Monday, 13 February 2006

Father claims he knows who gunned down his son

Monday February 13 2006
THE father of Dara McCormack, who was shot dead in west Dublin on Saturday night, says he knows who killed his son.

This year's first gangland slaying victim had been attacked in the past few weeks by a machete-wielding gang in an incident possibly related to an unpaid debt, Dublin gardai believe.

McCormack (22), of Whitestown Park in Clonsilla, was shot in the back by two men armed with a shotgun shortly after 9.30 on Saturday night.

He had left his home and was chased a short distance to a local green area where the gunmen pulled the trigger.

A man and a woman were arrested yesterday in connection with the killing. They are being questioned by gardai, who believe McCormack knew his killers.

Yesterday, his father Thomas said his son was not a drug dealer but confirmed he had been involved in a separate incident in recent weeks. He also said he had a good idea who had killed his son.

"Dara worked hard. He didn't finish work until 8.30 on Saturday night, and he left here to just go out," Mr McCormack told the Irish Independent. "He offered his younger sister a fiver to press his jeans. He only had €50 on him, so he wasn't going far with only that much money.

Asked whether he knew who had committed the crime, Mr McCormack said: "Yes, I know who did it."

He said Dara was the third youngest in the family and worked in the construction industry.

Shortly after he left home on Saturday, neighbours reported hearing gunshots at the scene.

One local man hurried up to the McCormack household to tell them what had happened. Dara was bleeding profusely when he was rushed to Connolly Hospital but was pronounced dead shortly before 11pm.

"I just heard these bangs, I don't know if was more than one shot or just one that echoed," said one local man.

"By the time I got out there was a small crowd starting to gather to offer help but I believe the lad was in a bad way," the neighbour concluded.

Gardai are keeping an open mind on how the killers fled. A section of local parkland and local footpaths linking housing estates in the area were sealed off pending technical examination.

Members of the Garda technical bureau were also examining the scene.

Yesterday, the victim's younger sister, Ashley (18), described her brother as "a loving bloke. He left a text on my phone on my 18th birthday which said 'I love you, sis, happy birthday'," she said.

"Dara was a lunatic, very funny and had a great sense of humour," another sister said. "He would go with the flow, he never worried about anything. He did have a row a few weeks ago but that seemed to be gone from his mind when he went out last night."

Gardai fear that the killing could spark another upsurge in gun violence and reprisal attacks among Dublin criminal elements.

Last year saw an escalation of such activity, with November being a particularly violent month, when three members of rival gangs from the Crumlin and Drimnagh areas were killed.

Sunday, 12 February 2006

Gardai 's worst fears: a new phase of gang warfare begins

Sunday Tribune

The detection of two pipe-bombs in Dublin last week shocked the public, but that was only the tip of the iceberg. . .
John Burke
ALTHOUGH ESB fisheries protection officers had prepared them for the "significant" amount of weaponry they had stumbled upon at an ammunitions dump in Co Clare, garda detectives were still astonished at the huge numbers of bomb detonators and mercury that had been recovered.

The massive haul, discovered in March 2004 near the Ardnacrusha power station, may have been found accidentally, but the gardai were in no doubt about its significance: this was clear evidence that dissident republicans possessed significant bombmaking capacity.

Last week, with the discovery of two pipe-bombs in Dublin, their worst fears were realised. Gangs have now developed access to and expertise in bomb-making and have no qualms about using them. A new phase in gang warfare has begun.

Although there was little media focus on the find in Clare two years ago, alarm bells went off at garda headquarters.

Senior officers believed that it represented a new level of collaboration between disaffected republicans and criminal gangs in the state.

Intelligence indicated that the haul . . . comprising almost 1,000 rounds of ammunition, detonators and mercury . . .

was destined for one of three Limerick crime gangs engaged in a bloody feud.

The city's gangs had used bombs against each other before but they had been crude in construction at best.

Firearms, in particular sawnoff shotguns and, occasionally, high-performance handguns, were still the predominant weapon of choice in attempted killings.

But the presence of mercury in the find was unusual.

It is a sophisticated element used to construct timingswitches . . . a method favoured in the construction of semtex-based explosives by the provisional IRA and dissident IRA groups. It makes the devices more reliable and means that the gangs who use them could be much more confident that they would explode when and where they were supposed to.

In the aftermath of the 1998 Omagh bombing, dissident republican organisations . . .

both the Real IRA and Continuity IRA groupings . . . had been decimated by highlyeffective investigations by the garda special detective unit (SDU), in conjunction with the FBI and British security services.

But the success of the SDU detectives was to leave a small core of highly experienced bomb-makers without a paramilitary hierarchy under which they would operate. Many had previously plied their trade for the Provisional IRA.

Now, having been discouraged by theProvo leadership from working as freelance bomb-makers, under penalty of punishment, they had followed the IRA's former Provo quarter master general, Dundalk-man Michael McKevitt, into the new Real IRA.

By 2003, however, the SDU had succeeded in locking McKevitt away for 20 years for his role in directing terrorism.

Once again the former Provos were leaderless and ready to work for the highest bidder. Garda sources told the Sunday Tribune that a small core of these bombmakers . . . less than three or four people, one of whom is based in Dundalk and another based in the Munster region . . . may now be constructing bombs for criminal gangs for as little as several hundred euro per bomb.

Some of the bomb-makers are believed to cross over between freelance bombmaking and membership of a splinter group of ex-Real IRA dissidents, who are loyal to another senior dissident, Liam Campbell (42), a farmer from Upper Faughart in Co Louth, who is also serving a five-year jail term in Portlaoise prison for membership of the dissident IRA group.

Campbell, who was McKevitt's second in command, has split from his former leader over what direction the antiBelfast Agreement IRA-men should take.

