A feud between two of Dublin's major criminal families has descended into deadly violence, with both sides taking to the city's streets to settle scores.
Last Friday, a six-strong armed gang rushed a boxing weigh-in at Dublin's Regency Hotel. Wearing Gardai-style rapid response uniforms and armed with two AK-47 rifles, the masked gunmen opened fire on the auditorium, before quickly disappearing into the city. One of their alleged targets, 34-year-old David Byrne, was dead, and two others lay wounded.
Since then, police have set up checkpoints around the city, and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has called for calm as her government attempts to slow a cycle of violence that is quickly gathering momentum.
Initial confusion over who was responsible for the shooting was exacerbated by a statement released after the incident and published by the BBC. A man claiming to be a member of dissident group the Continuity IRA (CIRA) said the organisation had carried out the attack and would be targeting more gangland figures. Some local experts were doubtful of the CIRA's involvement in what appeared to be a calculated mob hit, rather than a violent political statement.
An authenticated statement released by the CIRA late on Monday confirmed this suspicion: "The Continuity IRA wish to make it clear that we did not have any involvement in Friday's shooting at the Regency Hotel. We have absolutely no involvement in criminal feuds. We see the false claim that the CIRA were involved in this act as another attempt to tarnish the name of the organisation."
Instead, it's believed that a gangland rivalry is to blame.
Attending the weigh-in was Daniel Kinahan, son of Christy Kinahan, considered to be Ireland's leading crime boss and the head of an international drug smuggling operation based in Spain's Costa Del Sol. It is thought that Daniel was the intended target of the raid and that the Hutch family – a two-generation Dublin crime dynasty and former allies of the Kinahans – were responsible.
The Hutch family became notorious in Ireland after 24-year-old Gerry Hutch was named as a suspect in two of the most lucrative robberies the country had ever seen, the IR£1.7 million robbery of an armoured van in 1987 and the IR£3 million armed robbery of a security depot in 1995. However, Hutch – nicknamed "The Monk" because of his religious beliefs and humble lifestyle – was never prosecuted. Instead, in 2007, he paid the Irish government over €1.5 million in "owed" taxes and retired, saying he would be spending his time between Dublin and the Canary Islands.
As the younger generation of the Hutch dynasty rose to authority, they gravitated towards the drug trade, working alongside the other major Dublin crime faction, the Kinahans. Gary Hutch, nephew of Gerry Hutch and a convicted armed robber and drug dealer, had even been a housemate and friend of Daniel Kinahan's at one stage – but the alliance wouldn't last.
In late 2015, Gary was shot dead in a Spanish apartment complex, reportedly because Christy Kinahan believed he had stolen over €100,000 from the gang while working for them. This was the first time a member of the Hutch family had been targeted in such a way, and it's this incident that is thought to have led to the attempted murder on Friday of Daniel Kinahan and other senior Kinahan gang members. The suspected killer is known to Garda as an associate of Gerry Hutch.
Video footage from the weigh-in attack was still doing the rounds when, on Monday evening at around 7.45PM, 59-year-old father of five Eddie Hutch was gunned down by masked shooters in the hallway of his home on Poplar Row in Dublin's northside.
Described as a "quiet man", Eddie was Gerry Hutch's brother. Although he had a record, he had managed to keep away from most major criminal activity and made his living as a taxi driver. However, as the two feuding sides flex their muscle, extended family members and associates have seemingly become fair game. Following Friday's attack, police have moved Gary's brother, Derek Hutch, to the special protection wing at Wheatfield Prison, where he is currently serving time for manslaughter. He's already been the target of attacks within the prison.
At a two-hour long press conference yesterday, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan addressed the events, saying: "We will stand down this threat from these gangs, and the garda will have every resource that they need in order to have the kind of armed response that is necessary and the kind of saturation policing that we need to see."
Fitzgerald went on to explain that a permanent armed response unit would be created to deal with gangland activity as a direct result of the weekend's murders.
It's unlikely that Monday's murder will be the final act of violence in this feud, but the people of Dublin can do little but wait and watch. Meanwhile, the Irish intelligence services are coordinating with Spanish security authorities in an attempt to deal with the situation.
A looming election in Ireland will not afford politicians room to manoeuvre past difficult questions, and this current crisis brings the unresolved issue of Ireland's criminal underworld to the fore. The management of Dublin's gangland and maintaining public safety are topics that require action, not posturing, before a civilian is caught in the crossfire.
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