SENIOR gardaí yesterday said the conviction of gangland boss Brian Rattigan for murder was “hugely significant” in the message it sends out to organised crime.
But Garda sources said Rattigan continues to direct operations from his cell in Portlaoise Prison, the country’s sole high-security jail, where he was been locked up since 2003.
His gang hierarchy has been badly hit, however, and his outfit is now “well depleted”, not only because of his continuing detention, but also after the murder of three of his top henchmen, two of them this year. Many other gang members have fled to Spain, leaving his street operations to a “new breed” of young criminals.
Rattigan, 28, of Drimnagh, south-west Dublin, was found guilty on Thursday of the murder of Declan Gavin, aged 21, in neighbouring Crumlin in August 2001.
The murder of Mr Gavin tore apart a local gang into two rival factions, which have engaged in the country’s most violent gangland feud, directly claiming 13 lives since then.
Gardaí said Rattigan did “everything he could” to stop the trial, going to the High Court and Supreme Court to prevent it happening. When it did proceed, the jury in the first trial couldn’t reach a decision.
A meeting was held at the DPP to see if they should pursue a second trial.
Sources said that, at this, a senior garda told prosecutors: “If we don’t convict Brian Rattigan, Crumlin, Kevin Street, Kilmainham and Sundrive stations may as well stick a notice up saying ‘stab and murder away, we’ll do nothing’.”
When a second prosecution went ahead, there were instances of witness and jury intimidation. Two members of the Rattigan gang were jailed for contempt – one until January, a second got a two-year sentence.
“It’s a hugely significant conviction. It’s a good day for gardaí,” said one senior detective. “This shows the top guys can get caught and that gardaí will follow it right through to the end.”
He said three of Rattigan’s top lieutenants have been murdered: Gary Bryan in September 2006; Shay O’Byrne last March and Anthony Cannon last July.
Sources said the rival gang, headed by a leader based in Spain, has now gained ground in the feud.
Gardaí believe Rattigan ordered a murder from prison and fear there may be retaliation. People connected with him threatened further attacks on the Gavin family after the conviction.
The Gavin family home was petrol-bombed and sprayed with the word “rat” before the trial. Gardaí have put in place a heavy presence around the Gavin home and the local area.
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