Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
The Observer, Sunday 24 August 2008
The gangland war against Dublin criminal John Gilligan has shifted to Spain's Costa del Sol. Gardai believe that the attempted murder of a former member of Gilligan's drugs gang in Andalusia was linked to threats against the crime boss. Peter Mitchell was shot outside a bar on a complex in Puerto Banus, near Marbella, on Thursday night.
Two other people wounded in the shooting were innocent bystanders from Ireland, says the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs. One of the two other victims was a 73-year-old Irishman.
Spanish police were waiting yesterday to interview 39-year-old Mitchell, who is expected to make a full recovery from his injuries. Mitchell, who fled to Spain in 1996, had been one of a number of gangsters targeted in a major state operation against the Gilligan gang.
Security sources in the Republic last night linked the murder bid on the Spanish coast to a new campaign by rival Irish criminals against Gilligan and his associates.
Earlier this month it was revealed that Gilligan was receiving 24-hour protection inside Portlaoise to safeguard him from other prisoners.
Rival criminals are angry over his recent interview in Irish pop magazine Hot Press, via a mobile phone. This contributed to a security crackdown, which has affected the operations of other gang leaders inside.
A Gardai source said: 'Up until then, a number of jailed criminals were still able to run their empires from inside. Now they can't communicate with their teams and they blame Gilligan for that.
'Gilligan was badly beaten up by a young Dublin criminal in front of other inmates. And these rivals are not just prepared to go after him it seems; they have the team and the firepower to hunt down the remaining members of his old gang, most of whom are now in Spain.'
In recent years the Irish underworld, alongside the Russian mafia and British gangsters, have fought for control of the lucrative drugs trade in southern Spain.