Sunday, 29 May 2005

'Charlie Bowden pulled the trigger on Veronica, not me'

Sunday Tribune

By his own admission he had everything going for him. At 17, Arsenal offered him a trial, but he couldn't resist the lure of crime. Speaking from inside Portlaoise Prison, Patrick 'Dutchy' Holland swears he didn't pull the trigger on that awful day journalist Veronica Guerin was murdered and vows to fight to clear his name
Suzanne Breen
'SENIOR Counsel', as he is known by both prisoner officers and inmates in Portlaoise Prison, arrives looking nothing like his nickname suggests.

In a well-worn beige Nike sweatshirt and black tracksuit bottoms, he has an untidy, light beard. He could easily pass for someone sleeping rough. He carries his legal documents in an Arnotts paper bag.

But within seconds, Paddy 'Dutchy' Holland is quoting Irish and European case law as cogently as any barrister, although lacking the detached professional air.

His "job", he says, is to clear his name and help other prisoners challenge the legal establishment: "I'm bitter, very bitter. I'm obsessed with the law. I'm at it day and night.

"I'll get up at 4am to read and write; other times I don't go to bed at all. I'm motivated by hatred of the system. It's what keeps me alive. Ireland might look all right from the outside but it's completely corrupt."

He offers coffee, from a battered green flask he has brought with him, to the Sunday Tribune and the prison officer, sitting in the corner.

Someone has given him a packet of fig rolls, and he's delighted. He moves quickly for a man of 66.

Despite his anger, there is the courtesy of the old-style criminal. He never raises his voice. Had he his way, he would talk non-stop about his case, not about himself. "I hate all this fluff stuff, " he complains at every personal question.

We're in a dilapidated, draughty Portakabin, about eight by 12ft, in the jail. It rattles as other prisoners walk by.

"Good luck with the interview now Paddy!" they shout as they make their way to their own visits. The prison officer keeps an eye on a tabloid newspaper, and an ear on proceedings.

Holland took the prison authorities to court to secure the right to media interviews.

He's determined to make the most of this one. Before he starts, he asks if I'm cold. Was he always so considerate to female reporters?

"I didn't kill her, " he says.

"Her brother, Jimmy, has phoned me twice in here and it was the first question he asked too. I told him I wasn't the gunman as it was claimed and he accepts that.

"I never met Veronica Guerin but I was shocked a girl was shot dead. It was a very heavy one. She had a young child. I knew women who were fuming about it. I didn't play any part in her killing. Eyewitnesses described the gunman as tall, and I'm only 5'8".

They never even put me on an ID parade."

As someone active in the Dublin criminal scene, surely he must have heard something in advance? "No I didn't.

I didn't even know there had been a confrontation between her and John Gilligan. I knew John Gilligan. I did printing jobs for him but I wasn't a member of his gang."

Holland was never charged with Guerin's murder but he was sentenced to 20 years, reduced to 12 on appeal, for the possession and supply of cannabis. He denies that too.

"I didn't even have a cigarette on me when arrested.

"I was into fraud but never drugs. I didn't use them, let alone deal in them. I've seen how they destroy communities. Before I was charged, the newspapers wrote rubbish about me but even they never accused me of drugs.

"I don't smoke or drink. The only thing I ever took was a shandy, years ago when I was a young lad, to give me a bit of courage to ask a girl to dance."

He claims the informer, Charlie Bowden, who testified against him, was Guerin's killer. Bowden, an ex-army marksman, admitted loading the murder weapon.

"If the gardai had Bertie for 48 hours, they'd get a confession from him. They'd make it up. If they want a result for a crime, they don't care how it's done. Bertie might be a great talker but even he wouldn't be able to talk his way out of that. They get away with it.

Look at the number of them proved lying recently, yet how many are behind bars?"

Despite recent disclosures in the Morris tribunal and elsewhere, most citizens will regard this as unjustified criticism and doubly inappropriate from a criminal. "Well it's my opinion and I believe it stands up to scrutiny, although you probably won't print it or be allowed to."

