Sunday, 22 May 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

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