Criminal underworld surfaces in Dublin

The underworld always hides in plain sight. We know it’s there but it’s never visible to the naked eye — that is until assault-rifle carrying gardaí, dressed in helmets, balaclavas, and overalls, begin lining our capital’s streets.
Criminal underworld surfaces in Dublin

Before the assassination of David Byrne in the Regency Hotel more than a week ago, and the killing of Eddie Hutch in his north inner city home last Monday night, most Dubliners got on with their lives with little thought spared for the criminals that roamed around them.

The two shootings brought this usually subterranean world to the surface.

The quietest day of the year is always Christmas Day. Shops and pubs close, the roads are free of cars and the footpaths are free of pedestrians. Everyone stays inside. Yesterday felt like Christmas Day.

“It’s quiet around here yeah, it’s because of the…. you know,” said an attendant in a petrol station in the north inner city.

And if it was quiet on the northside of the city it was dead on the south. Garda checkpoints were set up on three roads leading to David Byrne’s family home on Raleigh Square in Crumlin.

It’s a densely-populated area made up of a maze of interwoven streets, normally filled with kids on bikes and young parents pushing buggies. Yesterday however, the only people to line its streets were the dozen or so gardaí involved in the checkpoints.

The sky was cloudless and the air was crisp, but Crumlin locals felt their Sunday was better spent indoors.

The drivers of cars looked that bit longer into the vehicles of others when passing them at junctions or stopped at traffic lights, and with two weeks to the general election, there wasn’t a canvasser to be seen at lunchtime on Sunday, despite every electricity pole in the vicinity covered with posters.

Byrne’s funeral will take place at St Nicholas of Myra church in the Liberties today. It’ll take about eight minutes for the hearse to carry his coffin from his Crumlin home to the Francis St church.

The church was busy with women walking in out of the carpark to carry out some business or other in the 12th Century building. A lone general election candidate hung around outside the gate hoping to pick up a vote. A homeless man begged inside the gate.

From St Nicholas of Myra church it’s about a 12-minute drive to Hutch-land in the north inner city. Driving past St Patrick’s and Christ Church cathedrals, where drug users hang around street corners in groups of four and five, there were no groups to be found yesterday.

Dishevelled souls cut forlorn and solitary figures in these parts instead. “Everyone’s keeping a low-profile,” said a Liberties local who was headed to the city centre with her two grandchildren for the afternoon.

After coming across the city from the south to the north, it wasn’t until Clonliffe Road, on the way to Croke Park, where you could find a child at play. A little girl in multi-coloured leggings pushed her doll along the footpath in a pink buggy.

At the end of Clonliffe Road is Poplar Row, where Eddie Hutch used to live.

Five women stood outside his home. One of the women, she had blonde hair and was still in her pyjamas, was embraced by another of the women. They hugged one another for ages.

An unmarked police car pulled out of flats on the opposite side of the road. In the passenger seat was a senior garda dressed in a suit and tie.

“The 48 hours after the shooting there was a feeling of numbness in the city, one I’ve never felt before and I lived on Ballybough Road for 15 years, my family still live there and I’ve represented the area for more than 30 years,” said former lord mayor Christy Burke.

“These are resilient people. On the three-day lockdown last week after Neddie was shot, there was a feeling of ‘what next?’ And after the Regency, the fact that it had happened in broad daylight, there was a feeling of ‘anything could happen now’.

“But things are back to normal. Kids are out on the streets on their skates and things and going in and out of the flats like normal,” he added.

An informed source believes that the two shootings might now add up to a “one-all”, but with the Byrne funeral today and the Hutch one apparently scheduled for midweek, Garda surveillance is still tight in our capital city.

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