Gangland deaths for this year already at 2004 levels
John Burke and Eoghan Rice
THE number of ganglandstyle asassinations carried out since the start of this year is equal to the total number of similar murders in the previous 12 months, according to figures on homicide and violent death compiled by the Sunday Tribune.
As gardai yesterday made the ninth arrest in their investigation of the murder of Jimmy Curran in the Green Lizard pub in Dublin on 3 April, senior officers said they were concerned that gangland killings could spiral back to the high levels seen in the 1990s.
To date, four young Dublin men have been murdered in gangland hits in the first 14 weeks of this year. There were four such slayings, in total, in 2004. While last year's figure was a record low, senior gardai are concerned that the level of gangland slayings could return to the high of two years ago, when 17 people were murdered in gang conflicts in Limerick and Dublin, at a time when several major drug gangs were embroiled in internecine feuding.
While gardai have achieved undisputed success in quelling gang-related bloodshed in Limerick, the number of killings in Dublin looks set to return to its worst with the shooting of three people in the past fortnight alone.
Fine Gael justice spokesman Jim O'Keeffe this weekend warned that there is growing evidence that a system of "assassins-for-hire" is taking root in the criminal underworld. "The last couple of weeks have seen a shocking number of murders, which have overshadowed Justice Minister Michael McDowell's attempt to suggest that serious crime has fallen. In terms of homicides, particularly those involving the use of guns, it would appear that Ireland is returning to the bad old days."
The first gangland hit this year took place on 9 March, when 24-year-old John Roche, who was known to gardai, was shot on Military Road in Kilmainham. The shooting is thought to be linked to a fouryear gangland feud which resulted in the deaths of two other men in 2001 and 2002, as well as a number of attempted murders and drive-by shootings.
Gardai are also investigating the possibility that a 29year-old man murdered in west Dublin last week was killed on the orders of a major Dublin drug dealer. Joseph Rafferty was shot twice by a lone gunman as he left his apartment in the Ongar Park housing estate near Clonsilla.
One line of enquiry being explored is the possibility that Rafferty was shot dead as a result of a personal dispute with a drug dealer.
Gardai are this weekend believed to be near a breakthrough in the killing of 42year-old Jimmy Curran on 3 April, in a shooting that had all the hallmarks of a ganglandstyle hit. The Dubliner was shot in the head as he drank in the Green Lizard pub opposite the Tivoli Theatre in the south inner city. Garda now believe that he may have been targeted after a personal dispute.
Yesterday's arrest, of a man in his 40s, took place in the Meath Street area of Dublin close to where the murder occurred.
Terry Dunleavy, a wellknown hard-man and cannabis dealer in inner-city Dublin, was the third man shot dead in a 10-day period, when he was killed on Thursday evening on his way to conduct a drugs deal. He was shot five times before the gunman fled on a moped in what gardai believe is part of a longrunning inter-gang feud.
Dunleavy was not a significant player on the city's drugs scene, but had a reputation for violence and convictions for armed robbery and assault.
He was ambushed as he was approaching his girlfriend's flat at Croke Villas, off the Ballybough Road on the northside.
The growing trend in gangland slayings is particularly worrying for gardai dealing with the growing menace of young Dublin drugs gangs in the south and north innercity areas of the capital, with indications that criminals have increasingly easy access to powerful firearms.
Last year's gangland killings were concentrated exclusively in the Dublin area.
One senior garda source told the Tribune last week that murders arising out of socalled 'turf wars' over the control and supply of drugs are uncommon among Dublin criminals.
"They seem to have easy access to guns and they just shoot someone when they have a falling-out with them.
The tit-for-tat continues along similar lines until someone is murdered."
Last year's killings were also mostly inner-city based.
Kenneth Byrne, 30, was shot dead at his home in St Theresa's Gardens flats complex in Dolphin's Barn on 1 February 2004. Gardai suspect the convicted armed robber was targeted by former associates in a revenge attack.
Paul Warren, 23, also from St Theresa's Gardens, was shot dead in Gray's pub, formerly the Red Lion, at Newmarket Square, off Cork Street, Dublin, by two masked gunmen, three weeks later.
He was a minor drug dealer, and gardai suspect a gangland connection.
One of the most high-profile victims was Jonathan O'Reilly, 25, from St Mark's Gardens, Clondalkin. He was a well-known member of a west Dublin drugs gang.
The father of one was shot dead by a masked gunman on a motorbike who fired three shots into O'Reilly's BMW, as he sat in the parked car outside Cloverhill Prison, on 17 April, in a ganglandstyle assassination.
Gardai still fear that a major backlash in tit-for-tat shootings may arise out of the death of west Dublin criminal Paul Cunningham, 23, who was shot dead as he lay in bed with his partner and young child at their Mulhuddart home on 29 November.
Cunningham was a close associate of Declan Curran, a major player in the Dublin crime scene who had died a week earlier.
April 17, 2005