WHEN Holland is released next year, he will have spent 20 years, almost a third of his life, in prison. He was convicted of receiving stolen goods in 1964, armed robbery in 1981, and possession of explosives in 1989.

The court heard the explosives, which he claims belonged to others, weren't for subversive use but had been stolen from a mining company, probably for safebreaking.

Even if Holland is telling the truth on the Guerin murder and drugs charge, isn't he ashamed of his long criminal history? "I've no apologies to make. I never hurt anyone. All I did was take money, and plenty of people in high places in this country took a lot more than me.

"I targeted institutions, not individuals. Banks have robbed far more money from the public than was ever robbed from them." He has "no problem" with the IRA's Northern Bank raid.

"But I was concerned about the hostage-taking. The sums from bank robberies are very different than in my day. They get £26m, I'd have been lucky to get £26,000 but that was a lot in the '70s. I bought a house for £7,000 then."

Despite his armed robbery conviction, he claims not to have used violence: "I never fired a shot in any robbery. I never committed an assault, never even laid a hand on anybody. The only time I used a gun was as a boy. I grew up in Chapelizod, and Ballyfermot was just fields then. I hunted rabbits. I'm against that now. I'm into wildlife.

The boys in here slag me about it."

HE was born, the youngest of six, into a respectable workingclass family. His father was a printer. "A lot of people in prison never had a chance, that's why they're here. I had a chance, I admit that."

He was very sporty. He loved fishing, canoeing and soccer. At 17, he was offered a trial place at Arsenal: "I was set up in a lodging house in London. There was a rule book as long as your arm.

You had to be in by 9pm. I left."

Then he worked in the US as a painter and decorator, "earning good money". He came back in 1969 and married Angela. They had no children but were close to nieces and nephews. She disapproved of crime, he says, and rarely visited him in jail.

Despite his criminal life, he was a loner, never really one of the boys. "Angela was my best friend. There was a great bond between us. I went everywhere with her . . . shopping, even to the hairdressers.

"They used to joke about a bald man like me, always at the hairdressers. My wife was blonde, absolutely gorgeous.

People who saw us on the street wondered what a woman like that was doing with me."

But Angela couldn't change him. In the run-up to Guerin's murder, he was running a print business. Some of the work was legal. He published a human rights pamphlet by Kader Asmal and a booklet on a Jesuits anti-drugs project. He bought the rights to publish a TV guide.

He was also into major forgery. "I made fake 'Levi' labels for use on jeans abroad.

It helped finance the legitimate part of the business.

There's more money in fraud than anything else. I was planning a great forgery of post office saving stamps.

Reproducing the stamps was no problem; the perforations were hard."

At 1pm on 26 June, 1996, Veronica Guerin was shot dead by a gunman on a motorbike. Holland says he was in Dublin city centre.

Around 1.30pm, he caught the bus to Crumlin to collect his dole.

He says he voluntarily gave a statement about his movements to gardai the next month. He fled to England in October when he heard a Sunday newspaper was to name him as the killer, he says.

But he missed home. In an interview with Pat Kenny on RTE radio, he said he would return for questioning if guaranteed an audio- and videorecorded interview, which he claimed entitlement to under the 1984 Criminal Justice Act.

No promises were made, but new regulations on the recording of interviews under the 1984 act came into effect in March 1997.

So, the next month, he returned to present himself to gardai. He had bought recording equipment for "independent protection".

He believed he'd be questioned in one of three stations . . . Lucan, Tallaght, or the Bridewell. He had fitted bugging devices into his shoe, linked to tapes in briefcases which were placed in lodgings he'd rented near all three stations.

HE DISEMBARKED the ferry at Dun Laoghaire: "The gardai were waiting for me. Foolishly, I had a handset in my luggage, linked to the transmitters. They found it and realised what I was at. They took my equipment away.

