The new John Gilligans
The crime scene John Gilligan knew in the 1990s is very different from today’s. A new generation of volatile young criminals is emerging
This led to a decade of feuds in Dublin and Limerick, with at least four gangs in the capital and one in Limerick having killed between 15 and 20 people each since 2000.
This has all occurred as the drug economy first boomed, then crashed, then grew again. Garda drug seizures fell from more than €100 million in 2007 and 2008 to €28 million in 2010. They have risen again, however, to €115 million last year.
The number of people shot dead is likely to be in the mid to high teens, rather than in the low 20s, by the end of the year. Much of the feuding linked to the cocaine trade has also fallen, as many of the gang leaders have been killed and others jailed.
Some have also fled Ireland and settled abroad, mostly in southern Spain, from where they supply their contacts in Ireland. “They feel they can spend the money they earn, buying flash cars, living in nice villas and apartments and generally living it up,” says a Garda source.
“They can still make money in Ireland, but it’s harder to spend it, because once that’s noticed the [Criminal Assets Bureau] would be all over them,” says the source, referring to the specialist unit that was introduced in response to the Guerin murder, and of which John Gilligan is a principal target.
But all is not quiet in gangland. A feud is ongoing between the remnants of the Real IRA, which is now part of a New IRA alliance, and the gangs from which it had been trying to extort money in the final years of Alan Ryan’s life.
Another criminal, based in a middle-class suburb of north Dublin, is regarded as perhaps the biggest gang leader in the city. Now a target for the paramilitaries looking to avenge Ryan’s death, which he planned and paid for, the man recently installed bulletproof glass at his home.
Also new is the presence of eastern European mafia gangs in Dublin and the regions, the move of Chinese triads into prostitution, and the dominance of Chinese and Vietnamese gangs in the booming cannabis grow-house sector.
Many Irish organised-crime gangs have returned to staging robberies like those Gilligan once carried out. The biggest drive against crime in the past two or three years has been Operation Fiacla, aimed at burglars. Its key targets are the organised gangs that select commercial premises to rob and often travel across the country to carry out those raids.
Other sources acknowledge that the Garda was ill equipped to deal with gang leaders such as Gilligan in the 1990s, and that some officers feared Gilligan. But the force is better able to tackle organised crime now, backed by stronger anti-gang laws and a trend towards longer sentences for those convicted.
With some of the gangs that ruled many of the suburbs of Dublin and Limerick now less dominant, the names of new, younger criminals have begun to crop up in conversations with Garda sources.