Hutch-Kinahan feud may end but the cycle of violence will not
Gary Gannon: Decades of inner-city deprivation must be tackled before a stop is put to gang warfare
Garda crime scene tape at James Larkin House complex off North Strand, Dublin, following the shooting of Jason Molyneaux. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA
Late on Tuesday night a young man called James Molyneaux was murdered a couple of streets from where I grew up, in the ward that I represent for Dublin City Council.
The usual anonymous sources – in other words, the gardaí – told the media that the victim was a “senior associate” in something called “the Hutch cartel”, and that his murder was probably part of the ongoing feud with the Kinahan gang.
A few hours before he was killed, he had been at the wake of another young victim of this feud, Derek Hutch.
People living in the rest of the country, who only see neighbourhoods like ours through the prism of the media, can be forgiven for viewing all this as merely a cycle of violence – feud, murder, wake, murder, funeral, revenge.
The story of Dublin’s inner city is one that simply cannot be captured by a superficial analysis that only focuses on the events of the past two years
I received my first media query just after 7.10am on Wednesday morning and by the end of the day I had spoken to over half a dozen media outlets. The questions always follow a pattern, some variation on “How is the community feeling today?” and, “How do we stop this feud?”
The first question is easy to answer; the community is devastated. Whoever is murdered, whatever they may or may not have done with their lives, everyone else is harmed by this violence.
There are those who lost a family member, or a friend, in previous killings, and who must now relive that horror and grief as they listen to the radio, or walk past the familiar lines of tape that mark the crime scene, or watch police in white overalls searching for evidence, or dodge the reporters who approach them on the street looking for a quote or a line of local “colour”.
Most of the people in this community are frightened, and all of us are weary. In the current climate of fear, you have to be careful what you say, where you go, who you talk to.
The story of Dublin’s inner city, of all our inner cities, is one that simply cannot be captured by a superficial analysis that only focuses on the events of the past two years, on the cycle of death which is being portrayed in the media – in my view inaccurately – as being simply a feud between two rival factions.
There is an exceptionalism to the story of the north inner city. It stretches back generations, from the abject poverty of the tenements and the destruction of the docklands as a local source of employment, to the heroin epidemic of the 1980s, the failure to fully implement the Gregory deal, the desperation of the Concerned Parents Against Drugs movements, and the great white hope of the IFSC that has delivered nothing for the community living in its shadows.
The latest official initiative was the Mulvey report, a direct response to the current feud, which has led to increased funding for local community projects. The idea that you could put a small bit of money into a community and solve generations of poverty and disadvantage is as naive as it is well-intentioned.
In the very heart of the north inner city, at the corner where Buckingham Street meets Seán McDermott Street, you will find a monument that depicts a doorway left ajar. This monument is entitled “Home”. It was placed there in the year 2000 on behalf of all local families who have lost loved ones to the drug epidemic, ever since heroin first penetrated working-class communities throughout Ireland in the late 1970s.
Every December, a Christmas tree is placed at that monument. Its branches are hung with plastic stars that each show the name of a local boy or girl, man of woman, who lost their life to drug crime or addiction.
Every single year yet more stars are tenderly added to that tree. So to understand how my community responds to tragedy, violence and fear is to know that the north inner city is, sadly, not unaccustomed to death and the loss of young lives.
We have no chance of preventing the next feud, or the one after that, while the market for heroin and its cousins remains so lucrative
Now on to the second question. The simple answer is yes, we can and will end this particular feud. Eventually enough people will be locked up, or killed, or forced to move away, or put out of business, for the factions involved to fade from our streets.
And then, unless other more difficult measures are taken, other factions will rise to replace them, and with them, other feuds.
Let’s be honest about this: what are we actually asking for when we demand that a multinational drug cartel be prevented from wiping out a smaller rival?
In translation what we really want is an end to the headlines about gangland killings. If they stop killing each other so loudly, we can go back to ignoring the fact that the product they sell is quietly killing hundreds of people each year.
While this particular feud may come to an end, we have no chance of preventing the next feud, or the one after that, while the market for heroin and its cousins remains so lucrative, and while the demand is so high for the product these cartels control.
The year 2015 was when this feud started, and in that very same year 695 people lost their lives to overdoses, trauma, or medical causes linked to drug use in the country. Some 503 of these fatalities were male, and over half of the total number were people under 41. (Source: National Health Research Board)
To truly confront these drug cartels in any meaningful way, we must first understand the poverty; the generational traumas; and the absence of education, opportunity and personal self-confidence that has fuelled their market for almost four decades, luring an unending conveyor belt of mainly young men into becoming purchasers or purveyors in a racket that has consistently destroyed lives and communities.
If we want to end this cycle then we must tackle poverty and exclusion which – unlike death – are not inevitable.
Gary Gannon is a Social Democrats’ councillor for Dublin’s North Inner City ward