Wednesday 29 January 2020

Reality of gangland violence even more brutal than television series

The shocking storyline in Love/Hate has its parallels in some horrific events on our capital's streets, says Jim Cusack

AS WITH much of the gang violence depicted in Love/Hate, RTE's successful drama series, last week's episode in which an IRA boss rapes a young woman and is then beaten to death has its parallel in reality, but the reality is even worse.

IRA boss 'Git' rapes a young woman in the back yard of a pub in Dublin during a late night drink and drugs session. Though no comment was available from the makers of the programme, who were busy in production last week according to the RTE press office, the character depicted by actor Jimmy Smallhorne bears a resemblance to the brutal IRA figure from north inner Dublin, Christy Griffin.

In April 2007, Griffin was sentenced to life imprisonment – later reduced to 15 years – for the rape of a girl who was aged only 13. He had also been sexually abusing her from when she was just nine. The victim waived her right to anonymity so Griffin could be named.

After Griffin, now aged 44, was exposed as a paedophile rapist, a feud broke out in the north inner city which may well provide some of the historical basis for what might follow in the coming episodes of the drama.

Following his conviction in May 2006, there were violent scenes outside the Four Courts when Griffin's criminal associates attacked the victim's family and friends. Gardai were so concerned at the likely extent of the violence from Griffin's gang that Judge Paul Carney, who described Griffin's crimes as "horrendous", was placed under armed garda protection throughout the trial.

During the rest of 2006, tension mounted steadily in the north inner city culminating in the murder of 26-year-old Gerard 'Batt' Byrne, shot dead by Griffin's gang. Two weeks later, one of Griffin's gang, Stephen Ledden, 28, was shot dead in a case of mistaken identity. The feud continued for three years with six murders. At one stage the IRA in Belfast sent military grenades to their associates in Dublin and, gardai say, it was only through good fortune that there were not multiple deaths on the two occasions when the grenades were thrown at family homes.

At the height of the feuding, Dublin's Store Street Garda district became the most heavily armed police area of Ireland. Many of the participants lived in close proximity in the area and there were repeated instances of shootings taking place in broad daylight as soon as one side spotted rivals.

Complaints to RTE last week about the violence and rape scene in Love/Hate were anticipated by the broadcaster, which issued a notice at the end of the episode giving details of a 24-hour rape victims' helpline for those affected by events similar to those

depicted in the drama. Some 36 viewers have contacted the national broadcaster about the programme which attracted an audience of 630,700. An RTE spokesperson said it had received 22 phone calls and 14 emails from viewers, 11 of which are recorded complaints. The Rape Crisis Centre said it received a "significant spike" in calls from around the country after the rape scene .

Love/Hate executive producer Suzanne McAuley said that the series will develop a "harder and darker edge" than previous. She was adamant that the series did not glamourise gang violence.

Gardai in Dublin agree. Over the past 20 years, they have witnessed murders of a nature unlikely to be portrayed on Irish television or in any TV series. The torture and murder of 21-year-old Eddie McCabe in south inner Dublin in December 2006 was of a nature that stunned even the most hardened of gardai in a division that has witnessed more murders than any other in the country.

McCabe was murdered on the orders of the head of one of the feuding Crumlin-Drimnagh gangs. He also ordered that it not be a simple execution. McCabe, whose father was shot dead during a feud in 1995, was beaten savagely for a prolonged period. He was finally killed by having a sewer rod driven through the back of his head.

Of the 16 gang-related murders this year, five of the victims were shot dead in front of their families and children.

At the end of last Sunday's episode, the central figure, Nidge, played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, his lieutenant Darren (Robert Sheehan) and their friend Fran (Peter Coonan) are depicted secretly burying Git in farmland outside Dublin. This, too, is based solidly on fact as secret burial as a means of concealing the body and possible evidence has become a regular feature of Dublin gang murders.

It remains to be seen if Love/Hate will also approach the manner of death of Keith Ennis, the 29-year-old Dubliner who fled to Amsterdam fearing for his life after gardai seized a large shipment of cocaine and guns he had in his charge for a gang based in southwest Dublin. Ennis was pursued and murdered, stabbed through the chest as many as 30 times then his body dismembered and dumped in a canal on the outskirts of the city where it was recovered, two months later, in May 2009.

Although its producers draw no direct links to any particular murders, the opening episode has strong resonances of the life and death of Dublin Real IRA boss, Alan Ryan, 32, shot dead near his north Dublin home on September 3.

The IRA gang in the television programme shoots one of Nidge's associates in the leg after he fails to pay the gang's extortion demands quickly enough.

Alan Ryan imposed a reign of fear among Dublin's smaller drugs gangs with far more gratuitous violence. On two occasions in the six months before his death, Ryan personally chopped off the fingers of two men, using bolt cutters on the first man, and garden shears on the other.

Sunday Independent

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