Wednesday 18 September 2019

Nicola Tallant: 'For too long, criminal gangs have used the Church as their theatre, the altar as their stage'

The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)
The Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Nicola Tallant

The floral tributes displayed the names of the expensive fashion labels he loved to wear – Canada Goose, Moncler and Louis Vuitton.

Another was shaped like a Rolex watch with a moving face and adorned in flowers sprayed in pink gold.

When they came to mourn 23-year-old Zach Parker, a number of his "friends" lined up in Colmcille’s Church in Swords, North Dublin, wearing the 'uniform' of the Kinahan Cartel; a black fitted suit, pale blue shirt and black tie.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

Shoulder to shoulder, theirs was a declaration of war, a vow to avenge

The same attire was worn by hoards of young men who lined out during the funeral of criminal David Byrne at St Nicholas of Myra Church on Francis Street in Dublin 8, several days after he was shot dead in the Regency Hotel in February 2016, a high profile victim of the Hutch Kinahan feud.

For the mob, the funeral of a fallen colleague is all about a show of strength, a display of supremacy and a message of its contempt for society. For too long they have used the Church as their theatre, the altar as their stage.

David Byrne, who was shot dead in the Regency hotel
David Byrne, who was shot dead in the Regency hotel

But like many good dramas, this one has reached its final act and now an even stronger force has called out the violent thugs who hold communities to ransom through fear and who use the four pillars of society; government, business, family and religion as weapons in their wars.

Brave and outspoken, Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, has delivered a message far stronger than any politician has to the drug gangs who glamorise their violence.

The head of the Catholic Church in Dublin didn’t mince his words on Sunday when he said the perpetrators of gun violence ‘merit nothing but rejection and disdain.’

“They belong behind bars and their business of death must be undermined and destroyed,” he said.

In the most welcome damnation of all, Archbishop Martin turned to funeral services which have become increasingly frightening displays by drug gangs in recent years.

“Where it can be ascertained that individuals hold direct responsibility in this traffic in evil, they will no longer be allowed to exploit religious services in the Archdiocese of Dublin to enhance their image,” he said.

His ‘no more show-funerals’ mandate will be welcomed by communities blighted by drug gangs.

Communities like Drogheda, where many live under self-imposed curfew making sure their families are home and safe before nightfall.

Areas of Coolock and Darndale where gangs have gone to war and shootings are becoming frighteningly commonplace.

Neighbourhoods like Blanchardstown in West Dublin where horrified shoppers in Lidl watched in horror on Saturday evening as a man shot on Saturday afternoon was propped up on crates of cans while staff called an ambulance.

Gangland murders are brutal and swift, a reflection of life in the underworld where life is cheap and a bullet in the head is just another way of doing business.

Revenge can be swift, but more and more as gang culture becomes a notable aspect of modern Irish society we need to be aware of how, like a cancer, its ‘traffic in evil’ will ripple in to every corner of our democracy.

Estimated costs of up to €100,000 were reported following the funeral of David Byrne in February 2016.

There was the €15,000 blue casket, the stretched limos, the pipers, the horse drawn carts, the motorcycle outriders and the lavish tributes; none more gaudy than the floral clad remote controlled car that was driven up and down the church aisle during the service.

Complete with a picture of Byrne in the driver seat, it was an ‘offering’ to mark the importance of cars in the life of the dead gangster.

Later the High Court would hear that the Byrne Organised Crime Group (BOCG) had used the car industry to launder millions of euro of drug money. In fact, we heard, cars were their currency.

Days later, and in contrast to the display of wealth and power, feud murder victim, taxi driver Eddie Hutch, received an ordinary send-off on the other side of the city.

But a younger generation of Instagram gangsters have no such sense and many have taken the approach of the showy Byrnes rather than the old school Monk as their mentors.

Now Archbishop Martin has delivered a hard hitting message to gangs and has asked his clerics to refuse to allow ceremonies which glamorise criminality.

His is a huge voice against criminality and he has an understanding which was carved, in no small part, by his time in Italy where he watched members of the Mafia live and die.

Archbishop Martin’s comments have proved that gangland murder is not just a policing issue but that it takes a society to stand up to thugs.

Online Editors

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