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Gangland criminals live by the gun and die by the gun

Gangs of criminals in west Dublin have long been engaged in turf wars but they are now turning their weapons on each other, writes Caroline O’Doherty.

TOP hospitals tend to become known for expertise in a particular field carefully pioneered and developed.

Others have their specialism foisted upon them by the circumstances of the community they serve.

At James Connolly Memorial Hospital in Blanchardstown, they’re getting very good at gunshot wounds.

In a survey last month that told more about the state of the west Dublin suburb than the confusing annual crime statistics ever could, doctors at the hospital recorded a fourfold increase in the number of patients with gunshot injuries in just four years.

Even more telling was the fact that the number of gunshot admissions to the hospital was greater than the number of patients with gunshot wounds.

Two of the victims had been shot on two separate occasions.

James Connolly Memorial was busy again on Wednesday afternoon when a barely alive man with multiple bullet wounds to his upper body was rushed by ambulance to A&E.

He didn’t make it to surgery.

Mark Glennon, 32, was the leader of a gang of criminals whose members, associates, rivals and enemies have collectively caused havoc in west Dublin over the last few years.

At first they concentrated on building up their respective criminal empires on drugs, thefts and protection rackets.

Then they focused on tearing down their rivals’ enterprises. Next they turned to destroying each other and all the while their business has become bloodier.

Mark Glennon should have seen it coming.

He had security cameras around his house, bullet-proof glass in the windows, experience of previous attempts on his life and memories of many funerals in his mind.

He grew up in the same territory as the infamous Westies, the gang who emerged in the late 1990s as a new breed of drug thug who employed ruthless brutality to develop a multi-million euro heroin and cocaine market.

Andrew ‘Madser’ Glennon, his younger brother, was his close associate, and together they led a move to muscle in on the Westies’ territory.

They were suspects in the August 2003 murder of Bernard ‘Verb’ Sugg, brother of head of the Westies, Stephen Sugg, and friend of Sugg’s number two, Shane Coates.

In what was to become a hallmark of the feud, Bernard Sugg was gunned down in public, sitting in a pub, his brazen attacker knowing no fear as he strode through the crowd of regulars.

At the time, Bernard Sugg was holding the Westies’ reins on behalf of his brother and Coates, who had fled the country earlier in the year, apparently to Spain, following threats on their lives and heavy garda attention.

There have been reports that they were tracked down and killed in Spain, but gardaí are keeping an open mind and the pair are still listed as missing.

With the top layer of the Westies out of action, the gang became less coordinated though no less active.

Individuals have run their own patches, using the fearsome reputation of the Westies but acting according to their own rules.

It wasn’t long before this anarchic arrangement infected the Glennon camp. Early last year, members began challenging each other and a spate of violent assaults, scare-shootings and attempted murders followed.

In April this year, a high-profile attempt was on target.

Andrew Glennon was riddled with bullets by at least four men as he approached his home in Clonee, Co Meath, a few miles from the Dublin border and the Blanchardstown home of his brother, Mark.

Two weeks ago, shots were fired at Mark Glennon’s house but he escaped injury. On Wednesday afternoon, in late summer sunshine, he was standing casually outside his front garden when his attacker struck.

It was broad daylight, the estate was full of children returning from school and the gunman showed little hurry and no fear.

Yet fear is one of the weapons gardaí are relying on to break the endless cycles of violence.

Without the solid structures of the traditional organised crime gang and with loyalties fickle and short-lived, gang members have little to rely on but their own wit and their average life expectancy is getting shorter by the year.

If gardaí can use this fear to turn gangsters into State witnesses, the violent monster that is criminality in west Dublin may just devour itself.

It would be optimistic and naive to rely on this tack alone, however, and gardaí have also used sheer strength of numbers in an attempt to declaw the monster in recent months.

Operation Anvil, an extensive series of extra checkpoints, patrols and surveillance, has taken an impressive array of firepower off the streets.

Seizures have included everything from sawn-off shotguns and drugs to M16 rifles and armour-piercing bullets.

If the weaponry is hi-tech, it merely reflects the high stakes involved. The heroin business is reliable as ever, the cocaine market is thriving and despite the maimings and killings, there seems to be a self-replenishing pool of ambitious young thugs willing to risk all for a piece of the action.

Few expect the blue flashing lights to disappear from the road to James Connolly Memorial any time soon.

Gangland warfare: Twelve gang-related killings this year

Gang-related killings in Ireland so far this year.

Compiled by John Breslin.

ANDREW DILLON August 18

The 29-year-old drug dealer from Finglas was shot in the head and his body was dumped in The Ward near Ashbourne, Co Meath.

ERIC CUMMINS August 13

Shot twice as he returned to his home in Ballincollig, Cork, with his partner and 18-month-old child. The 31-year-old was a known drug dealer in the Cork area.

VINCENT O’BRIEN August 10

A 53-year-old father-of-one, the small-time drug dealer was shot dead at his home in Bray, Co Wicklow.

TONY CREED May 27

A 36-year-old father-of-four, Creed, a drug dealer, was shot dead in the bedroom of his home in Clondalkin, west Dublin.

MARTIN KENNY May 14

The 22-year-old was shot dead in front of his girlfriend in the upstairs bedroom of his home in Ballyfermot, south Dublin. He is not believed to have been involved in any major criminal activities and is believed to have been murdered for personal reasons.

MARK BYRNE May 5

The 31-year-old was shot dead just minutes after leaving Mountjoy Prison on day release. He is believed to have been killed in revenge for slashing a fellow prisoner.

ANDREW GLENNON April 30

The victim, aged 30, was shot dead in a housing estate in Clonee, Co Meath. A known drug dealer, he was the brother of Mark Glennon, who was shot dead on Wednesday.

HUGHIE MCGINLEY April 28

The 26-year-old was shot dead as he sat in his car in the centre of Sligo. His murder was linked to an ongoing feud between two families from the area.

TERRY DUNLEAVY April 14

A known criminal, the 27-year-old was shot in the head as he stepped out of his car outside Croke Villas in the Ballybough area of north Dublin.

JOSEPH RAFFERTY April 12

Shot dead outside his home in the Ongar Park estate in west Dublin. The 28-year-old is believed to have been shot dead following a dispute with individuals from south inner city Dublin.

JAMES CURRAN April 3

The 42-year-old was shot dead inside the Green Lizard pub in the south inner city Dublin. The murder was again linked to a personal dispute.

JOHN ROCHE March 9

The 24-year-old was shot dead in the Kilmainham area of south Dublin. His murder was linked to a feud dating back to 2001 and involving individuals from Drimnagh.