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Anatomy of a botched gangland hit – Blanchardstown’s nightmare before Christmas

Gardaí on alert for the possibility of reprisal attacks following incident inside busy west Dublin restaurant that resulted in death of gunman

Tristan Sherry died after a botched gangland attack in Blancharstown

In terms of audacity, last Sunday’s Christmas Eve gun attack in a busy Blanchardstown restaurant in west Dublin has many parallels with the 2016 Regency Hotel attack.

In both cases, heavily armed perpetrators entered a busy premises, filled with families and children, and opened fire. In each attack, the gunmen were trying to kill a rival; in both cases they failed.

Both attacks shocked the nation and led to fears of retaliation. In the case of the Regency, those fears were well-founded. It remains to be seen if Blanchardstown will spark a similarly bloody series of events.

But that’s where the similarities end.


Last Sunday’s shooting was marked by an almost unbelievable lack of forward planning. Sources described a chaotic attack by criminals who appeared to have failed to undertake even a basic scouting of the premises.

“If it wasn’t so tragic and distressing for all involved, it would be farcical,” said one garda.

On Sunday, Brownes Steakhouse, a popular family restaurant on Blanchardstown’s Main Street, was busy with diners enjoying a Christmas Eve meal. Some had just finished attending Mass in the local church while others had dropped in for dinner on their way home from Christmas shopping.

Among the customers, towards the back of the restaurant, was a 26-year-old man whose large muscles and hulking frame made him conspicuous among his fellow diners.

He was eating along with his father (47) and a group of family and friends. Just after 8pm, as the group were awaiting their main course, a white Audi pulled up outside and two young men got out.

One was Tristan Sherry, a 25-year-old minor criminal from west Dublin. The other remains unidentified. They held their weapons at their side and drew little attention as entered the restaurant. Sherry had a small automatic weapon, believed to be a machine pistol, while his accomplice was armed with a handgun-like weapon.

Sherry looked around frantically for his target, the muscle-bound 26-year-old, and at first could not seem to spot him. Eventually, he locked eyes on his target’s group and strode towards them.

It was then he was spotted. The following events happened almost simultaneously. Members of the group dived for cover as Sherry opened fire with his weapon. He fired several shots, at least one of which hit the younger man’s father in the neck, before his gun appeared to jam.

Diners started fleeing as soon as Sherry opened fire, although some seated towards the back took cover behind tables.

Sherry attempted to flee through a back door but found it locked. He doubled back and started to run towards the front entrance but then the group tackled Sherry to the ground and disarmed him.

Members of the group continued to beat and kick Sherry before at least one started to stab him using a steak knife from the table. Later examinations showed he suffered 27 stab wounds.

As the beating continued, one of the group took out his phone and started filming. The distressing footage, which circulated for days on social media platforms before being removed, shows a close-up of a bloodied and barely conscious Sherry as he is hit and beaten with a chair. Sources say the beating continued for several minutes.

Some diners who remained filmed the chaos on camera phones, sending the footage to friends.

“Some lad is after getting blasted,” narrated one man.

By this stage Sherry’s accomplice was long-gone. When he saw Sherry’s gun jam, the man fled straight out the front door into the Audi and drove off, leaving his accomplice to face the music. He remains on the run from both gardaí and associates of Sherry’s target who have vowed revenge.

As Sherry lay dying on the ground, units from the Garda Armed Response Unit rushed to the scene while the 47-year-old victim, who was bleeding profusely, was loaded into a car and driven to Connolly Memorial Hospital by his son, who was described as “apoplectic” with rage and grief.

At some point before gardaí could secure the scene, someone pocketed Sherry’s gun. It remains missing.

The gunshot victim, who is suspected to be involved in organised crime with his son and is currently facing serious charges before the courts, remains in a serious condition in hospital but is expected to survive. Connolly is regarded as the best trauma hospital in the country and sources said doctors were quickly able to prevent further blood loss.

Gardaí believe the younger man was Sherry’s primary intended victim while his father was more of a “target of opportunity”.

What happens next is hard to predict. Gardaí have appealed for witnesses and on Friday said they had made one arrest.

Two separate but parallel investigations are ongoing, one into the gun attack and the other into the subsequent fatal attack on Sherry.

Gardaí will prepare a file on the latter for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions which will have to decide if the actions of the men who attacked Sherry can be justified on the basis of self-defence or if they should face murder or manslaughter charges.

One factor in this decision will be the length of the attack and whether the men felt Sherry still posed a threat, despite being disarmed and almost unconscious on the floor. It is understood most of the incident was captured on high-quality CCTV.

“The saying goes that self-defence is a shield, not a sword,” said a barrister. In other words, if a person has the opportunity to retreat to safety, they must take that option if they want to later claim self-defence.

Sherry’s killers could claim that in a crowded restaurant they had nowhere to run, but, according to the lawyer, self-defence must “be proportional to the threat”.

“Even though Sherry went in with a gun, it appears obvious that quite quickly he no longer posed a threat,” said the barrister.

Ultimately, it’s a subjective test, another lawyer said: “It’s not an exact science and each case is different.”

In the event murder charges are brought, it will still be open to any accused to argue self-defence before a jury. They may also use a “provocation defence”, by claiming Sherry’s action caused them to lose control, to argue a murder charge down to manslaughter, the lawyers said.

A more immediate concern for gardaí is the possibility of reprisal attacks. Sherry’s attack is believed to relate to a complicated series of disputes involving drugs gangs from west Dublin who have thrived since gardaí dismantled the Byrne organised crime group in the wake of the Regency Hotel shooting.

These gangs have capitalised in the vacuum – the valuable cocaine market – left when the Byrnes, who represented the Kinahan gang’s interests in Ireland, fell apart. Since 2018, as the appetite for cocaine in Irish society has grown, rival gangs, including one-time allies, have been intent on grabbing as much of the market as possible.

This has led to a series of shootings, assaults and arson attacks, including a shooting outside a school in Blanchardstown in 2019. However, unlike previous feuds – and despite the high levels of violence on display – there has been an almost total absence of fatal attacks in the west Dublin area.

The drugs market is only growing in size; this year the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau seized more than €210 million worth of drugs, most of it cocaine – up from €57 million in 2022.

Despite these significant Garda successes, such seizures amount to a fraction of what is getting into the country. Ireland is not alone; record amounts of cocaine are being smuggled into northern European ports from South America.

Murder rates and organised crime feuds in those countries have risen almost in tandem. To date Ireland has avoided the worst of this. The fear now is that is about to change.

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