Drug dealers and dissident republicans long linked in Cork
Real IRA has claimed responsibility for at least two drug murders in recent years
Weapons seized during 2014-2015 on display at Garda HQ in Janurary. File photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
The worlds of drug dealing and dissident republican paramilitarism have long been intertwined in Cork. The Real IRA has claimed responsibility for the murder of at least two convicted drug dealers in the city in recent years.
While the Real IRA has strenuously denied any involvement in selling drugs or extorting money from dealers, gardaí in Cork believe the organisation has been making threats to extract money.
Gardaí have always maintained surveillance on dissident republicans but members of the force in Cork began to focus on suspected members of the Real IRA in September 2009, when dissidents began distributing leaflets in pubs around the city warning drug dealers to cease their activities or face being shot.
Detectives said they were taking the vigilante threat issued by the Real IRA seriously after men dressed in dark clothing visited pubs in Passage, Rochestown, Ballyphehane and Togher on Cork’s southside, and Mayfield on Cork’s northside, to distribute the leaflets.
The warning was also posted on the 32 County Sovereignty Movement’s website with the group, styling itself as “the Cork Brigade of Óglaigh na hÉireann”, warning it would no longer stand idly by and allow “our children be destroyed by drugs in our communities”.
“There will be no more individual warnings or knocks on doors. This is your warning and if you continue to deal drugs, then you will be accountable for your actions by lethal force,” the statement said.
The group said it had drawn up “a new list of drug dealers” and warned that it was giving individuals “this final opportunity” to stop. It advised dealers to get in touch to clarify that they had stopped selling drugs.
The movement said it had already dealt with some drug dealers and referred to an incident before last Christmas when it said “a heroin dealer was identified and tracked to the northside of the city where action was taken against him”.
The Irish Times understands this may be a reference to a shooting in October 2008 when a 35- year-old man from the southside of Cork city was left paralysed from the waist down after he was hit by a bullet fired through the window of a house in the Hollyhill area.
Less than three months after the warning, convicted drug dealer Gerard ‘Topper’ Staunton (41) was shot dead in front of his partner and children as he got out of his car at Westlawn in Wilton on January 20th, 2010.
Later that year, the Real IRA issued a statement to the Irish News in Belfast, saying it had been targeting drug dealers for over a decade and that the murder of Kieran O’Flynn at his home on Dublin Hill in Cork in June 2001 was its work.
Gardaí were somewhat dubious about the claim regarding Mr O’Flynn, describing it as “opportunistic” but they have not discounted the possibility that dissident republicans may have been involved, perhaps being hired by rival drug dealers to carry out killings and then claim it on behalf of RIRA.
“It’s a complex murky world - personnel involved in the dissident republican movement may have very well been involved in both these killings but it may have been motivated by the desire to make money through extortion or being hired to kill someone,” said one Garda source.
“But because both ‘Topper’ Staunton and Kieran O’Flynn had convictions for drug dealing, the dissidents can dress it up as part of some civic minded campaign to rid communities of the scourge of drug dealing whereas the real motives may be much more base and self -serving.”
Cork drug deaths
- April 8th, 1995: Michael Crinnion (35), a member of a southside drug gang, was shot dead at the door of the Clannad pub in Barrack Street on Cork’s southside. Gardaí believe the killing was related to a row with another drug gang. No one was ever charged.
- June 7th, 2001: Crinnion’s brother-in-law, Kieran O’Flynn (39), was shot dead when he answered the door of his home at Thorndale Estate in Dublin Hill. No one was ever caught and the Real IRA claimed responsibility in October 2010.
- August 13th, 2005: Eric Cummins (31) was shot dead as he got out of his car after returning with his partner and child to his home at Oldcourt in Ballincollig. Several people were arrested and a file has been sent to the DPP but no one has been charged.
- May 21st, 2007: Convicted drug dealer David ‘Boogie’ Brett (35) from Togher was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head beside his car outside Foilagohig national school near Ballydesmond in north Cork. Three people were questioned but no one was ever charged.
- August 3rd, 2011: Darren Falsey (36) was shot dead when he answered the door of his rented house at Ashbourne Court, Ferney Road in Carrigaline. Five people were arrested but no one was ever charged with the killing, which gardaí believe was drugs related.
- January 20th, 2010: Convicted drug dealer, Gerard ‘Topper’ Staunton (41) was shot dead in front of his partner and children as he got out of his car at Westlawn in Wilton on Cork’s southside. No one was ever charged but the Real IRA claimed responsibility.
- February 5th, 2015: Peter Murphy (36) was found dead with head injuries at his rented house at Shanvoher in Bweeng outside Mallow. Gardaí believe his death was a beating over a drugs debt that went wrong . Five people were arrested but no one was ever charged.