Gardaí and assassins’ bullets have taken down a generation
Just as the dust settles on the last of the gangs, new ones are emerging, writes Conor Lally
Steve Collins, with his family including his wife Carmel, son Steve jnr and daughter Leanne, outside the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times
Arguably the most dangerous criminal in the history of the Irish underworld, Wayne Dundon headed the McCarthy-Dundon murder machine that thought it was above the law. And for a while it was.
However the man who orchestrated the shooting dead of Roy Collins from behind bars for vengeance, is now serving a life sentence. He will be released, an old man, decades from now, only when the minister for justice of the day gives his approval. He is likely to be be among that tiny number of prisoners detained for four or five decades, such was the extent and cruelty of the network of violence he directed.
Now aged just 36, Wayne Dundon is part of a generation of gang leaders that sought to get rich on the explosion in the recreational drugs scene in boom time Ireland. However, of those who became well known since 2000, when the cocaine trade and gun feuds that went with it first exploded, almost all are now dead or in jail.
In Limerick, the McCarthy-Dundon gang, suspected of 12 murders, has been all but put out of business by the Garda. Securing the murder convictions against Wayne Dundon yesterday, and his brother John Dundon last year for the murder of rugby player Shane Geoghegan in 2008, was of great importance.
Six men have been jailed for life for other murders, including that of the Dundons’ main rival Kieran Keane in 2003 and in 2008, for the 2002 shooting murder of the head of security Brian Fitzgerald, who refused to allow the dealing of drugs in his night club.
Much of the rival Keane-Collopy crime syndicate has been similarly wiped out, dead or are in prison. The Limerick feud was a fast-moving news story for a decade, now it hardly exists any more. The same can be said of the main feuds in Dublin, the only other city in the State where the gang feuding is comparable to that of Limerick.
In Finglas in the northwest of the city, Marlo Hyland once ruled but was shot down by his own gang in 2006. His successor Eamon Dunne was dead just over three years later. The man who took over from Dunne has been warned by gardaí several times his life is in danger.
The Crumlin-Drimnagh feud, like Limerick, saw two groups of young men who hated each other unleash savage violence. One of the gang leaders, Brian Rattigan, is in prison serving life for a stabbing murder that began that killing spree that would cost 12 lives. Of those who are not dead, a clutch of murder convictions has resulted in the locking away of gunmen and those who paid or ordered them to kill. Others have fled to Spain.
In Blanchardstown in west Dublin, the other hot area for gun feuding, the collective referred to by the media as The Westies are long gone, almost every one of them is dead. Shane Coates (21) and Stephen Sugg (27) were shot dead in Spain in 2004 and buried in concrete under a warehouse, their bodies not found for almost three years. Bernard Sugg (23) was gunned down in 2003.
The rivals of the Suggs and Coates, brothers Andrew (30) and Mark Glennon (32), were shot dead in April 2005. In Coolock in north Dublin, a number of rival factions have killed key players on each side while others have been jailed.
Similar scenarios have played out in localised feuds in Sheriff Street in the north inner city, in Darndale and Baldoyle on the north side and Clondalkin in the west. All the while, the gang led by convicted drug dealer Christy Kinihane has remained the main drugs supplier to the Irish market from southern Spain and has counted the feuding factions as customers.
However, with the size and frequency of drug interceptions growing in recent years, the drugs trade shows signs of recovery as the economy starts to rise again. Just as the dust settles on the last generation, a new one is emerging.