A NOTORIOUS drug trafficker was shot dead and two other men left critically injured in a series of shooting attacks in Dublin last night.
In a major escalation of violence in the capital, the three men were shot in two separate attacks in Summerhill in the inner city, and in Swords, less then two hours apart.
The first hit, at 8.40pm at Langrishe Place, Summerhill, took out major gangland figure Michael ‘Roly’ Cronin (35) and left his companion on a life support machine in a Dublin hospital .
The gunman is believed to have been sitting in the back of a black, Northern-registered Volvo car when he produced a handgun and shot the two men in the head.
The car then careered across the road and slammed into a barrier.
Gardai later recovered a pistol which they believe was the murder weapon.
Then, at 10.30pm, a man who is believed to have been released from prison only yesterday was cornered in his girlfriend’s home in Drynam Drive, Swords, and shot at least twice in the neck and leg.
An off-duty fireman out walking his dog gave the man first aid at the scene.
The victim’s girlfriend and a child were in the house when the gunman struck.
The badly injured man was later rushed to Beaumont Hospital. Gardai said the victim of the Swords shooting would have known some of Cronin's associates, but it was not immediately clear if there was any connection between the two meticulously planned attacks.
Earlier today, gardai were still trying to establish the exact set of circumstances leading up to the attacks.
Gardai were called initially to what was believed to be a traffic accident in the Summerhill area of the city.
But when they arrived at the scene, near Gardiner Street, they found the car with two doors open and lights flashing in the centre of the road, its front up against a barrier.
Inside they discovered the two badly injured and uncons c i o u s men w i t h h e a d injuries.
They were both treated at the scene and Cronin was taken to the Mater Hospital where he was pronounced dead within an hour of the shooting.
The other man was rushed to St James’s hospital in a critical condition and early today he was battling for his life.
Gardai sealed off the scene and brought in forensic experts as they began door-to-door inquiries.
Late last night members of the garda technical bureau were examining the handgun which was recovered by gardai at Gloucester Diamond shorly after the shooting.
The dead man, Michael ‘Roly’ Cronin, was a convicted heroin trafficker who had addresses in Finglas and Ballymun.
A northside criminal who took over the big drug trafficking gang after the murder of its former leader, Martin ‘Marlo’ Hyland, was nominated as a prime suspect for Cronin's shooting.
However, gardai were also examining the possibility that it could have been carried out by members of a north inner city gang who had clashed with Cronin and his associates in the past.
Cronin had been targeted several times in the past two years by rival drug gangs and on one occasion his life was saved by members of the Garda organised crime unit, who intercepted his would-be assassin.
In October 2006 Cronin had been under surveillance by members of the organised crime unit when detectives foiled a plan to kill him.
They intercepted a car at Botanic Avenue in Glasnevin and arrested a suspect but found no weapons.
Last October another attempt to shoot Cronin was made near his home in Finglas but he escaped unhurt.
Cronin had been jailed for 13 years in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after he pleaded guilty to possessing heroin worth up to £16,000 at his flat in Buckingham Street, Dublin, in September 1996.
Cronin had been given a chance by the court four months earlier when he received a three-year suspended sentence for possession of heroin. But Judge Cyril Kelly said: “He has spurned that chance. In effect, he said: ‘No thank you very much’”.
He then ordered Cronin to serve a 10-year sentence on top of the three-year sentence which had been suspended in 1996.
Cronin was known to have an expensive lifestyle. He enjoyed holidays to Barbados and travelled to international soccer matches. He also had a lavishly furnished house in Finglas.
After the gangster was jailed the late Independent TD Tony Gregory described the case as a great success for the drugs unit in Store Street and for the Inner City Organisations Network which had marched on Cronin’s home.
Mr Gregory said Cronin had outraged local people who had seen their young people die of AIDS due to drug addiction while he bought houses in the inner city with drugs money.
In the second attack in Swords last night, the scene of the shooting – an end-of-terrace house – was sealed off during garda inquiries.
There was outrage last night at yet another explosion of violence. A Fine Gael spokesman said: “This shocking incident underlines again the complete failure of Government policy and the growing dominance of the culture of gun crime in our society.
“What we need is more gardai, and community gardai in particular, and a Government readiness to take action rather then to talk about a watershed in the wake of every new gun tragedy while sitting on its hands.” He asked where were the promised controls on handguns that had been pledged in the wake of the Shane Geoghegan murder in Limerick.
“If the Government was serious about the matter, it would have taken up opposition suggestions that the Dail should sit longer in December without going into recess until the end of January,” the spokesman said.
The latest shootings come after a bloody year of gun crime in 2008 when fatal shootings claimed the lives of 20 people for only the second time in the Republic.
There were a number of high profile murders, including the ruthless gunning down of Limerick rugby player Shane Geoghegan by mistake. The young rugby player had been mistaken for a gangland target and had been chased into a garden before he was shot dead.
Only four weeks ago in Dublin, another shooting horrified the public when 50-year-old mechanic and father-of-one Aidan O’Kane was shot dead in the East Wall area.