Gardaí fear Ireland's already brutal gang wars are reaching new levels of savagery as gunmen are no longer just 'sending out a message' and are treating innocent family members as 'legitimate targets'. Here we profile the feuds setting the benchmark for unbridled violence in Ireland's underworld
dublin / sheriff st
The country's most sordid and bitter feud originated in Sheriff Street in the heart of Dublin's north inner city. It has claimed three lives, led to several shootings and grenade attacks and has its roots in a series of rapes by paedophile gang boss Christy Griffin of his partner's young daughter.
Two opposing factions – one supporting Griffin and the other the young girl – emerged after news of the sexual assaults on the child emerged four years ago. Griffin (38), of Ridgewood Green in Swords, and formerly of Canon Lillis Avenue in Dublin 1, was last year handed down a life sentence for the rapes, which began in 1993, when the girl was just eight years old.
His trial had to be moved to a high-security setting at Cloverhill following violent clashes between both factions at the Four Courts and two murders in the inner city.
The most recent victim of the feud was shot dead three months ago. Anthony Russell (30) was gunned down as he sat drinking with friends in the Ardlea Inn, Artane, Dublin. Two men wearing balaclavas walked into the pub and singled Russell out.
At least one of the attackers was armed with a handgun and opened fire on the victim, wounding him several times in the upper body.
Russell was due to be married the following month. His partner and mother of his two children was in Belfast on Friday for her hen party when she was informed her fiancé had been shot dead. He had survived a gun attack at his home two years ago.
He was a career criminal and known to gardaí as a drug dealer and armed robber.
Russell was a member of a gang led by Griffin based in Sheriff Street in Dublin's north inner city and remained his close associate until his death. The gang specialised in drug dealing, armed robberies, truck hijackings and robberies in Dublin Port.
The gang worked closely with the Provisional IRA based in Dublin. However, Griffin sparked a massive split in the group when news that he raped a child became known to his criminal associates. Members of his own gang and other criminals from the Sheriff Street area split into two factions and soon became embroiled in a gang war. The feud was mainly contained to the north inner city but also spread to Finglas, Swords and parts of north Dublin.
In December 2006, as Griffin's rape trial approached, two men – Gerard Byrne and Stephen Ledden – were shot dead in feud-related attacks. Ledden (28), was shot in the head at Oriel Street, Dublin 1, in December 2006. Byrne (25), of Ferryman's Crossing, Dublin 1, was shot dead in the IFSC two weeks earlier.
Many people in the north inner city believed Anthony Russell had shot Gerard Byrne. Russell was one of a number of suspects for the Byrne killing. Gardaí investigating Russell's shooting believe it was most likely a revenge murder for that killing.
Before he was jailed for life, Griffin survived a gun attack in November 2005 and a grenade attack in November 2006. He later refused to cooperate with gardaí or identify his attacker.
Griffin's nephew, Colm, was shot dead by gardaí along with fellow armed robber, Eric Hopkins, during a raid on Lusk post office in May 2005. Despite the fact Griffin is in prison, gardaí believe Russell's murder is an indication the feud is still alive.
July 6, 2008