When a local criminal was found dead, residents in Blanchardstown thought it would end the fear on their streets ... but they were wrong
Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 23 November 2004 00.03 GMT
It is known as Ireland's silicon valley, the heartland of a computer industry that fuelled the Celtic Tiger, bringing vast shopping centres and apartment blocks for yuppies. But north-west Dublin's violent underbelly is threatening to erupt after a weekend of gangland violence on its working-class estates saw one man shot dead in front of his baby and two men treated in hospital after drive-by shootings.
When one of Ireland's most notorious young criminals, a man with one kidney and a chronic cocaine habit, was found dead in a Dublin prison cell 10 days ago, it appeared to spark a wave of violence.
Armed police patrols were stepped up yesterday in an attempt to target 12 local gangland figures and avert further bloodshed in the run-up to Christmas.
Blanchardstown is a new town of 70,000 which has grown fast and nudges up against the northern Dublin borough of Finglas. Both have a brutal gangland history.
John Gilligan - acquittted of ordering the murder of the journalist Veronica Guerin in 1996 - comes from a local estate. He is serving 28 years for drugs offences.
The Westies, one of the most dangerous of Dublin's organised crime gangs, dominated the local heroin trade in the 90s and still operate. But in an area where some children drop out of school at 11, the gangsters are becoming younger and better armed, with sawn-off shotguns sometimes handed to teenagers. One Dublin newspaper described the new gangs as "mini-armies".
One of the leading younger hard men was a figure worthy of one of Ireland's best gangster biopics. Declan Curran was a local drug addict and teenage car thief. By 24, he was linked to violent bank robberies, assaults, drive-by shootings and gangland executions.
He had worn a colostomy bag since 19 when he was shot in the back and lost a kidney fleeing a gunman during a feud. But he refused to let it hold him back. He took steroids to pump himself up and was addicted to cocaine.
As his mood swung violently, he seemed to display an almost suicidal recklessness. He once drove at 100mph on the wrong side of the road while high on drugs and alcohol to avoid a police car he later crashed into. A murder trial against him collapsed last year after the suspected intimidation of a key witness, his ex-girlfriend. Despite his crimes, he did not make much money and still lived with his family, where police once arrested him wearing a bullet-proof vest in bed.
When Curran was recently found dead in a prison cell in Dublin, residents in Blanchardstown and Finglas thought it would end the fear on their streets. But they were wrong.
Curran had been remanded in Cloverhill prison after he botched an armed raid on a Dublin bank. Two days later, his body was found by two cellmates who had returned from Sunday mass. The post mortem examination was inconclusive and the results of toxicology tests are awaited.
Almost as if to say he was gone but not forgotten, hours after Curran's death, some of his associates attacked the house of a family with whom he had been engaged in a feud, shooting and injuring one man.
This weekend, the violence worsened. In the early hours of Sunday, Paul Cunningham, 23, was asleep in an upstairs room in a house in Blanchardstown with his girlfriend and their 18-month-old baby. Two men in balaclavas and gloves burst in and shot him dead. A police inspector yesterday called it "a horrendous killing", the latest in a series of incidents causing "serious concern".
Cunningham was the third son in his family of eight to meet a violent death. He had his own underworld connections and 20 previous convictions, including firearms offences. Police said they were not ruling out the possibility of a revenge killing against Curran's side.
Local residents said yesterday they were afraid. Joan Burton, the Labour MP for Dublin West, criticised the lack of community police. "Of course, I am worried this is going to escalate, everybody is," she said.
"A lot families here have been bereaved for Christmas. Already this month we had the fatal stabbing in a bar of a man who had no connection to crime. People are fearful, particularly the innocent people who could get caught up in this."