Sunday, 28 October 2007

Inefficiency and lack of vision mean gang deaths go unsolved

Inefficiency and lack of vision mean gang deaths go unsolved
The very public execution of John Daly last week brings the murder toll relating to gangs in Finglas to 49 -- and all but a handful remain unsolved, writes Jim Cusack

By Jim Cusack

Sunday October 28 2007

One of the most frequent sights on RTE's recent news coverage is of its crime correspondent, Paul Reynolds, standing in a suburban working-class estate reporting details of the latest gangland slaying in Dublin.

Paul is by now familiar with the route from Montrose or his home to Ratoath Drive or Cloonlara Drive in Finglas, where the latest victim met his end. Increasingly, Paul's reports end with the observation that, given the Garda track record, there is little prospect of the latest murder being solved.

He is absolutely correct. A tally of gangland killings in or emanating from gangs in Finglas over the past decade shows that there were 49 murders, only three of which have gone to court. Figures released by the gardai a few weeks ago give a total of around 240 unsolved murders in the same period, most of them gun killings.

If it wasn't for the fact that John Daly previously made national headlines by phoning Joe Duffy on Liveline from his cell in Portlaoise prison, his death would have barely merited more than a few lines on RTE and inside-page reports in newspapers.

Daly's murder had been widely predicted since his release from prison only a few months ago. The entire criminal fraternity was angry with him for bringing attention to the use of mobile phones by prisoners, and the ensuing big sweep which led to almost 2,000 being seized from inmates. He was a particularly dumb criminal with a knack for making enemies both within and outside prison.

One of the main suspects in his murder -- a Dublin detective quipped last week that they had narrowed the list down to "around 2,000 suspects" -- is the current drug boss in Finglas, a 27-year-old who rose to prominence this year following the murder of gang leader Martin "Marlo" Hyland last December.

Finglas, along with several other working-class areas of Dublin and Limerick, has been on a downward spiral of gang violence since the mid-1990s. Gang bosses are assuming power younger and also dying younger than ever before. They are so young and inconsequential that they no longer even merit newspaper nicknames.

The criminal assets legislation introduced after the murder of journalist Veronica Guerin has meant that they can't enjoy splashing out and profile building with the cash they are amassing from drug sales. They live in anonymous suburbs, often a bit away from their home turf, in modest private developments on the outskirts of the city and holiday in Spain -- where they might own nondescript "villas".

Ten years ago it would have been unheard of for someone to claim to be a "crime boss" at the age of 27. The Penguins, Generals and Monks of that era were substantial figures who spent their money in style, seeking social advancement and paying for private education for their children so they wouldn't suffer the social deprivation and lack of schooling their parents had endured.

Finglas's first major drug gang was led by Peter Judge, who was 41 when he was shot dead by the IRA as he sat in his car outside the Royal Oak pub on December 7, 1996. Judge had earned himself the newspaper soubriquet "Psycho" due to his gruesome murder of a local small-time criminal, Jock Corbally, over a small debt.

In that period, post the first ceasefire in the North, the IRA leadership had decided to keep its volunteers busy by ordering the execution of known drug dealers in Dublin and Belfast. Around 30 were assassinated -- including at least five in Finglas, where they also murdered the main heroin supplier, Joseph Foran, in February 2000. The policy was politically motivated. It made the IRA and its rising political wing, Sinn Fein, popular in working-class areas like Finglas beset by drugs and crime. The subsequent election successes with two TDs and 13 Sinn Fein councillors in Dublin was due, in part, to this policy.

However, the IRA murder spree had side effects that were to change and worsen organised crime in Dublin. The disruption of the main gangs led by older, wiser criminals paved the way for the emergence of younger and wilder gangs.

It also led to the complete corruption of the IRA itself, whose Dublin members began selectively killing some dealers and taking protection money from others. Some men who had been in the Concerned Parents Against Drugs (CPAD) marches were now hand-in-glove with the drug traffickers. Recently, some former CPAD members have actually become traffickers. The public awareness and disgust over this decline into drug dealing by IRA figures in Dublin partly explains Sinn Fein's recent decline in popularity.

