Career criminal who turned to the drug business


Shot dead aged 65, Eamon Kelly grew up in an era of so-called ordinary decent criminals but remained active in the underworld as gangland feuds took hold.

Regarded as a lucky criminal, Kelly had freakishly good fortune in surviving a previous assassination attempt.

Two years ago, when a gunman pointed a gun at his head outside his home where he was shot dead yesterday, the weapon jammed before the would-be killer panicked and ran off.

Having lived most of his adult life at Furry Park Road, Killester, Kelly was brought up in Summerhill in the north inner city. He first came to public attention when he was caught with cocaine valued at £500,000 in 1992.

He had a long career in the carpet business and was the father of nine children. An active socialist in his youth, he was suspected of membership of the Official IRA. He engaged in protracted legal battles, some of which he won.

Regarded as a “fixer” or “arranger”, he mentored other criminals from an early age until his death, including the murdered Finglas gang leader Eamon Dunne.

He was a brother of “carpet man” Des Kelly. Another brother, Matt Kelly, made a settlement with the Criminal Assets Bureau after receiving a demand for €5 million related to his business dealings.

In the early 1980s Eamon and Matt Kelly came before the courts after Kelly’s Carpetdrome, of which they were directors, was wound up with debts of more than £2 million.

Eamon Kelly also had a share in a property company in the mid-1970s, when he was still in his 20s. It had land and property in Dublin city and county, Cork and Limerick.

In November 1984 Kelly stabbed a man outside the Workers’ Party club, Club Uí Chadháin, on Gardiner Place in Dublin’s north inner city. He had been banned from the party two years earlier.

He was convicted of four charges and sentenced to 10 years for the attack, which proved non-fatal even though the victim was stabbed in the heart, face and eye. Kelly was acquitted of some of the charges after another man claimed responsibility for the attack during Kelly’s retrial.

The judge said the witnesses seemed to be acting in fear of Kelly, who moved around Dublin with a bodyguard.

By the early 1990s Kelly had become immersed in drug dealing. In 1992, aged 44, he was caught with £500,000 of cocaine and jailed for 14 years.

He collected the drug in Jurys Hotel, Ballsbridge, from a Cuban woman exiled in Miami who had travelled to Dublin on a drug run. The drug was 85 per cent pure and had originated in Colombia.

A major Garda operation was established to dismantle Kelly’s drug route from Colombia via Miami, with the Garda modifying a Garda van with eavesdropping and surveillance equipment.

Heading the operation that caught Kelly was Det Sgt Martin Callinan, now the Garda Commissioner. Kelly objected to media coverage of the case and in subsequent contempt of court proceedings The Irish Times was fined.

As well as the drug convictions and convictions in relation to the 1982 stabbing, Kelly also had convictions from his early criminal career for shop-breaking, housebreaking and breach of the peace.

He was also investigated for the forgery of £20 notes in the 1990s and for hijacking, kid- napping, fraud and his role in a 1980s gun attack in Crumlin in which a man was wounded.

He also once put a shotgun into a man’s mouth and threatened to pull the trigger if he did not get information he was seeking about a robbery.