"I was brought to Lucan, the only one of the three stations without interview recording facilities. I protested. They claimed they couldn't move me to the other two for 'security reasons'." His solicitor, James Orange, was arrested two hours later in a money-laundering investigation. Gardai claimed this was a coincidence.

Orange was eventually released without charge but Holland had been deprived of his solicitor of choice. He says he was later denied access to Orange's wife, Elizabeth Ferris, also a solicitor.

Arrested in connection with the Guerin murder, he says the drugs allegations stunned him.

He continues to deny he suddenly made a confession to gardai when he had gone to such lengths to obtain a recorded interview.

Bowden, whose evidence secured him immunity, now lives abroad under the witness protection programme.

"I understand anyone turning informer out of fear but I hate him for his lies about me, " declares Holland.

Twice during the interview, when asked about his wife's death from a tumour in 2001, his eyes brim with tears. "I should have stayed in England. If I hadn't come back to Ireland, she might still be alive. The stress of the case, and the national hate campaign against me, really affected her."

Angela visited him once in Portlaoise, in a wheelchair, near the end. The prison staff "laid everything on, they were brilliant". He still wears his wedding ring and says he'll never marry again.

He claims not to care about public opinion, "only what family and friends think". He says nobody called him Dutchy until the name was invented by a newspaper.

He hopes to have a second appeal heard this year under section two of the Criminal Justice Act 1993.

He alleges certain gardai deliberately withheld vital documents from the court showing Bowden committed perjury.

He cannot understand why Bowden's testimony was rejected in Paul Ward's successful appeal but still stands in his case.

He continues to deny that he made any admissions at all to the gardai while in custody.

"My conviction could be struck out; at worst, I should get a retrial, " Holland argues.

"Even if I fail, I won't give up.

I'll go to Europe." He says Giovanni Di Stefano, lawyer for Saddam Hussein and the late Serbian warlord Arkan, discussed his case with him in Ireland last May.

Holland is planning other legal challenges too. The prison authorities prevent journalists bringing recording equipment into Portlaoise, effectively ruling out broadcast media interviews.

Photographers are also banned. "I want to go back to court on this, " he says.

Portlaoise Prison told the Sunday Tribune it might charge us 20 an hour for supervising the visit to Holland. The prisoner rants about "rip-off Ireland".

He wishes he had taken a case on securing the vote for prisoners. "I'd support Labour or Fine Gael . . . they're supposed to be more rightwing but they're just more honest. I hate Fianna Fail."

He rarely watches TV, except for documentaries on political or legal misconduct.

Unlike other prisoners, he doesn't bother with CDs or DVDs.

The regime in Portlaoise is relaxed. Prison officers are friendly and helpful on the visit. Holland's cell is about seven by 10ft. He has a photograph of Angela, a computer (although no internet access), and 20 law books.

His pride and joy is Archbold, the legal bible. He has the 2003 edition but wants the 2005 one. His 14 weekly allowance is spent posting registered letters about his case.

He signs correspondence, even faxes, "God Bless". He goes to mass every Sunday.

He doesn't care for food, "except sweet things". He doesn't use the gym but walks around the exercise yard twice a day.

APART from giving legal advice to other prisoners, he is an acknowledged loner. "I do my own thing. I'm not one for sitting with others in a cell yapping all day. I can't stand the smoke anyway."

He receives "letters from lunatics" but has few visitors, "as I like it". Some old friends do remember him, sending in designer suits and shoes of fine Italian leather. He has boxes of them. But he sticks to two sweatshirts . . . the beige, and a green one . . . and his "court suit" when needed.

On release, he plans to earn his living from giving legal advice to whoever wants it.

Some believe this is more about getting guilty men off than fighting injustice.

He never asks other prisoners about their innocence or guilt: "I'm interested only in whether the right procedure has been followed in cases."

He has "regrets" but stubbornly refuses to admit he is even partly responsible for his own fate. He wants to move to England because the gardai would harass him and whomever he lived with in Ireland, he claims.

