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Real IRA turns screw in gangland drug war

The two young men shot dead in a filling station forecourt last week may have been caught up in the feuding between the republican/drugs gang terming itself the 'Real' IRA in Dublin and the remnants of slain gangland boss Eamon Dunne's drug network.

Gardai believe that the Real IRA hired hitmen, believed to be based in the Border area, to assassinate figures associated with Eamon Dunne's drugs distribution network in north inner-city Dublin. Dunne himself was shot dead by two gunmen in April as he sat in the Fassaugh House pub in Cabra with friends. Gardai believe hired professional gunmen were responsible for Dunne's murder and the same pair may have been behind last Tuesday night's double murder.

Glen Murphy, 19, and his cousin Mark Noonan, 23, both had garda records but only for petty offences. They were followed from an apartment in Rathborne Drive in south Finglas to the Clearwater Tesco filling station on the Finglas Road at around 11.40pm on Tuesday.

A black Five Series BMW was waiting in the forecourt when they arrived. The two gunmen got out as the victims' Toyota Avensis arrived and opened fire, hitting both young men repeatedly. Both died at the scene.

Garda sources said yesterday they were not confident about the exact reason behind the assassinations -- the third double killing in Dublin this year out of a total of 19 gangland murders in the city. However, the two young men had known connections with figures involved in Eamon Dunne's drugs network in the north inner city and Finglas south -- Ireland's blackest area for homicide. Both victims were from the North Circular Road area. Mark Noonan grew up in Drumalee Court and his cousin in O'Devaney Gardens, a short distance away. They had been visiting a friend in south Finglas and said they were going to the filling station for cigarettes.

One theory is that they may have been intending to meet someone there and may have been betrayed to their killers. It is understood the two gunmen and driver in the BMW were well aware of their victims' movements.

Since the murder of Eamon Dunne, 32, in April, four men are believed to have been shot dead by the Real IRA in north and west Dublin. An associate of Dunne's, Colm Owens, 34, who worked in an animal feed factory and was a part-time taxi driver, was shot dead in Finglas in July. Owens was not regarded as a serious criminal figure but rather a friend of Dunne's from childhood who acted as a driver for him using his own taxi. In September, a senior member of Dunne's gang, Sean Winters, 38, was shot dead as he walked along Station Road in Portmarnock in north Co Dublin. Winters had moved out to the quiet seaside town to avoid attention from gardai and rivals.

In retaliation for Dunne's and Colm Owens' murder, Dunne's former associates shot dead Daniel Gaynor, 25, a gun-for-hire who had been used by the Real IRA in Finglas south. Gardai say the Dublin group terming itself the Real IRA is heavily involved in extortion and drug dealing. It demands payment from drug dealers and threatens to murder those who refuse to pay up. It peddles any drugs it seizes.

Until this year the group had not challenged any of the major drug gangs who were seen as too powerful to confront. However, since the collapse of the criminal command structure in the aftermath of Dunne's murder, the Real IRA group has been moving in on his subordinates.

Gardai are very concerned that the Real IRA will make inroads on dealers working for the highly dangerous south inner city gangs, particularly the extensive gang controlled by 'Fat' Freddie Thompson who now lives abroad, travelling between Spain, Holland and Britain. Thompson, however, is the subject of a European arrest warrant issued by police in Spain.

Eamon Dunne had forged close links with the Thompson and other main gangs in the city and all were receiving their drugs, particularly heroin and cocaine, from the Irish drugs cartel based in Spain and controlled by the ex-convict, Christy Kinahan, currently in custody in a Spanish jail awaiting trial for money laundering offences. An international operation led by the Spanish police seized property -- including a holiday complex in Brazil -- and other assets associated with Kinahan which they valued at around €500m.

Despite this, heroin is still reaching Dublin in substantial quantities and the street prices are still at low levels. However, gardai say that some of the distribution networks for moving heroin from Dublin to provincial towns appear to have broken down, causing addicts to come into the city from these areas. Several have been arrested in recent weeks for carrying out burglaries and other larcenies in Dublin.

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