Saturday, 31 December 2005

CRIME: The drug gangsters took their deadly feuds public in the last 12 months.

His hostile gesture may yet have more far-reaching consequences than he could ever imagine.

Saturday December 31 2005
This was the year when the gangland killers became more clinical - coldly dispatching their victims in a businesslike fashion, sometimes in full view of ordinary people going about their daily lives.
November and April were significant low points. Both months saw a spate of gang murders as a new and deadlier breed of urban drug pushers went about systematically wiping each other out.
With the number of gang killings for the year tipping 20, concerns are again being voiced that organised crime - especially the highly lucrative drug networks operating out of certain Dublin suburbs - will never be eliminated.
The drug turf wars reached a nadir in mid-November when three members of rival gangs from the Crumlin and Drimnagh areas were killed in two callously executed attacks. The killings displayed a businesslike ferocity which has rarely been seen previously.
In the first, Darren Geoghegan (26) and Gavin Byrne (30) were shot to death in their car on a Sunday night in a residential street at Firhouse. They were apparently lured to the scene by their killers. The attack brought the death toll in the feud to six.
Forty-eight hours later, drug dealer Noel Roche (27), was shot and killed in the passenger seat of a car which had stopped at traffic lights on the Clontarf Road. He had reportedly earlier been at a Phil Collins concert at The Point, but left after becoming alarmed at seeing somebody in the crowd. He was the second in command of one of the warring factions. In March, his brother John was gunned down in Kilmainham - killed, gardai believe, by Darren Geoghegan.
In May, the killers showed they could operate with impunity in broad daylight. Drug dealer Mark Byrne (29) was clinically gunned down as he walked down a busy city street. Just minutes earlier, he had left Mountjoy Prison on temporary release.
Also in May, gardai lying in wait shot dead Colm Griffin (33) and Eric Hopkins (24) during an attempted robbery at Lusk post office in north Co Dublin.
As the year's body count mounted, Minister McDowell was forced to admit that he was wrong in his prediction that the gangs were on the way out. He withdrew his comment, made after a gangland murder in west Dublin in late 2004. The killing in question appeared to signal the end of the notorious Westies gang. At the time, the Minister described it as "the sting of a dying wasp".
However by November 2005, after three gang assassinations in as many days, he acknowledged that this earlier analysis had been "over-optimistic". He admitted he hadn't reckoned on the emergence of other rival gangs who were just as lethal and quick to kill.
The frightening ability of the Dublin gang scene to renew and regenerate itself was summed up in more colourful terms by one senior garda officer. Describing the crime situation in certain parts of the city, he said: "It's like trying to clear out a house infested with rats. As soon as we have things under control in one area, something happens in another."
In the Dail, Fine Gael Justice spokesman Jim O'Keeffe spoke of "a tide of lawlessness" sweeping Dublin's streets and warned that the city was getting "like Chicago in the 1930s". But true to form, the Minister refused to cede any ground to the new drug lords.
He announced that a special 50-strong team of detectives was being sent out to prevent further bloodshed. The new unit would focus exclusively on the crime gangs in a very direct way. Its brief was to "sit on" known gang members, monitor their activities, find out who they were associating with and, where possible, disrupt their criminal operations.
Mr McDowell also signalled the government's intent by announcing in the estimates an extra €146m for the gardai, a 13% funding increase. He said this would enable the government to meet its target of 14,000 gardai and recruits by the end of 2006, with the emphasis on frontline policing.
The Minister also scotched the notion that as long as the gangsters confined themselves to killing each other, it didn't really involve or effect the rest of society. "We have to be clear," he told the Dail, "that murder is murder. And regardless of motive, the gardai are determined to do all in their power to bring the perpetrators of these and similar offences to justice."
A feature of the capital's gang network is that some of the criminal groupings are quite small - literally no more than a handful of people. But they are willing and able to protect their lucrative cocaine and heroin dealing operations with ruthless and lethal efficiency. This was particularly evident in the Crumlin feud where the warring factions used to be partners.
There was speculation that a number of recent killings may have been the work of hired ex-republican assassins. Certainly the professional manner of some of the high-profile slayings suggests they were carried out by experienced operators.
The recent interception of booby-trap bombs, apparently destined to explode beneath rival gangsters' cars, also appears to indicate the involvement of former paramilitaries.
Of course, the drug gang killings weren't entirely confined to Dublin. One of Cork's most notorious drug figures, Michael 'Danser' Ahern (38) died in gruesome circumstances in southern Portugal - the apparent victim of an international turf war. He was beaten and shot four times in the head before his body was hidden in a freezer in a luxury apartment.
The killing with the biggest impact of all in 2005 also occurred outside the jurisdiction. The stabbing of Robert McCartney outside a Belfast bar on a Sunday evening in January caused massive political reverberations on both sides of the border.
It was also the year when anti-social behaviour by young louts finally made it on to the national agenda. As the year comes to an end, wanton vandalism and aggression by youngsters continue to ruin the quality of life of countless ordinary citizens throughout Ireland.
New measures to curb the most serious of these offences - including anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) - are proposed by Minister McDowell in legislation currently before the Oireachtas.
But the gun image which most people will remember from 2005 had nothing to so with gangland killings. It was the photograph of grinning Defence Minister Willie O'Dea, on a visit to the Curragh army camp, pointing a handgun at press photographers. His little joke could hardly have been more badly timed - coming the day after the latest fatal shooting in Dublin.
Given the mayhem which firearms have wreaked in his own native Limerick, it was a particularly ill-judged gesture.
Back on the killing streets of Dublin, few people have any realistic expectation that gang crime can be eliminated. The best that anyone - including the gardai - can hope for is some kind of limited containment.