He says the money from the sale of his detached home in Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow, is almost gone, but he doesn't care. "I bought it cheaply because it was extended without planning permission. The house was really only for my wife. I could live in a shed.

"I'm hardly coming out of prison for a party. What is there to celebrate? I'm not complaining, just being realistic.

"My wife is dead, my life is over. I'll keep fighting my case but, even if I win, I've no illusion about the effect on the system. Heads won't roll.

Nothing ever happens to 'them'."


THE case against Patrick Eugene 'Dutchy' Holland is based largely on the evidence of supergrass Charlie Bowden. Bowden fingered all the main men who gardai believe from their intelligence were behind the killing of crime reporter Veronica Guerin.

Bowden's account on the day of the murder is that he left home at 10am to go to work at his hairdressing salon. He says that he met two members of John Gilligan's drugs gang later that afternoon.

Brian Meehan, a senior gang member, was paying tribute to Dutchy Holland, Bowden said. Meehan was praising Holland for "ring all the bullets in the gun into Guerin's body.

Holland was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in 1997 for possession of drugs with intent to supply, one of the toughest sentences for drugs possession ever imposed.

His subsequent appeal was refused, but the sentence was reduced to 12 years.

Mr Justice Barrington, who presided over the appeal, described Holland as a professional criminal who deserved a lengthy prison sentence. However, Justice Barrington stated that it was unfortunate that references to other crimes . . . including the killing of Guerin . . . had been made during Holland's initial trial. During that trial the arresting garda had stated her belief that Holland was the man who had killed the journalist.

John Burke
May 29, 2005

Sunday, 22 May 2005

Ireland is losing the war against drugs

Sunday Tribune

Over 1bn worth of drugs has been seized by the authorities in the last decade. Ten times this amount has found its way on to the streets. And as drug use increases and gangs get more cunning, Customs' job is getting even harder
'CUSTOMS officers at Dublin airport made their latest drugs seizure last Wednesday when they approached a 31-year-old Dutch man who had just arrived on a flight from Brussels. A search of the man's briefcase proved successful when a hidden compartment was discovered with over oneand-a-half kilograms of cocaine neatly packed inside.

The drugs had a street value of around 115,000.

Secret compartments in travelling luggage are a common way to smuggle drugs into Ireland. Last December, cocaine worth over 1m was discovered in false bottoms of four suitcases on a flight that arrived in Dublin from Lagos in Nigeria via Paris. It was the third cocaine seizure in as many weeks at the end of last year when all three luggage searches revealed hidden suitcase compartments. All three of those flights originated in Nigeria, but the so-called 'drug mules' came from a variety of national backgrounds . . . a 35year-old Nigerian male, a 33year-old American female and a 20-year-old British man.

"Quite a number are really tragic cases, people who are desperately addicted or in debt to drug dealers, " according to Shay Doyle, director of customs enforcement at Dublin airport.

Over 85 staff are dedicated to the Customs National Drug Team monitoring Ireland's ports and airports for the importation of cocaine, heroin, cannabis and other illegal drugs.

"We employ a lot of resources in staying a step ahead of the criminals, in terms of identifying the routes they are taking to bring drugs into the state, " Doyle told the Sunday Tribune this weekend.

"It is common that if we catch a number of mules or traffickers travelling on a route from Lagos to Paris and onto Dublin, in a matter of weeks the gang behind this operation will send the drugs via Frankfurt, or via another route, to make it less transparent. For this reason, we rely a large deal on co-operation with other customs and police forces worldwide."

A significant part of the customs detection process involves 'profiling' potential smugglers.

"In one case, an experienced customs officer saw a non-national male wearing an expensive Armani suit, but his socks were shabby. It looked odd. It turned out he was a drug addict being used as a mule. He was carrying several kilos of herbal cannabis, " Doyle said.

