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Feud death adds one more to body count of 10-year bloodbath

ONE of the most enduring blood feuds in Dublin flared up again last week when two gunmen burst into the home of car-dealer and semi-retired drug dealer and gangster, Christopher 'Git' McDonagh in Clondalkin and shot him dead.

Various theories quickly emerged: either McDonagh was a suspected Garda informant; or he was murdered because of a fight with a member of John Gilligan's gang; or it was somehow connected with the Crumlin/Drimnagh feud -- McDonagh was acquainted with and did business with some of that crowd.

However, by the end of the week it had emerged that McDonagh was the latest victim of the feud -- the seventh or eighth, gardai aren't completely sure of the actual tally -- which began at a warehouse in Ballymount on the night of October 6, 1999.

The origins of the "Ballymount Bloodbath" are barely remembered but gardai working in the area at the time said that a smart remark in a chip shop led to "a few slaps outside" between teenagers and then criminal damage valued at less than a €1,000 to a Hiace van started the whole thing. The problem was that a relative of one of the teenagers was involved with the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), one of the worst terrorist groups thrown up by the Troubles in the North. The INLA had a virulent penchant for violence, the more extreme and revolting the better. It virtually consumed itself in internal feuding in the 1980s and 1990s during which its feud-murders became more and more revolting, culminating in the deliberate murder of the nine-year-old daughter of one of the factions.

Barbara McAlorum was watching television in the front living room of her family home in north Belfast when an INLA man, standing in full view of the child feet away in the front garden, shot her with a pump-action shotgun. The murderers' faction later taunted the family that it was their fault the child had been killed.

No criminal gang in Dublin or Limerick can come close to the INLA when it comes to feuding. After the Troubles ended and the ceasefire had been called it was assumed that the INLA -- which had killed over 50 of its own members in feuds -- would drift into obscurity.

For a while it seemed to be heading in the right direction. It was encouraged to "engage" in the peace process with the help of very generous grants from the EU Peace Fund.

However, the hard-line inner core of this supposedly Marxist organisation never laid down its arms or had any intention of behaving. It had been involved in drugs for years before the mid-1990s ceasefires and became more heavily involved after. It became closely allied with John Gilligan's mob and provided muscle and distribution for his drugs.

After Gilligan's gang was broken up the INLA remained as a small but nasty group on the periphery of organised crime in Dublin.

Like the IRA and all other such groups the one thing it can not stand is losing face. So when one of its family was humiliated as a result of the chip shop row in Clondalkin it set out to take very serious action against the suspected culprits.

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A trap was set at the Ballymount warehouse and members of a criminal gang told that they could "sort out" the argument over the damaged car.

When they arrived, the INLA was waiting inside in strength and armed. The ordinary criminals were stripped naked and subjected to torture by having boiling and ice-cold water poured over them repeatedly. They were told they would be shot dead if they did not leave the country immediately.

However, before being over-powered one of the gang had used his mobile phone to call for reinforcements. Two vans, full of supporters, pulled up outside throwing the INLA men into a panic as they thought it was gardai. During the ensuing melee, 22-year-old Belfast-born INLA man Patrick Campbell was hit in the leg with a machete. The wound severed an artery and he bled to death. The feud had begun in earnest.

The first victim of the INLA's retaliation was Patrick Neville (31) who was shot dead in the stairwell of an apartment building in St Michael's Estate in Inchicore in April 2000. He had been questioned but not charged by gardai about the Ballymount episode. He worked as a pub doorman and had probably gone to the warehouse only because he believed friends were in mortal danger.

The criminal gang was not going to take this sitting down. They tracked down and murdered one of the INLA's most high-profile figures, 'Mad' Nicky O'Hare, and shot him dead in Dundalk in August 2000. O'Hare, 34, had once tried to kidnap a Dublin amusement arcade owner and property developer.

Only a couple of weeks before meeting his end, O'Hare had also murdered an innocent Dundalk pub owner, Stephen Connolly, for failing to pay him protection money. O'Hare's killers shot him eight times, including one round into each eye.

Shortly before Patrick Neville's murder a bomb had been placed under the car of another man questioned about Ballymount but it had failed to go off.

The car belonged to Ronnie Draper, another pub doorman linked to the criminal gang, who was also questioned about Ballymount. He was shot in the side of the head as he stood outside Charlie P's bar on Eden Quay in the city centre in June 2003.

In retaliation the gang strangled Lee Conkey, 32, an INLA member originally from Larne, Co Antrim, who had been living in St Theresa's Gardens in south inner Dublin since the late 1990s. His body was found outside the village of Togher, Co Louth, on August 2, 2003.

On May 24, 2005, the gang struck again, this time at the man they believed -- correctly -- had set up the INLA trap at Ballymount. Anthony Creed, 36, was shot twice in the head and body outside a house he had just moved into in Clondalkin.

Local people said that since Creed had moved into the area he had begun dealing drugs and attracting addicts into the area.

He was lying in bed upstairs when the gunman called to the front door which was opened by one of Creed's young children. The gunman ran upstairs shot Creed and then left the three children, all under 11, screaming in the presence of their murdered father.

It had been thought that the feud had run its course until last Tuesday night when two INLA gunmen turned up at the home of Christopher 'Git' McDonagh, 27, another criminal who had been questioned by gardai about the Ballymount affair.

McDonagh was upstairs in bed watching TV at around 11.20pm when the assasins burst in brandishing guns in front of McDonagh's partner and young children. McDonagh jumped from the bedroom window onto the bonnet of his car but was gunned down in the front garden.

Gardai last week said they do not expect this to be the end of the fall-out from the Ballymount Bloodbath.

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