Dublin community rescued from criminals’ grip of terror will resist return to past, he vows
The close-knit community of Finglas will not be destroyed by the “cowardice” of warring criminals who have been firebombing houses as part of an escalating local drugs feud, the local parish priest has vowed.
Fr Seamus Ahearne, attached to St Finian’s church in the north Dublin suburb, said he did not believe gangland violence would ever return to the levels the area once saw. More than a decade ago, there were multiple gun murders between warring criminals.
The cleric — who has seen “too many murders” in the 25 years he has been a priest in the area — promised the two gangs now battling each other will not have the power to “destroy the good reputation Finglas has built in recent years”.
Fr Ahearne was the chief celebrant at the funeral of James Whelan last month. The 29-year-old father of one was gunned down on April 3 on the orders of a Kinahan cartel-linked criminal known as ‘Mr Flashy’ as part of the escalating local drugs feud.
Last weekend, there were three firebomb attacks linked to the feud. The mother and brother of the murder victim were lucky to escape injury last Saturday morning when the family home was among three houses firebombed over three days.
Fr Ahearne said Finglas has come “too far” to be destroyed by a small number of criminals intent of reckless violence. “I do not want anyone to dare destroy the reputation of Finglas with this criminality. Finglas is a great place now, with great schools, teachers, families and community. What has happened with these recent attacks is a distortion of the reality of Finglas.”
He hoped the recent attacks were “isolated incidents” and Finglas would not again become synonymous with organised crime.
“There is aggression between two factions,” Fr Ahearne told the Sunday Independent. “The fact that someone would firebomb a house, it is beyond scandalous. Do they have any sense of what is involved? There have been three firebomb attacks and they could have been so much worse. I would call for it not to continue of course. It is a sense of power these people think they have, that they can force people to live in fear. It is cowardice. It seems they are doing it at the behest of others.”
Condemning the spate of arson attacks and murder of James Whelan, the
cleric added the violence came “nothing close” to the bloodshed Finglas once experienced.
Years ago, he knew the area’s criminals by name, as well as the local gardaí, because the gangland violence was “continuous”. He has not been asked to “broker peace” between the two drugs gangs now at loggerheads with each other.
“No, I haven’t been asked to mediate, I don’t know who to deal with,” he said. “The characters and the players, I don’t know them now.
“The main criminal players I used to know have all died, or moved from the area or are in prison. In Finglas garda station, I used to know every garda. I don’t know any of them now.
“That is why we get so upset when there is an explosion in the violence. Because we don’t want Finglas to go back to that place.
“It is a different world out here, a much better and happier world. I do not invoke an emotional reaction to the recent violence that is happening. I take it with a sense of proportion. The people involved do not deserve what they are doing to be given too much oxygen.”
The cleric added the one thing that has not changed over the years is why young people get involved in criminality: “There is a magnetic attraction, money, designer clothes, and status. It is the ‘get rich quick’ mentality.”
At Whelan’s funeral last month, Fr Ahearne said from the pulpit: “When I see the funeral of James Whelan, there’s a very big casket, in gold colour, but to me it’s a box and a dead child and a bereaved mother and a sister and a brother.
“So, all the bikes flying around, and all the champagne and the balloons flying do nothing whatsoever for me and someone who’s dead and gone.
“And then I see what happens, the contagion then of revenge.
“There is no glamour in shooting. There’s no glamour in burning a house. There’s no glamour in celebrating a funeral and destroying community and a family and a home. That’s not glamorous, it’s destructive.”