Figures compiled by the Sunday Tribune show that, over the last decade, seizures valued at over 1bn have been made by the gardai and the Customs National Drug Team.

The value and scale of these seizures is dramatic . . . cocaine worth 537m, cannabis 512m, heroin 34m and ecstasy 6m.

But the figures only hint at the amount of drugs getting past the authorities.

The international norm is that about 10% of illegal drugs are detected by policing authorities. Applying this ratio to the Irish case means that drugs with a street value above 10bn have arrived in Ireland over the last 10 years.

Not all of these drugs are destined for local consumption, as Ireland is recognised as a transit point in the delivery of large quantities of drugs to Britain.

A variety of different schemes have been used to smuggle drugs into Ireland.

In May last year, a 24-yearold Irishman was stopped by customs officers at Dublin airport. When the man's shoes were examined they were found to have hidden compartments packed with drugs . . . cocaine, heroin and ecstasy tablets . . . valued at around 50,000.

Charlie, one of the customs' sniffer dogs, took an interest in a shipment that arrived from South Africa in October 2003. When officers examined the shipment they discovered over 30kgs of herbal cannabis hidden in the frames of several paintings. A South African in her 30s, who was living in Ireland, was subsequently arrested.

In August 2003, the authorities at Dublin airport examined two armchairs that had arrived by air freight from South Africa. Some 15kgs of herbal cannabis was found concealed in the chairs. Three Nigerian men were later arrested.

Earlier in 2003, a container arrived at Dublin Port, having come from Thailand via Antwerp. Hidden inside concrete garden furniture was over six tonnes of herbal cannabis with a street value of over 15m. It was the largest seizure ever made by customs officers.

Drugs have also literally arrived in the post. Recent seizures have included airmail packages sent from South Africa, Brazil, Venezuela, Nigeria and Spain. People also swallow drugs to evade detection. The rewards are sufficient to risk the possibility of an overdose as stomach acids erode the packaging around the drugs.

This time last year, customs officers approached a 31-yearold Ghanaian as he stepped off a flight from Amsterdam.

He was in possession of about 400g of cocaine with a street value of 30,000. The drugs were stored inside 39 pellets which he had swallowed in Ghana before starting his journey.

Drug traffickers are constantly seeking new and more sophisticated smuggling techniques. A recent technique, as explained by Michael Colgan of the Customs National Drug Team, has made it even harder to detect cocaine.

"This involves the transformation of cocaine into a liquid substance . . . after which it is impregnated into the clothing a courier wears. On arrival, a very sophisticated chemical formula is applied that renders the cocaine back into its original state ready for sale on the streets. This is most worrying because it suggests that a level of chemical know-how more often associated with drugs gangs in Holland is now arriving on our own shores."

The Customs National Drug Team has a single patrol vessel, the RCC Suirbeir, which operates in co-operation with other navy ships in policing the Irish coastline.

With around 3,000km of coastline to watch, the task confronting the state authorities is enormous.

Officers look out for a practice known as 'coopering' . . .

where a small craft travelling off the coast meets up with a 'mother ship', which passes a consignment of drugs onto the smaller ship. "This consignment may be later dropped off at a coastal dropoff point or trafficked towards the UK coastline, " Colgan said.

An increase in the cocaine trade in and through Ireland is one of the new developments identified by the authorities here.

"We are noticing increased involvement of west African gangs in the transit of illegal drugs into the state. The trend in the increase in both cocaine and herbal cannabis largely comes about with the increased involvement of African gangs, who have easy access to both these types of drugs, and who are now major world players in the illegal narcotics industry, " Colgan said.

Drugs from west Africa are first moved into Morocco and Spain, before being smuggled across Europe. "The problem presented by the increased African involvement in the transit of drugs is the use of new trafficking routes, with a significant amount now coming here under various guises, from Nigeria, by both air and sea.

The west African gangs are remarkably organised. It is very difficult to obtain information and intelligence on these gangs, as opposed to gangs that are of a European origin, " Colgan said.

