Sunday, 17 December 2006

IRA links to vicious criminals running our cities

By Jim Cusack

Sunday December 17 2006
IN THE ordinary run of things, the murders of Marlo Hyland, at his in Finglas home on Tuesday morning, and that of Gerard Byrne near the Financial Services Centre on Wednesday, should be two-day wonders which grabbed headlines and, for a moment, had the Government on the back foot over law and order.

But why did Anthony Campbell, a decent, hard-working young man who witnessed Hyland's murder, become a deliberate victim of the hired hit-men now operating in Dublin?

Despite the Taoiseach's apparent assurance that there was no evidence of IRA involvement, some well-placed Garda sources were last week insisting that there was no evidence that IRA or ex-IRA gunmen were not responsible.

For months, Garda surveillance teams had been monitoring Hyland's strange relationship with one of the most evil and dangerous figures thrown up by the Northern Troubles.

Dessie O'Hare was released almost two years ago, after serving 14 years of a 40-year sentence for kidnapping Dublin dentist John O'Grady. The 1987 abduction was one of the worst security crises in the history of the State but, for O'Hare, it was just one incident in a litany of terrorist crimes, including up to 30 murders of security force members in the North, Protestant civilians and members of his own republican terrorist community.

Since being paroled, O'Hare has been openly associating with members of the Dublin criminal underworld, most prominently the man named as the murderer of Veronica Guerin, Eugene Holland.

O'Hare was also covertly filmed in cars and in the company of Marlo Hyland, though there does not appear to have been any serious attempt to rearrest him over his obvious breach of parole conditions, which stipulate that he should not associate with criminals or terrorists.

Last weekend, a few days before Hyland's murder, O'Hare made the seemingly bizarre decision to visit Lourdes, though there has never been any indication that he was religious.

Some gardai believe he was providing himself with an alibi, and that he had been complicit in setting up Hyland for murder.

Given O'Hare's history of knocking off his erstwhile associates in the deadly Irish National Liberation Army, the theory is being treated seriously.

O'Hare is only the most high profile of the figures who developed their terrorist skills in the crucible of the Troubles and who, after it ended, decided to use their skills for profit in the Irish organised crime scene.

The chilling point about the murder of Anthony Campbell, the young plumber fixing a radiator in Hyland's house, is this: the murderers were very well prepared, knowing that Hyland's female relative and child left at a certain time every morning.

The hit was timed for that brief window, when Hyland was supposed to be alone in the house, and there would be no witnesses.

They would have seen Anthony Campbell start his work. At that point the killers made the decision that he too must be murdered.

Unlike "ordinary decent" criminals who could depend on simply threatening the young plumber, they made the judgment of professional killers: that the sole witness would be eliminated.

Anthony Campbell was murdered with a single shot to the head, also the mark of a trained, professional killer.

There is strong evidence that organised crime is being supplemented by the professional skills that were previously the preserve of only the IRA and one or two other terrorist groups.

There is also strong evidence that former IRA members, including men freed under the Good Friday Agreement, are now at the centre of organised crime in Ireland.

The manner of Gerard Byrne's murder last Wednesday has also given rise to suspicions that an outside killer did the job. He was shot dead with a single round to the back of the head, then shot four times.

This is reminiscent of two assassinations carried out by a former republican-turned-assassin in the border area, who shot dead former INLA boss Dominic McGlinchey's wife Mary, at her home in Dundalk, in 1987, and subsequently shot another ex-INLA man, 'Mad' Nicky O'Hare, also in Dundalk in November 2000.

A former IRA officer commanding (OC) is said to have been stood down at the start of 2004, after a series of media revelations about hijackings and other major crimes he was involved in. However, gardai say the man is still surrounded by former IRA associates, and has links to several major criminal endeavours, including drug and cigarette smuggling.

His predecessor as Dublin IRA OC is now based in Alicante and is using former IRA arms supply routes to ship drugs and cigarettes - often accompanied by weapons - to the Dublin crime gangs.

One man in his late 40s who was serving a large sentence for explosives, and released under the Good Friday Agreement, is also closely associated with one of the city's biggest heroin gangs, which has shipped huge amounts of the drug into Ireland.

This gang is run by a close relative who had connections with Sinn Fein in Dublin, but was not known as an IRA member. This younger man dropped his political connections as his drugs operations grew.

Another Belfast man, now in his 50s, who was released under the agreement, has also been linked to some of the tiger kidnappings in which families are held hostage while key-holders are brought to post offices, banks or business premises where money is held.

His gang was responsible for the tiger kidnapping in Rochestown in Cork in May last year, in which a businessman and his family were held hostage.

Two men were caught at the scene when the family was freed but the Belfast man escaped. He was later arrested and questioned but released for lack of evidence.

Gardai say he is still involved in crime, in the border and Dublin areas, where he has links to other former IRA man and is a continuing danger to the public.

- Jim Cusack

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