Wednesday 24 April 2019

The life and crimes of a thug with big ambitions

Ciaran Byrne

"The word on the street was that John Daly was not going to last very long," a Finglas resident said yesterday.

In the end, he lasted 76 days after being released from prison on August 14.

Dead at the age of 27, Daly was a career criminal with a lengthy record. Some painted him as a major crime figure.

He is believed to have shot a nephew of republican leader Gerry Adams. He was linked to drug dealing, murder and robbery.

He threatened to rape a garda's wife, he organised gun attacks and intimidated prison officers from his cell in Portlaoise.

Despite his crimes, it seems he was considered relative small fry. An out of control, cocky thug of limited intellect but with notions of becoming something bigger.

A senior detective who was familiar with Daly and his life, said yesterday: "John Daly was a thug with a reputation for violence and for troublemaking.

"But he did not have the capacity to organise a major gang or take over a significant criminal operation. He was never going to be a big player".

A single phone call in July of this year gave Daly a reputation of sorts. In calling the ubiquitous 'Liveline' on RTE radio, he may even have sealed his own fate in a four-letter rant that some believe should never have been broadcast.

Daly spoke live on air to crime journalist Paul Williams and Alan "Fatpuss" Bradley in an effort to prove he was not involved in a gang "turf war".

Amazingly, he was speaking on a mobile smuggled into his prison cell. The call didn't last long but he managed to abuse Williams before hanging up.

Yesterday, Joe Duffy devoted most of his programme to Daly's death, giving the criminal the kind of publicity and notoriety he had so craved in life.


Some claimed Daly was simply a product of his upbringing and surroundings. "He was shaped by the community he lived in," insisted one caller yesterday.

Yet a look around Finglas reveals a settled community, with proud GAA clubs, soccer teams and a vibrant church. It is at odds with the constant portrayal of a lawless suburb.

"Some young men choose to go into crime. Plenty of others do not and Finglas is constantly tarred by the activities of a few, their lives and their deaths," said one resident.

Daly was 20 when he was sent to prison for nine years. But unlike his death yesterday, his jailing was hardly front page news.

Brief newspaper reports in July 2000 record that a man had been found in possession of IR£3,850 in stolen cash while on bail for armed robbery.

While thousands of people his age were enjoying a university summer break or starting their first jobs, Daly was facing the prospect of spending the guts of a decade behind bars.

Despite his young age, he was well known to gardai as a member of the "Filthy Fifty" -- a gang of juvenile thugs who roamed the Finglas area, committing crimes and carrying out tasks for more senior local criminals.

Daly pleaded guilty to four counts of robbery and possession of a firearm. With another man, he had robbed a service station on the Finglas Road with a sawn-off shotgun.

A shot was fired at the security hatch but failed to penetrate the glass. Daly claimed that the gun went off accidentally and luckily for him the judge believed him.

He was released on licence in 2003 but immediately became involved in crime again. Daly was linked to Limerick's criminal gangs and in September that year he was accused of shooting and wounding Liam McAllister, a nephew of Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams.


McAllister named Daly as the attacker but later withdrew the statement and returned to Belfast. Daly was returned to prison in 2004 and after his mobile phone call served out his sentence in Cork.

Just as recently as last week, Daly had been given security advice by gardai and warned that his life was in danger.

On Sunday night, he felt brave enough to go out drinking in Dublin city centre. He was followed home and shot dead, his lifeless body spilling onto the lap of the taxi driver who drove him there.

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