The gardai and customs authorities have had their greatest detection successes with cannabis, making almost 25,000 seizures between 1995 and 2000, compared to 5,021 for ecstasy, 3,721 for heroin and 862 for cocaine. The higher cannabis detection rate may be due to its comparatively bulky nature, making it harder to conceal than other drugs.

Despite the seizures, drugs continue to make their way on the market in Ireland.

Over the past two decades, drug use has moved from being confined to heroin addicts in economically deprived parts of Dublin to a fact of life for young people across all social classes and all parts of the country, with ecstasy and cannabis now widely available.

One survey indicated that 37% of Irish 15- to 16-yearolds had used cannabis, three times the average exposure to cannabis of teenagers in the same age range in other EU countries. Some 54% of 15to 16-year-olds in Ireland also said it was either very easy or fairly easy to buy ecstasy.

At Dublin airport, as his officers fight an increasingly difficult battle, Shay Doyle stressed the reality underpinning drug use in Ireland.

"The gangs behind these drugs are ruthless people, heavily armed and dangerous, who prey on the weak and vulnerable for their own profit. Few people realise this, unfortunately, " Doyle said.
May 22, 2005

Big-name expatriate criminals keep drugs flowing into Ireland

Sunday Tribune

John Burke
A CORE of hardened Irish drug criminals based in Holland and Spain have become significant players in the trafficking of drugs to gangs in Dublin and across the state, in particular the supply of cannabis resin and heroin.

Many of these expatriate Irishmen are based overseas after fleeing this jurisdiction following the major crackdown by the criminal assets bureau, customs and the garda national drug unit (GNDU) in the late 1990s.

Among those who are considered to be the main players in providing a link in the supply chain of drugs coming here via continental Europe and Asia is George 'The Penguin' Mitchell, 53, the Ballyfermot-born armed robber who is a suspected member of the gang led by Martin Cahill which carried out the Beit art collection robbery in the 1980s.

It has been claimed that both the British authorities and the IRA are eager to speak to Mitchell if he returns from Amsterdam, where he runs a 20m cannabis and ecstasy operation.

Also considered a main player operating from Amsterdam, 54-year-old Tommy Savage is a close associate of Mitchell and has been connected to a string of gangland hits in the 1990s here, though he has denied involvement in the shooting of ex-INLA man Teasy McDonald in 1992. A former Official IRA member, many of Savage's associates who did not leave the jurisdiction were later shot dead.

Former soldier Mick Weldon, 51, has been sought by gardai since the early 1990s when he fled to South America. He is thought to have his own pilot's licence and frequently travels between Colombia and Spain, where he is believed to operate a major cannabis operation.

Several members of John Gilligan's former drugs gang, including John 'The Coach' Traynor, are also domiciled in Spain, out of the reach of gardai. Traynor has always denied that he ordered the hit on crime reporter Veronica Guerin in 1996 and has denied reports that he is heavily involved in setting up drugs shipments from the Costa del Sol.
May 22, 2005

Ruthless gangs a tough nut for Anvil to crack

By Jim Cusack

Sunday May 22 2005
IN AN unreported recent incident, someone fired a several shots from a machine gun pistol through the front windows of a Dublin house. The gunman was working for a fairly well known and very nasty family of drug dealers from the south inner city, one with IRA connections.

A gun attack on a house in Dublin no longer makes the news. Nor does the story behind the attack. It came as no surprise to gardai or the intended victim.

The target of the attack was a hard-working man who separated from his partner and their children as a result of the trauma they encountered at the hands of just one of Dublin's dozens of little crime lords. The gun attack was a "lesson".

A number of years ago a young man was attacked on the street in broad daylight for no reason by a Crumlin-based member of a notorious drugs family. His attacker was a heavy cocaine user and believed the young man had made a comment about him. He clubbed him repeatedly over the head.