Monday, 12 December 2005

Man found shot dead in stairwell of flats

Monday December 12 2005
A MAN was being questioned by gardai last night after another fatal shooting in Dublin early yesterday.

The body of the dead man, who has not yet been named, was discovered in the stairwell of a flats complex in Ballymun.

Detectives investigating the shooting believe it followed a feud in the north Dublin suburb.

The dead man and the suspect arrested in connection with the death are both known to gardai.

Local reports suggested that a confrontation took place shortly after 5am and it is understood a number of people were in the vicinity at the time and some of them may have been returning home from a party in the area.

The victim was originally from Finglas but had lived at a number of addresses in the Ballymun area in recent years.

The arrested man is in his late 20s and was brought to Santry Garda station under section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act. He can be held for 72 hours without charge.

A post-mortem examination took place last night at the Dublin City Morgue in Marino to ascertain the exact cause of death.

There were initial questions as to whether the man had died as a result of a severe beating or a gunshot. It was later established that he died as a result of a gunshot wound. He had no connection with any of the gangland killings which have followed drug disputes between rival gangs in Dublin's Blanchardstown or Crumlin/Drimnagh areas.

His body remained for several hours at the flats complex on the Shangan Road yesterday as Assistant State Pathologist Dr Michael Curtis and garda forensic teams carried out their examinations.

A number of people came forward yesterday to assist gardai with their enquiries but they are still looking for a number of other witnesses who they believe can help them.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Gardai on 01- 6664400.

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Gangland murders . . .we don't care

Sunday Tribune

As long as innocent people are not injured, 60% say they are not concerned about criminal feuds
John Burke
ALMOST 60% of people agree that the public does not care whether gangland murders occur, as long as innocent people are not injured.

The survey indicates a significant ambivalence among the public towards the criminal victims of gang feuds. Eighteen people have been murdered in gangland assasinations this year, a 10-year high.

Gang killings so far this year account for almost one in three of all violent deaths, compared to fewer than one in six last year. The majority of victims have been young men who were known to gardai for involvement in organised crime and drug-dealing, such as brothers Mark and Andrew 'Madser' Glennon, who were involved in a bloody feud with former members of the Westies gang in Dublin before they were slain in September and April of this year respectively.

Fifty-nine per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that "people generally don't care about gangland killings as long as innocent people are not hurt, " indicating little sympathy among the public for victims who are believed to have themselves been linked to previous shootings and crime. Thirty-seven per cent did not agree with the statement while 4% said they did not know.