Some experts have argued that a disproportionate focus of garda resources on tackling, and ultimately crushing, dissident republican groups in the aftermath of the Omagh bomb, allowed the young and emerging members of Dublin's and Limerick's criminal underworld to increase in strength by developing strong links with expatriate criminals who are believed to be sourcing drugs for transit into Ireland via Continental Europe.

That focus of resources has since been reversed, with the deployment of a special organised crime taskforce under Chief Superintindent Noel White. Simultaneously, Operation Anvil, the large-scale monitoring of criminal gangs in Dublin, continues under the close supervision of Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy.

The detection of a pipe bomb at a businessman's premises in Coolock last Wednesday may have come as a shock to the general public, but gardai expected it and expect worse to come. In fact, the Coolock device was the third explosive device used by criminal elements in the city in the last three months.

Since Wednesday, another device has been detonated at the home of a family living in Kilbarrack on Dublin's northside.

The increased deployment of pipe-bombs by organised crime gangs has been particularly notable since last year, and there is nothing to suggest that it will be a shortlived trend.

On 25 November last, gardai seized a pipe bomb in a vehicle near Dublin airport.

The device was connected to magnets which allowed it to be fitted to a targeted car.

Again, it contained a mercury tilt switch, indicating to gardai that it was manufactured for criminals by a dissident republican specialist.

A fortnight later, gardai seized another primed bomb at the M50 toll plaza.

Luckily, neither device was detonated and in the case of the M50 bomb, gardai arrested a man who was carrying the device in his car.

The device found last Wednesday was a standard pipe-bomb in its construction. Using a Thermos flask as casing, the bomb consisted of a six-inch long metal pipe and contained a large quantity of gunpowder, such as is used to propel a shot from a shotgun cartridge.

Based around this were nails and cartridge-shot . . . tiny balls of steel. The effect of this explosion would be to cause indiscriminate carnage within a short radius. Luckily for those within the proximity of several hundred yards, the bomb was dislodged from where it was placed on the back of a car in a car lot, which caused its content to spill away from the casing. When it did explode, the shrapnel from the exploded pipe penetrated the shell of several nearby cars . . . indicating the potential for damage that could have been caused if the device had remained intact when it detonated.

When armed gardai, working on intelligence, intercepted the car at the M50 toll plaza in December, they discovered the explosive device contained in a lunchbox in a baby seat.

Using a remote-control bomb-disposal robot, members of the army's bomb-disposal unit injected water into the device to dampen the gunpowder and diminish the impact of detonation.

The explosion of a similar bomb, at a family home in Kilbarrack at around midnight on Thursday last, is not believed to be connected to Wednesday's incident. It is not yet clear whether Thursday's device was manufactured for use by a criminal gang and investigating detectives have not ruled out the possibility that it may have been motivated by a personal grudge against an innocent family.

The trend in the use of explosives as part of a turf war among organised crime gangs presents a major challenge to the Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell and to the perception that the government is making serious efforts to tackle organised crime.

"We shouldn't just say it's a worry. It is despicable, " Michael McDowell said of the emerging trend of supplying bombs to criminals after the M50 seizure.

"A lot of people take the view that as long as these people do it to each other, there's no risk to anybody else. But bombs are bombs. Inevitably bystanders are going to get injured if this kind of violence does in fact get employed."
February 12, 2006

Saturday, 4 February 2006

Irish are among the 'highest cocaine users in Europe'

Saturday February 04 2006
Bernard Purcell
London Editor
IRELAND has among the highest cocaine use per capita in Europe, according to British National Crime and Intelligence Service (NCIS).

The biggest consumers of the drug are Spain, Ireland, the UK and the Netherlands, according to an NCIS report. Much of the drug is transited from Colombia across the Atlantic to the Iberian Peninsula - predominantly Spain and to a lesser degree, Portugal.

In Britain much of the cocaine that arrives in the country is turning up on the streets of London, Merseyside, Birmingham, Bristol, Nottingham and Leeds as the lethally addictive crack cocaine. The overall supply to the UK has been estimated at 35 to 45 tonnes. The preferred route for many traffickers, who include British and Irish, West African, South Asian and West Indian gangs, is through cargo routes.

Sometimes those who run the cargo routes are unwitting, other times complicit.

Shipments as big as 100kg, worth £3m (€4.4m) at current 'low' prices, have been intercepted. But some West Indian gangs favour individual traffickers and are smuggling in batches via couriers through regional airports.

The couriers then transit to other UK and European destinations including Dublin, Cork and Shannon.

The discovery of a 5kg batch of cocaine in two Irish passengers' luggage at a UK airport recently highlighted not just the growing popularity of the drug here, but the willingness of some people to try and smuggle it.

Its wide availability and relatively low wholesale price has attracted a new breed of non-career Irish traffickers drawn to the idea of a quick profit.

The 5kg consignment was worth - depending on how it is diluted - about €90 a gram. Drug trafficking between Britain and Ireland has been displaced as a major route in recent years by consignments - primarily cocaine - coming in from Spain and the Benelux countries. But UK Customs investigators have started to supply their Caribbean counterparts with sniffers - air samplers and ion tracker machines - which are also becoming much more widespread in UK airports.

Detection of minute traces of cocaine on clothing, baggage or skin, of which the passenger may be unaware, means the customs officers are likely to seize or track the passengers.

Scans of luggage in the holds of planes coming from cocaine hotspots like Spain or the Caribbean are also carried out unknown to the bags' owners.

Latest garda figures show that they seized a total of 300kg of cocaine in 2005.

This compares with only 165kg in 2004, 117kg in 2003, 32kg in 2002, and a mere 6kg in 2001.

In the meantime, cocaine usage has surpassed ecstasy and is now second to cannabis in the popularity table.