Dublin murders: The bloody drugs feud at the heart of the city's turf war

Bloodshed has exploded at the opening of Ireland's election campaign with two killings in the heart of the capital

Gerry "the Monk" Hutch is officially retired from his former criminal lifestyle. Notorious for being one of Ireland's most prolific bank robbers he said he quit crime after being released from jail in 1985.

His unusual nickname, The Monk, was given to him by fellow criminals after he adopted an austere, disciplined, life-style, appearing to eschew material comforts after vowing never to return to prison.That's his street legend at least.

The other unusual thing about him is that he is still alive. Most of his contemporaries are dead. Few of the original group of criminals - dubbed the Bugsy Malone gang because of their youth - have enjoyed such longevity as Gerry. Most died from the ravages of drugs - heroin in particular - or have been shot dead, either by the police or rivals.

A similar fate befell his elder brother this week when four men broke into his home in north Dublin and shot him dead. The death of Eddie Hutch was described as a tit-for-tat retaliation killing for the murder days earlier of David Byrne. One of the shooters reportedly shouted "That is for David," as they left the house.

Byrne had been at Dublin's Regency Hotel for a boxing title fight weigh-in when at least six men - one dressed as a woman - opened fire killing him and seriously injuring two others. Even in Dublin, which is hardened to outbreaks of serious violence, the hotel attack was remarkable for its audacity and brutality.

Despite a claim said to be from the Continuity IRA, a Republican splinter group from the Provisionals, which was later denied, the Garda Siochana, the Irish police, say the killings are the result of a bloody feud being fought over control of the drugs trade in Ireland and further afield between the Hutch family and another Irish gang headed by Christy Kinahan. The turf war is said to have begun with the killing of 34-year-old Gary Hutch who was shot dead beside a swimming pool in Marbella, Spain in September 2014. 

Gary Hutch, a nephew of Gerry and Eddie, was a convicted armed robber and drug dealer. He allegedly fell out with Kinahan and others over a major drug-dealing operation said to involve South American gangs and paid the ultimate price.

Kinahan, who also grew up on a hard Dubin working estate, is described as the 'wholesaler' to Ireland's drug business and much of the rest of Europe including the UK. The 59-year-old who lives in considerable luxury on the Spanish Costa del Sol is aid to have established close links with south American drug gangs as well as those elsewhere in Europe as well as with some Asian drug suppliers.

Uniquely he is credited with rising above some of the drug feuds which have previously erupted in Dublin and other parts of Ireland which have led to as many as 200 criminals dying violently.

This time people are saying it is personal. Among those believed targeted in the Regency attack was Kinahan's son Daniel, who has a financial interest in some of the boxers at the weigh-in. Kinahan junior is said to have escaped serious injury by jumping out of a window during the attack.

This bloodshed has exploded at the opening of southern Ireland's election campaign. Within hours rival politicians were trading political blows by suggesting the drug gang's display of impunity during the Regency attack was down to cutbacks in police budgets. Austerity policies, which have hit Irish government spending hard, has resulted in police numbers being slashed and stations closed. Irish talk radio was abuzz with irate callers highlighting a lack of police response to crimes ranging from burglary to assault. Such was the onslaught Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) was forced to speak out and defend his and the Garda's record.

Kenny himself went on the attack by suggesting his rival, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams come clean about whether all the weapons given to the IRA by former Libyan leader Col Gadhaffi (check style) had in fact been decommissioned after it was pointed out that three of the Regency attackers were touting AK-47s which aren't a usual part of the Dublin underworld's armoury but are known to have come ashore from the Eksund fishing boat which made the Libyan deliveries.

The Garda's response was to flood Dublin with armed police. A special paramilitary style unit was withdrawn from duties on the border with Northern Ireland and re-tasked in and around the north Dublin estates where many of the gang members live and operate. Dubliners were cynical. "Typical, too little, too late, too few," was the response of the outspoken woman who was loudly rounding on the officers who were carrying out random stops on the route to Clontarf last week. When the giant of a sergeant went to speak to her the diminutive woman waved him off with her hands saying: "Excuses, excuses, that's all you lot are bloody good at."

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Armed Gardai from the forces Emergency Response Unit on patrol in North Inner City Dublin

Cynicism was a typical response last week. "Bob Geldorf got it right when he described us as a banana republic. We've been robbed by the state, by the bankers, by the EU so why should anybody blink an eye at what the criminals are doing," said Mr Brendan Fitzgibbon who was also keen for his address to be included in case anyone wanted to take up his comments with him, so angry was he about it all.

Politics aside, most people were confident the police knew the names of all those responsible for the attacks and were sure they would be arrested at some time or other. The fact all the bad boys were known to the detectives was an unchallenged mantra. The problem, most people insisted was getting them to court and thence to jail. "They're quick enough to jail you if you don't pay for this licence or that, but kill someone or rob the bank and its a different matter. Then all the expensive lawyers are out in force and its a different matter entirely," according to Mr Fitzgibbons companion who was more coy with his personal details.

Monk denies that the two big bank raids he is credited with - the taking of £1.7m from a Securicor van in 1987 and the Brinks Allied depot robbery, in north Dublin in 1995, which saw £3m stolen in 1995 - had anything to do with him.

The multimillion pound settlement he reached with Ireland's Criminal Assets Bureau was related to tax problems rather than crime he later insisted.

"I done a lot of business in property, it was a good time and theat's where I made me money," he would insist later. "If people say armed robberies, so be it. I mean, I was questioned about this armed robberies...we'll let the people decide. 

He says he has been linked to the crimes so often in the newspapers that "I'm beginning to believe I done it myself. When you read these things every week, after week, there must be no smoke without fire. It looks that way, it sounds that way. If it barks it's a dog. I didn't do the robbery, you know."

Now a respectable businessman with a taxi fleet and property interests, attempts to contact him last week to ask how his family's name had become embroiled in a violent drug feud were met with firm rebuffs , the most polite of which was "F**k off or you'll get what's coming to you.". Other journalists who have been investigationg the alleged feud were were less fortunate and have now had to take serious security precautions for themselves and their families after "credible" death threats were made against them. Such threats are not taken lightly in a country which witnessed the murder of Veronica Guerin.

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