The large number of fatal shootings that has occurred this year has had a dramatic effect on the perception of how gardai are handling gang crime. More than three in four people surveyed said that they believe the gardai are "losing the war against organised crime in Ireland." Only 20% said that they do not believe gardai are losing the struggle against the gangs while 4% said they did not know.

Acknowledging that there is growing unease at the level of murders carried out by organised crime gangs, primarily by Dublin-based criminal outfits involved in long-term internecine feuds, additional funding was made available last month by garda commissioner Noel Conroy to establish a 50-man organised crime taskforce, headed by well-regarded Chief Supt Noel White.

The survey also reveals that over 80% of people now believe that gangland crime is worse than it was before journalist Veronica Guerin was brutally murdered nine years ago. Subsequent to the crime reporter's killing in 1996, the government initiated a raft of legislation including the incorporation of the criminal assets bureau (CAB). Twelve per cent said they believed that gang crime was worse before Guerin's death while 6% did not know.

While the CAB took almost 19m from criminals last year and froze assets and cash worth almost 6m, according to its annual report for 2004, there are strong indications that the main beneficiaries of the drugs trade in Ireland are expatriate drug suppliers living on mainland Europe who fled Ireland after post-Guerin garda operations. Many of these have accumulated significant assets outside the CAB's jurisdictional ambit.

Reacting to the increased number of gangland murders this year, justice minister Michael McDowell last month announced a series of major initiatives to tackle criminality, including the tagging of offenders, a new prohibition on the membership of a criminal organisation, laws in relation to the possession of an adapted sawn-off shotgun as well as proposals for anti-social behaviour orders.
December 11, 2005

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Arrest breakthrough on gangland street murder

Wednesday December 07 2005
Clues left behind after 'opportunistic' killing led to teenage prime suspect

Tom Brady

Security Editor

GARDAI have made a breakthrough in their investigation into the gangland murder of Noel Roche (27) on the northside of Dublin.

A prime suspect was being questioned by detectives last night after an intelligence operation opening up new lines of inquiry.

The suspect (19) is from a housing estate off the North Circular Road and is known to have a number of haunts in the Cabra area.


In a joint move by local gardai and the national bureau of criminal investigation, detectives swooped on a house in Cabra on Monday night and detained the teenager.

He was being held last night at Raheny garda station, under Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, regarding the killing, alleged possession of a firearm and a possible connection with the getaway car used by the killers.

Mr Roche was shot dead in the front passenger seat of a black Mondeo car which was ambushed by members of a rival faction near the Yacht pub in Clontarf on November 15 last.


He was the seventh man to be killed as part of a five-year feud between two drugs gangs in Crumlin-Drimnagh.

Criminals from both sides had been part of one gang until 2000, when gardai acted on a tip-off to seize a €1.5m ecstasy haul at a hotel in Dublin. The gang then split in two, and the rival leaders vowed to eliminate each other.

The murder of Mr Roche is believed to have been an opportunistic crime rather than a planned killing.

The killers abandoned their getaway car, which had been stolen in Blessington, Co Wicklow, and left behind vital clues which could help gardai to identify them, including the handgun used in the murder, balaclava helmets and other clothing. Detectives believe the gunman spotted Mr Roche at a Phil Collins concert in the capital earlier in the night and an ambush was set up.

Mr Roche took his girlfriend to her northside home and was on his way back towards the southside of the city when the car, driven by his 32-year-old associate, came under fire.

The driver was subsequently arrested by gardai but refused to co-operate. He was released without charge and immediately went into hiding, as he feared he could be next on the hit list.

In contrast, the double murder of Darren Geoghegan and Gavin Byrne two nights earlier at Carrigwood in Firhouse was carefully planned.

The getaway car, stolen in Lisburn, Co Antrim, and the gun used in the attack were subsequently set on fire by the killers.

The suspect in garda custody last night had not been linked by detectives to either faction in the feud until recently.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, three men were being questioned by gardai last night about a gang feud which has resulted in nine shootings in the past three years.

The feud is being waged by neighbouring gangs based in the Coolock area on the northside of Dublin.

The suspects, all in their 20s, were arrested by armed detectives after a 24-year-old man was shot in the thigh at a house at Ardara Avenue, The Donahies, Donaghmede, on Monday.