Sunday 25 February 2018

One year after Ryan's murder, threat of new terror campaign is low

With gangs feuding over spoils of drugs trade there is little risk of renewed 'republican' violence, says Jim Cusack

GUNNED DOWN: Alan Ryan was shot in back and head
GUNNED DOWN: Alan Ryan was shot in back and head
PARAMILITARY DISPLAY: More than 2,000 people attended the funeral of Alan Ryan last year. Photo: David Conachy

A YEAR after the murder of Dublin "republican" gang leader Alan Ryan the threat of any renewed terror campaign by dissident republicans has collapsed amid feuding over spoils from the drugs trade.

Before he was killed by a coalition of Dublin criminals who had been the subject of his violent extortion demands, Alan Ryan was coming under pressure from the leadership of a re-organised dissident republican group, including former members of the Provisional IRA, to provide them with funding.

The leadership of the group, dubbed the "New" IRA, was demanding that Ryan hand over €300,000 from the extortion and drug dealing rackets he had come to control in Dublin.

Ryan was enthusiastic about the new terror group which was planning attacks on police in Northern Ireland and considering a bomb attack in Britain, possibly at a British Army base, according to sources. He began assembling the cash they had demanded.

Ryan was a republican since his teens when he joined the "Real" IRA. He was arrested at an arms training camp in Co Meath and supported a renewed terror campaign. Despite this, he found no contradiction in trading in drugs and demanding money from other dealers. He also found no conflict with supposedly traditional republican values and living the high-life of a drug trafficker. He had expensive foreign holidays and had a string of girlfriends, fathering two children from two of them.

The "New" IRA group he became affiliated to recruited former bomb makers from the Provisional IRA who had begun manufacturing bombs and mortars identical to those used in the Provisional IRA campaign up to 1997.

A week before his murder, he attended a meeting with the leaders of the group which was led by a former Provisional IRA prisoner from West Belfast. As well as providing the €300,000, Ryan was involved in staging the robbery of high-velocity hunting rifles from a dealer near the village of Ashford, Co Wicklow, for use in sniper attacks on police and soldiers in Northern Ireland.

The robbery went ahead, three weeks after his murder, and most of the 28 rifles stolen remain unaccounted for. Three were found by gardai in a car belonging to one of Ryan's associates two weeks after his murder.

Ryan was in the process of assembling the €300,000, proceeds of drug trafficking and of extortion demands from a large number of other drug dealers in Dublin, when he was shot dead outside his home in Clongriffin, north Dublin, on September 3 last year. The €300,000 never reached Northern Ireland.

After his death Ryan's racketeering and drug trafficking organisation collapsed.

Most of the money remained missing. In response, other members of Ryan's gang began informing on the new organisation, allowing gardai to make substantial weapons discoveries and leading to the crushing of the "New" IRA.

Simultaneously, the PSNI and the British security service, MI5, also made major arms seizures and arrests in Northern Ireland. The threat from the "New" IRA, which was formed only in July 2012, has been effectively countered and the organisation broken up, according to gardai. An attempted mortar attack on a PSNI station in Derry city in March was thwarted as was a massive car bomb attack, aimed to kill PSNI officers, in Belfast a week later.

In July this year gardai recovered 15kg of Semtex explosive and assorted weapons that had been acquired by the new group from one of the Provisional IRA arms dumps that had not been decommissioned. Two weeks later gardai also seized 350,000 ecstasy tablets and 80 kilos of cannabis that had been imported into Ireland by Ryan's gang.

As well as being up to his neck in drugs trafficking, Ryan had spread his extortion rackets across the city. Up to last year he had operated largely in the north Dublin suburbs where he lived. But as his notoriety spread Ryan extended his rackets across the city to the Crumlin-Drimnagh and Tallaght areas.

He had a deserved reputation for violence, chopping off the fingers of two men who had refused his extortion demands. Middle-ranking drug dealers in Dublin were paying Ryan €20,000 on a regular basis for his protection. He also ensured that drugs brought into Ireland by his associates were being sold by these dealers.

Gardai believe Ryan had reached the point where he was challenging to become the main drug supplier in Dublin. This brought him into direct conflict with several long-established and heavily armed gangs. These gangs are supplied with drugs and weapons from the middle-aged Irish criminals based in the south of Spain.

With millions of euros at stake, up to 15 of these gangs came together to decide Ryan's fate. A contract – understood to have been €30,000 – was placed on his head.

In the end, according to well-placed garda sources, the contract was taken up by a heroin addict from north Dublin who was acquainted with Ryan's movements. Ryan was remarkably lax about his personal security and had a near-daily routine of driving from his home in Balgriffin to his mother's home in nearby Donnycarney. He was murdered as he was walking from his car by a lone gunman who walked up behind him, shot him in the back and then fired another shot into his head. The gunman calmly walked away to a waiting car. No one has been charged with his murder.

Although some 2,000 people attended his paramilitary funeral, complete with a volley of shots over the coffin and a graveside oration extolling his supposed dedication to the cause of re-unifying Ireland, Ryan had brought the mantle of Irish republicanism to the point where, gardai now say, it is indistinguishable from common drug-fuelled criminality.

The attempt to re-launch the terror campaign has failed and northern elements eventually were only able to grab a fraction of the €300,000 Ryan had promised to donate to the "cause". The northern-based elements, who have some support in Dublin, attempted to murder one of Ryan's remaining associates. He was shot twice but survived.

Sunday Independent

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