Despite serious injuries, the victim survived and did not suffer permanent brain damage. What happened subsequently is illustrative of what is happening in Dublin today and in part prompted Justice Minister Michael McDowell to provide an additional €6.5m in overtime payments for gardai on anti-crime duties as part of Operation Anvil.

The young man suffered some memory loss but his girlfriend agreed to identify his attacker and to testify in court. She and her boyfriend were subjected to a campaign of intimidation and, at one stage, the IRA was recruited to kill one or both.

The IRA sub-contracted the killing out to a member of the INLA, who was intercepted by gardai on a firearms charge. The young couple spent almost a year moving from place to place in the city until the strain finally proved too much and they split up. It is believed the woman may be living in temporary accommodation still.

The woman gave evidence in court and her boyfriend's attacker was jailed for four years. He was released recently. Gardai have no doubt that the young gangster either ordered the machine-gun attack or carried it out himself. He wanted to send a message to anyone, any law-abiding member of the public who 'rats' on one of his kind.

The intended victim of the shooting may count himself lucky. Eight men have been shot dead in Dublin, six by members of gangs and two by the IRA.

Most recently, 22-year-old Martin Kenny, from Ballyfermot, was shot dead in his bed on the morning of May 15; the latest victim of an extraordinary feud that has raged in the south inner city since gardai seized more than €1m worth of cocaine and ecstasy at the Holiday Inn in Pearse Street on March 3, 2000.

As a result of the seizure, a Drimnagh-based drugs gang split in two with each accusing the other of allowing the drugs to be caught. Their row escalated from fists, to knives and guns. The first death was that of Derek Lodge, 26, in May 2000. This was followed by Declan Gavin, 20, stabbed to death on Crumlin Road in August 2001. Joseph Rattigan, only 18 but a key figure in one of the feuding gangs, was murdered in July 2002.

In all, six murders took place in the first part of the feud, which only died down two years ago after gardai locked up some of the two gangs' key figures on firearms and drugs offences.

But several other gang members, including one of the most dangerous young criminals known to gardai, have been released since the start of the year, and the feud has flared up again this year.

On March 9, John Roche, 24, was shot dead on Military Road in Kilmainham as he sat in his car with his girlfriend. It is is thought that last Sunday's murder of Kenny, a drug courier, may have been retaliation for Roche's murder.

Across the city in Finglas, feuds continue to flare between around a dozen local gangs all involved in various crimes, from ATM robberies, to kidnappings, to drugs.

The latest victim of the feuding in the Garda Dublin West Division, now referred to by gardai as the 'Wild West' by gardai, was Andrew Glennon, a 30-year-old career criminal, who met his reasonably predictable end on February 5.

Like in the south inner city, gardai believe there will be retaliatory attacks and killings.

Officers are definitely expecting retaliation for the murder of Mark Byrne, 31, described by detectives as an extremely nasty criminal. He was shot dead minutes after being released on temporary leave from Mountjoy Prison to attend the Mater Hospital.

Gardai believe it was a revenge attack by a past victim of Byrne's notorious violence.

The reason behind the murder of Terry Dunleavy, 27, shot dead as he left his girlfriend's flat in Ballybough on April 14, appears to be revenge after he purloined part of a €1.3m cash haul he and three other local criminals had stolen from a security van in Laytown, Co Meath, last summer.

Joseph Rafferty, 29, was killed as he walked from his apartment in Ongar on April 12, because he had confronted and hit a Dublin IRA man who had assaulted a girl and youth at a 21st birthday party.

Operation Anvil will be directed towards building up intelligence and controlling the activities of some of the most active gangs. The movements of the most active criminals are being closely monitored by gardai. A similar tactic was successful against Martin Cahill in the early Eighties.

Divisional chief superintendents have also been directed to increase the number of plain clothes and uniform patrol cars on duty at all times by four per division.

The initiatives are said to be badly needed as the investigation into the kidnapping of a Dublin security van driver's family in April revealed there were serious weaknesses in the Garda's criminal intelligence in Dublin.

