By Cormac Looney
Wednesday March 18 2009
THE MURDER of gangster Shay O'Byrne has been linked to the emergence a new breed of younger, more violent type of criminal within Crumlin's two feuding crime gangs.
The outfits, led by Freddie Thompson on one side and the jailed head of the Rastas on the other, have been engaged in a devastating dispute for the past eight years, which has claimed 14 lives to date.
Shay O'Byrne, who was a trusted and loyal lieutenant of the jailed boss, became the latest victim when he was shot dead outside the home he shared with his partner, Sharon Rattigan, at Tymon North in Tallaght, on Friday.
While his family have denied that O'Byrne was involved in criminality, sources indicate he regularly featured in intelligence reports for his links to serious drugs crime.
He was regarded as the second-in-command of the Rastas and his murder has been seen by gardai as a significant escalation in violence associated with the feud. Officers are treating it as the most significant murder in the dispute since that of O'Byrne's close pal Gary Bryan (31), who was shot dead in September 2006.
The suspects for O'Byrne's murder are not on the higher rungs within the Thompson gang, but younger and more volatile criminals who have been recruited by senior figures to oversee drug supply on the streets, and collect debts from addicts.
A fifth man (31) was in custody today for the killing - suspected of withholding information.
One source described the younger gang membership as the "junior team", criminals who have been raised within the feud and who are carrying out attacks on each other, on properties, and on innocent people on the basis of a grudge which arose when they themselves were just children.
A source said: "Leading players in the underworld tend to have a short shelf life. There are very few major street criminals over 40. So the first wave within each gang is now in their late 20s and early 30s -- which effectively makes them grandads in gang terms. The older lads are smart and will never touch firearms or drugs. We stop them a couple of times a week, search their cars and there's never a sniff of drugs or firearms.
"In fact these older guys are happy to be stopped. It gives them street cred and if it's known that they're under heavy surveillance it's less likely that there will be an attack on them." The source added: "Even though they do not carry the weapons or the drugs you can be sure that the stuff is close by. With one phone call they can access a firearm, which can be delivered in minutes, particularly in their strong-holds in the south inner city and Crumlin.
"For example it's quite likely that the weapon in the O'Byrne murder was only handed to the killer just minutes, if not seconds, before the shooting occurred."
The murder of O'Byrne is similar to a number of others linked to the feud. Like his pal Gary Bryan, he was targeted when he was with his family, and innocent relatives and children were close by when the shooting occurred.
But what shocked gardai in last week's shooting is the fact that smallscale gang members carried out the murder, and that the heavy hitters within the Thompson gang are not suspected in relation to the killing.
The source said: "When violence and shootings occurred previously in the Crumlin feud, we could almost name the shooter in seconds. The same guys did the work, they had experience and they were relatively efficient.
"A good example would be Paddy Doyle, who worked as Thompson gang enforcer. He was older, more reliable and had hits under his belt.
"But the suspects for last week's attack are the opposite. Two of four men arrested are in their mid-20s and one is his late teens. This is the new wave and this is their first big hit."
Investigating gardai believe that the immediate motive for the killing is a tit-for-tat series of shootings carried out by two groups of younger criminals on either side of the gang divide, which have occurred in the greater Crumlin area since Christmas.
The attacks have seen houses and people targeted, usually from vehicles.
There have been no injuries from the drive-by shootings, but the six or so incidents have led to heightened tension between the gangs. All of the attacks have been caused by inter-gang feuding over drug supply to south and west Dublin.
Gardai believe that younger Thompson associates decided to kill O'Byrne to make their mark, impress their boss, and build their own reputations.
A source said: "The group involved in the O'Byrne killing took a very high-risk bet. They have elevated themselves to big players but the price is massive. The jailed gang boss was very close to O'Byrne and he will have to be seen to act. For the immediate future the rule on the streets of Crumlin will be 'get or be got'. It's a nightmare situation because innocent people are in the firing line.
"Sharon Rattigan witnessed her partner being murdered and was herself shot, all in front of her newborn child -- an unbelievably traumatic experience."
Despite recent overtime cutbacks, extra armed gardai were deployed in Crumlin in recent days in attempts to calm the situation.
A tentative peace, brokered between individuals on both sides of the feud, had prevailed for three months before last Friday's attack.
The source said: "The Christmas feud was worked out with the blessing of senior gang members. You could deal with these guys to some extent, they were that bit older and had families.
"But the new young crew have no commitments. Their life is on the street, they consume large amounts of alcohol and cocaine on a daily basis.
"As a result they are impossible to deal with, or reason with to any degree.
"And they are now trapped in a kill or be killed situation, so you can imagine how unstable the whole thing is."
The source added: "Before last week we would have been happy to get people down around a table to try to put the peace on a firmer footing.
"But O'Byrne's murder has wrecked all that.
"The only certainty now is that we'll have more violence."
- Cormac Looney