New drugs war brings murder gangs back to Dublin streets
The truce after the death of crusading journalist Veronica Guerin has ended, reports Tony Thompson
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 4 April 1999 02.05 BST
Dublin is being ripped apart in a series of bloody 'turf wars' as drug gangs and criminal families battle for supremacy. The latest wave of violence, which follows a period of relative calm, is shocking even hardened members of Dublin's police force. At least five people have been shot dead this year and dozens more wounded, many bystanders caught in crossfire. Detectives fear an escalation in the number of attacks.
The latest shooting last Wednesday was a classic gangland hit. Two men parked in the car park of the Premier Dairies plant, directly beneath a security camera. When a guard asked them to move, they said they were waiting for a friend and did not want to block traffic on the road outside.
Fifteen minutes later Thomas Reilly, a 35-year-old forklift driver at the plant, was shot in the chest as he arrived for work. The gunman shot him again in the head, killing him instantly.
Supt Tom Conway, who is leading the hunt for the killers, was reluctant to speculate on a motive. But The Observer understands Reilly tipped off police about a major shipment of heroin seized in Dublin this year. A dealer who plied his trade on local estates, he is said to have boasted about removing rival operators by informing on them.
Drug-related shootings in the Irish capital, which reached epidemic proportions during the early Nineties, virtually ended following the death of Veronica Guerin, the investigative journalist who was assassinated by a gunman on a motorcycle in 1996.
The killing led to a massive crackdown, but last week the Gardai acknowledged that gangs have increasingly turned to violence in a bid to carve out new territories.
The sharp increase in drugs-related violence comes as a film based on Guerin's life is due to begin filming in Dublin. Titled Though The Sky Falls, it will star Oscar-nominated American actress Joan Allen, star of Nixon, The Ice Storm and Pleasantville. Pete Postlethwaite and Patrick Bergin will also feature in the film which will be directed by John Mackenzie, best known for The Long Good Friday.
The latest spate of killings is believed to be linked to a number of large drug seizures. Local gangsters are thought to be punishing those suspected of informing and of taking out rivals to expand into new areas.
On 6 January, taxi driver John Dillon, 53, was shot dead outside his home. Dillon, who supplemented his income by hiring out his services as a getaway driver for a notorious gang of armed robbers and drug smugglers, had been arrested in connection with a raid a few months earlier. He was released without charge, but the gang believed he was planning to turn informer.
His body was found in the porch of his home in the town of Finglas. He had been shot in the head with a shotgun at point-blank range at least three times.
On 27 January, Paschal Boland, 43, was shot dead as he arrived at his home in the Mulhuddart district of Dublin. A major heroin dealer in the Eighties, he had been released from prison in 1994 and had been building up a cannabis distribution empire. Keen to increase his profits, he had ignored threats from rival dealers in Blanchardstown.
As his car pulled up outside his home, a masked gunman fired six bullets, hitting Boland in the chest at least four times.
On 9 March, Alan Bryne, a key witness in a drugs-related murder trial, was shot three times in the back by a gunman disguised as a road worker. Bryne, who narrowly survived, is now on a witness protection programme.
Other recent killings include that of fast-food delivery man Gerard Moran, a small-time drug dealer and hard man who was shot dead after being lured by a bogus call asking him to deliver a pizza.
A new wave of turf wars is expected following the arrest last month of the man said to be at the head of Dublin's criminal gangs. Dubbed 'Houdini' after twice cheating death, the 45-year-old was shot at last September as he walked through his home town of Crumlin.
The two shots fired from a speeding car both missed as he dived for cover. Two weeks later, he was walking with his wife when a shotgun blast missed him by inches. The gunman gave chase and fired twice more, but missed both times.
While in prison last year, Houdini was attacked by former colleagues who believed he had informed on them. They cut his ears into points with razor blades to make him 'look like the rat he is'.
Despite being hunted by police and rival gangsters alike, he believes he is untouchable and remains openly defiant. During a recent interview with police, he smeared excrement on his face and stared at the wall for more than an hour, refusing to answer questions.