David Byrne profile: Victim one of a new breed of criminal

The 34-year-old was a target for every specialist Garda unit fighting organised crime

The man murdered by a six-strong gang during a shooting attack at a packed boxing event in north Dublin’s Regency Hotel had escaped serious conviction despite being closely linked to organised crime for all his adult life.

David Byrne (34) was part of a new breed of criminal living between Dublin and Spain and conducting most of his criminality cross-border.

The twin jurisdictional approach has become commonplace since the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau following the murder of crime journalist Veronica Guerin by the John Gilligan gang in 1996.

While the bureau has unprecedented powers to freeze and then confiscate assets, the High Court orders granted to it do not apply to assets outside the Republic.


Byrne has been a target of every specialist Garda unit fighting organised crime since he was a teenager.

He was on the scene of the fatal stabbing of Declan Gavin in the early hours of Saturday, August 25th, 2001, outside an Abrakebabra outlet in his native Crumlin. When gang leader Brian Rattigan was put on trial for that killing, Byrne was called as a witness but said he saw nothing.


The Gavin killing sparked a feud between rival factions in Crumlin and neighbouring Drimnagh that saw about 15 young men murdered over the next decade. That feud has now all but ended but Byrne’s murder looks to be the start of a fresh round of fighting between the north Dublin crime gang that killed him and the Spanish-based Irish gang of which he was a member.

Byrne’s list of convictions was minimal but he was regarded as a significant gangland figure by gardaí. It was precisely that status that is believed to be the reason that he was shot dead in the foyer of a Dublin hotel last Friday.

He was linked to the criminal gang in Spain headed by Ireland's biggest drug dealer Christy Kinahan. Unlike the more senior players, he spent more time in his native Dublin. It is an arrangement that insulates gang leaders such as Kinahan and those closest to him but exposes men such as Byrne to risk.

In 2008, while still in his mid-20s, Byrne was one of three men charged with the non-fatal shooting of another man in Ballyfermot, west Dublin. He was not convicted.

One of his co-accused was a then 25-year-old Eugene Cullen of Sundale Villas, Tallaght. Cullen was later convicted of a gangland murder and died in Portlaoise Prison last September.

Byrne was also suspected of involvement in the shooting dead of Gary Bryan (30) in September 2006. Bryan was sitting in the passenger seat of a car on Bunting Road in Crumlin when a man shot him a number of times at point- blank range.

Bryan, a suspected gangland killer, ran across the road to escape but the gunman shot him again. He was shot six times and died.

Byrne and a number of criminal associates close to him were seen by gardaí as managing some of the Kinahan gang’s affairs in Dublin, the main drug market it supplies.

Organised parties

He regularly organised parties in Dublin for members of the Kinahan gang, including when they had travelled from their base in Spain for boxing matches in Dublin.

Members of the gang frequent a gym in Marbella where many Irish and British boxers train.

When some of those boxers compete in Ireland or the UK, members of the Kinahan gang follow to watch the fights and socialise.

There is no suggestion that any of the boxers or their training teams, including those attending the weigh-in at the Regency, are involved in or linked to criminality.

In recent years, having become comfortable displaying their wealth in Spain, Byrne and his associates had become more relaxed about displays of wealth in Ireland, purchasing some expensive vehicles.

In many ways Byrne had become the type of criminal the Criminal Assets Bureau was created to deal with.

The CAB works to seize assets before up-and-coming drug dealers became established and were in a position to corrupt other young people in underprivileged communities with displays of wealth and offers of money.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times