Superintendent David Sheahan said that although no firearms or explosives were found gardai did recover a "significant amount of literature". It is believed this included computer records linking to the plot to murder the off-duty soldier.

Commenting at the time of the raids, Sinn Fein's Limerick city councillor Maurice Quinlivan said he knew a number of those arrested.

He told Live95 FM radio: "It seems to me to be an over- reaction from what I am hearing. If it is a case that people are being arrested for going to a funeral, that is pretty disgraceful."

Responding to Mr Collins' speech in the Dail, Justice and Defence Minister Alan Shatter said: "The House will appreciate that the gardai, in counteracting the threat posed by paramilitary groups, succeed time and again in preventing them from carrying out planned acts. Of their nature, the detail of a lot of these successes cannot appropriately be put in the public domain.

"However, what I can say is that the Garda Commissioner has advised me that there is an ongoing garda operation in Limerick aimed at the activities of a certain group and that it would not be helpful for me to make any public comment on it and, in particular, on a specific case."

Mr Shatter added: "These are simply criminal terrorists and I don't believe the words 'dissident' or 'republican' should be associated with them. These gangs are inextricably involved in organised crime – drug smuggling, fuel laundering, extortion, armed robbery – and there is nothing 'republican' whatsoever about organised crime."