Gardai braced for gang violence surge
By Jim Cusack
Sunday January 11 2009
Gardai in Dublin are anticipating an outbreak of gangland violence after two murders and at least three attempted murders in the opening week of the New Year.
The long-running feud between two gangs in the south inner city is fully expected to flare up after members of the two gangs bumped into each other in a city-centre take-away in the early hours of January 3.
One man was struck on the head with a hammer and then repeatedly kicked in the head as he lay senseless on the floor. The victim is still in hospital and it is not yet known if his injuries will cause permanent brain damage.
Shortly before that attack, a gunman called at a flat in Pearse Street, pointed a gun at a man who answered the door and pulled the trigger. The gun failed to fire. Gardai said the victim was an entirely innocent person and they believe it was a case of mistaken identity. They have yet to find the intended victim.
Then, within the space of two hours on Wednesday evening last, two men were murdered in central Dublin and another shot and severely wounded at a house in Kinsealy in north Dublin. The Kinsealy victim is expected to recover, despite being shot in the chest and neck.
Gardai admitted last week that they are uncertain as to why gangland violence has flared again in the city. Despite an amount of conjecture, gardai do not know the reasons for the murders of Michael 'Roly' Cronin, 35, and his associate James Moloney, 26, a man with no known serious criminal involvement, in Summerhill in the south inner city at 8.40pm last Wednesday.
While it was known that Cronin was at odds with other drug dealers in the Finglas, Coolock and Blanchardstown areas, it was not clear why he was back in his old neighbourhood in Summerhill in the north inner city where other gangs control the drugs -- particularly heroin -- supply in the city centre.
Gardai have a firm suspect for the double murder, a man in his early 20s from the north inner city area, described as a relatively minor gangland figure. The gunman was in the back seat of Cronin's car as it pulled into Langrishe Place off Summerhill. He apparently shot Cronin, who was driving, in the head, and the car crashed into a barrier. He then turned the gun on Moloney, shooting him twice in the head.
Two hours after the double killing, a gunman forced his way into a house in Drynam Drive about six miles away in Kinsealy, then rampaged through the house looking for his 29-year-old victim.
A young woman visiting the house with her baby was cornered in a bathroom where the gunman pointed his gun at her. His victim was hiding in a bedroom barring the door and the gunman fired through it, hitting him twice.
It is believed that a drug gang from the Coolock and Darndale area was behind the attack, which is not thought to be linked with the shooting in the north inner city.
Senior garda sources said last week that while they were anticipating violence in the Finglas and other north-western areas of the city, the double killing in the north inner city and the rekindling of the south-city feud are worrying developments.
As it does every few years, the character of the gangland scene in Dublin is changing, and younger, and, according to gardai, more ruthless gangs are yet again emerging.
The targeting and murder of Roly Cronin fits in with this pattern as it is possible that he had simply run up against one of these emerging young gangs.
Cronin had been involved in the drugs trade since his teens, and he received a 13-year sentence for possession of heroin in 1996. He enjoyed the usual trappings of drugs wealth -- expensive holidays, upmarket cars and a generally lavish lifestyle.
He lived with his partner and child in Buckingham Street, a short distance from where he died, for a number of years but had moved to Finglas last year, apparently after running into trouble with other drug dealers in the north inner city.
Gardai in the city divisions on both sides of the Liffey expressed concern last week that the new young gangs, aged mainly in their late teens and early 20s, are causing a great deal of trouble. They are putting intense pressure on their younger teenage street dealers and any drug seizures by gardai or losses of earnings are punished with severe violence. These gangs are mainly involved in heroin dealing. They are also unafraid of the established, older gang figures in the city.
Senior sources also said that with cutbacks on the garda budgets, there are strict controls on overtime, with detectives being made to work general office hours which is curtailing murder investigations. They also claimed that there appears to be relatively little interest expressed in the gangland crime from senior garda management.
One pointed out that while three very senior gardai attended the investigation of one very high profile "domestic" murder last year, none has been seen near any of the ordinary gangland murder scenes or other less high profile killings in the city.
- Jim Cusack