Following the executions of Judge and Foran and a number of their associates in Finglas, the way was open for the rise of Shane Coates and Stephen Sugg and their gang, known as "The Westies". Coates and Sugg had been in the Garda's sights since their teenage years as a pair of wild young thieves who had aspirations and a taste for violence.

Their first move up the drug- dealing tree was to murder 43-year-old dealer Pascal Boland, whom they shot dead at his home in Mulhuddart in January 2002. They became bigger and bolder, at one point controlling almost half the heroin supply in Dublin. When they were cornered in a shoot-out with gardai in Co Meath at the end of 2003 and had to flee the country, Dublin experienced one of the worst heroin droughts in years. Garda attrition wore the Westies down and the gang disin-

tegrated. Coates, 31, and Sugg, still only 27, were eventually deposed. Their escape to Spain was not enough to save them. Their bodies were found buried under a concrete slab in January 2004.

The murders of Sugg and Coates brought another round of bloodletting as a number of gangs vied for supremacy in Finglas. Around 20 murders have taken place in or around Finglas since their deaths, including another in Spain. No single big gang has emerged in the area since; rather, three medium-sized gangs: one a gang of ATM robbers led by the 27-year-old suspected of murdering John Daly; and the other led by Marlo Hyland until his murder last December along with the innocent 20-year-old apprentice plumber, Anthony Campbell.

According to local sources, there is an inherent instability in the current situation. Hyland's gang has broken up and had to make way for the other two, currently major gangs, but the gangland scene in Finglas and its neighbouring working-class suburbs from Coolock to Blanchardstown is dangerously fractured. Alliances have been formed by gang leaders during time spent in prison, with outside gangs including those from Limerick, who have brought their own brand of madness to the Dublin scene.

The murder of John Daly has yet again highlighted the inefficiencies and lack of vision in tackling crime here.

There are fewer gardai working in the "K" district -- which covers Finglas, Blanchardstown and Cabra -- than there were 20 years ago. The "K" is only one troubled part of the Dublin Metropolitan Region (DMR) West, which stretches from Coolock and Blanchardstown in the north and north-west to Ballyfermot in the south and as far out as Rathcoole in the west. This division has only one chief superintendent, the recently appointed John Twomey, one detective superintendent, Hubert Collins and one uniformed superintendent, Hugh Hartnett.

Most of the unsolved murders in this State -- including the 49 in the "K" district alone -- are in DMR West. Yet, rural divisions like Carlow/Kildare or Tipperary, which have no organised crime, have exactly the same management structures and roughly similar numbers of gardai.

The Garda Reserve, an outfit which has no function in detecting or even dealing with crime, let alone serious crime, has only 170 volunteers -- yet it, too, has a chief superintendent, superintendent and other middle-ranking gardai to run it.

DMR West is, according to detectives, utterly overwhelmed. Yet it continues to be treated as though it were a rural backwater in terms of resources. One local detective recently discovered that there are as many detectives in Longford as there are in any of the DMR West stations.

Following yet another spate of gangland murders two years ago, Commissioner Noel Conroy appointed an additional 50 gardai to detective duties based in Harcourt Square, specifically to target gangland violence.

The "Nifty Fifty", as they are nicknamed, have been working tirelessly, gathering intelligence, carrying out surveillance and have had remarkable success given that most are young and relatively inexperienced in detective work. But colleagues say these young crime fighters are becoming increasingly disillusioned at their growing realisation that, if they had opted for safer, uncomplicated duties not involving crime detection, they would stand a much better chance of career enhancement.

As one pointed out: "These are great young gardai, but if they got themselves office jobs they would be better off. They see people who sit on their arses all day getting jobs. The fellow who stops people for tax and insurance is likely to be promoted more quickly."

The killing in DMR West will continue. As well as criminals killing criminals, innocent people are dying, such as Anthony Campbell, Eddie Ward (shot dead while fixing a car for criminal Brian Downes two weeks ago), Donna Cleary (shot dead at a party in Coolock in March last year) and Baiba Saulite (shot dead last November by Marlo Hyland's mob).

It's no coincidence they all were murdered by criminals from DMR West.

- Jim Cusack

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