Shootings and grenade attacks are common, but a defiled corpse marks a new low in gangland battles to control the drug trade
Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
The Observer, Sunday 19 July 2009
Dublin's gangland murder rate is now running at almost three killings per month, with the turf wars taking a ghoulish twist last week when a corpse was defaced by rivals who broke into a funeral parlour.
On Friday, Anthony Cannon became the 20th, and latest, victim of the feuds running between gangs in the city. He was targeted because he fired into the home of the grandparents of a well-known gangster, garda sources revealed this weekend. Gardai had recently warned him that his life was in danger. At the time of his murder, he was on bail awaiting assault charges.
Cannon was the 15th person murdered in the so-called "Crumlin-Drimnagh feud" between two rival gangs running the illicit drugs trade in Dublin's south inner city. Three other murders since the start of 2009 are connected to a separate feud between rival gangs in the north inner city and one killing involved a Dublin criminal murdered in southern Spain. Another murder is linked to an ongoing feud in the Cabra district of the city.
The current crop of the so-called "soldiers" involved with warring criminal factions in the city are wholly different from the initial wave of gangsters that first brought hard drugs into Ireland in the early 1980s. Unlike this previous generation of criminals, the present gangs not only control the drugs trade but are themselves habitual cocaine users, which the gardai believe has increased their propensity for using violence to settle scores with rivals.
Along with the penchant for cocaine, this new generation of gangsters is getting younger. During searches last week in north Dublin, garda detectives questioned a 15-year-old boy who had in his possession a high-powered automatic Glock pistol.
Cannon, 26, who had convictions for assault, drug possession and traffic offences, was shot in the head twice as he ran away from two men on a motorcycle in the Ballyfermot area of south Dublin on Friday afternoon. He was wearing a bulletproof vest and was gunned down in front of women and children.
His death was ordered by a notorious south Dublin criminal who spends a lot of time in his homes in southern Spain. At the time of the shooting he was understood to be staying on the Costa del Sol.
In the early hours of yesterday morning two houses in the Clondalkin area were raked with gunfire, although garda sources said the shootings were not linked to the "Crumlin-Drimnagh" feud. No one was injured in either attack.
Even before Cannon's murder, tensions in the city were running high following a bizarre incident involving the body of a gang member from north Dublin on Monday.
David Byrne's body was defaced with a pen while lying in the Jennings Funeral Home on Dublin's Amiens Street. The 26-year-old father-of-one had died from injuries he received at the start of June while inside Mountjoy prison. Byrne had been beaten with a sock stuffed with batteries after a row over a television remote control in the jail's recreation area.
Vandals broke into the funeral parlour and scrawled "Rats" and "I'm not gone" in red pen on the dead man's forehead. Byrne was buried on Tuesday at the Fingal cemetery in Co Dublin.
The incident is thought to be linked to the feud between a gang run by jailed Dublin criminal Christy Griffin and a rival group in the north inner city. It has resulted in the deaths of two men, as well as gun and grenade attacks on a number of homes in north Dublin since the beginning of this year.
Members of the Griffin gang have vowed revenge for the defilement of Byrne's corpse and at least one member of the rival group has been offered round-the-clock police protection since the funeral.
Out of the 20 Dublin gangland murders this year, charges have only been brought in relation to two men. At least three of the feuds are linked in some way to the control of the heroin and cocaine trade in the city. At least one gang is trying to call in drug debts in order to pay off Colombian gangsters following the loss of a huge shipment of cocaine off the Irish coast last year.
Gardai are on high alert this weekend as fears grow for retaliatory attacks following the death of Cannon. As with every gangland murder this year, garda detectives have good intelligence about who is responsible and in the Cannon case were aware of the main suspect's name within an hour of the shooting, although his whereabouts are unknown.
In response to one of the bloodiest years in Irish gangland violence the Fianna Fáil/Green Party government has introduced new legislation which would allow senior garda officers to tell courts that they believed certain suspects in court were members of crime gangs. It would then be up to judges and juries to decide whether or not to take the word of officers from the rank of superintendent upwards as evidence against these suspects. However more than 100 Irish criminal lawyers have said the Criminal Justice (Amendment) Bill contravenes the European Human Rights Act and would be challenged through the Irish and European courts.
Associations representing rank and file gardai meanwhile say proposed policing cuts as part of an overall €5.3bn (£4.5bn) cost-cutting public service programme will further emasculate the force in its fight against the crime gangs. Overtime for detectives has already been cut back while the murders and shootings across Dublin continue apace.