Senior gardai, however, admit that it is an uphill battle and given the continuing large-scale flow of drugs into the city, it is quite likely the killing will continue.

- Jim Cusack

Sunday, 8 May 2005

Rash of gangland hits set to make it bloodiest year yet

Sunday May 08 2005
GANGLAND killings, drug trafficking and armed robberies have reached levels higher than the mid-1990s when the Government was forced to introduce the criminal assets legislation to crack down on organised crime, senior gardai admit.

Seven gangland hits, the latest in broad daylight on Thursday, have taken place since March, making this year the bloodiest since 1995-96. Then, 12 killings took place in an 18-month period prior to the murder of Sunday Independent journalist Veronica Guerin.

All seven killings involve drugs-related gang members and two have taken place in the Taoiseach's own constituency, exposing as false claims by Justice Minister Michael McDowell only two weeks ago that serious crime levels are falling.

Senior gardai admit that despite a number of major successes scored against armed robbery and drugs gangs in the past fortnight, more drugs and more guns are on the streets than ever before. Gardai also admit that despite the official claims that crime is falling, massive amounts of drugs are still coming into the country.

Commenting on a €1.5m heroin seizure in Dublin last week, one senior garda said that it was "only a shovel out of a lorry-load of sand". The biggest heroin dealing gang in the country is now believed to be headed by a former Provisional IRA figure who is on the run this weekend after gardai cracked part of his distribution operation.

The man, in his late 30s, is from Ballyfermot but recently moved to the Liffey Valley area. He runs an extensive gang which employs dozens of people, including elderly men and women, to launder the vast amounts of cash being generated by the business.

With five murders in April alone, the State is experiencing its worst ever rash of gangland murders. Gardai say none of the killings are related and all have resulted from inter-gang rivalries and personal feuds. A senior garda used the term "cluster effect" when describing the recent outbreak of killings.

Starting with the murder of John Roche on March 9 in Kilmainham, Dublin, seven murders have taken place culminating with Thursday morning's killing of Mark Byrne. Byrne was shot dead minutes after he left Mountjoy Prison on a temporary pass. He was killed as part of a feud involving former drug trafficking associates which turned violent.

The first in the latest spate of gangland killings was that of John Roche, 25, from Crumlin. Roche's murder was part of a feud that started five years ago when gardai broke up a cocaine-dealing ring in a raid on a Dublin hotel where two teenagers were "cutting" cocaine in a bedroom. The Crumlin drugs gang split and six murders have resulted from this feud alone.

Of the other murders this year, two have involved figures associated with the Provisional IRA who have become centrally involved in organised crime. Courier Joseph Rafferty, 28, who was shot dead outside his apartment in Clonee, was murdered because of a dispute with an IRA-associated family in the north inner city which broke out at Christmas.

The other broad daylight murder - of Hughie McGinley, 26, in Sligo on April 28 - was a result of inter-gang rivalry between two travelling families who are said to be making millions from drug dealing in the west and north west.

The rash of gangland murders has revealed the distance between fact and reality in claims last month by the Minister for Justice that serious crime is falling. Mr McDowell was comparing statistics of "headline crime" for the first quarter of this year and the first quarter of last year which, on paper, show a seven per cent drop.

However, compared with statistics from five years ago, it is evident that serious crime is still climbing with drug crime and armed robbery at levels the same or higher than the mid-1990s.

The Minister is introducing mandatory imprisonment for possession of firearms as part of the Criminal Justice Bill. At present judges have discretion as to whether or not a person found in possession of a gun can receive a sentence of imprisonment or a suspended sentence.

One senior garda told the Sunday Independent that the force is facing a crisis in the successful prosecution of crimes like robbery and burglary. Successful prosecutions are running at levels as low as three to seven per cent in these categories. Despite this, the Garda Siochana claims official "detection rates" of over 40 per cent. The official detection rates are "basically fictitious", one senior garda said.