Liz Dunphy.

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Narco-terrorism in Ireland: 'Lots of young people are there and they’re expendable’

The appeal of expensive clothes and lots of money are drawing youngsters into the vicious world of the drugs trade with deadly consequences, writes Liz Dunphy.

Narco-terrorism in Ireland: 'Lots of young people are there and they’re expendable’

The appeal of expensive clothes and lots of money are drawing youngsters into the vicious world of the drugs trade with deadly consequences, writes Liz Dunphy.

Smiling behind large sunglasses and designer labels, or sleeping with rosy cheeks next to his sister as a young child, the grisly fate of murdered teen Keane Mulready-Woods is hard to process when you look at his happy pictures on social media.

However, alongside photos of scrambler bikes, young friends and cars, are TuPac quotes about isolation and Biggie Smalls rap lyrics about finding a way out of poverty by selling drugs.

On an Instagram account believed to belong to the deceased, one quote reads: “Don’t fear the enemy that attacks you, but the fake friend that hugs you.”

Keane had been lured into criminality before his death.

He smashed windows and petrol bombed a family home, being recently convicted of intimidating a mother of a teenager who owed drug debt to one of the feuding gangs.

It is reported that he may have been ‘running’ with two warring drug gang factions in Drogheda and he had reportedly been threatened with death and being dismembered in the weeks before he was killed.

He was last seen alive on Sunday wearing a Gucci baseball cap, Canada Goose jacket (many of which sell for more than €1,000 each), a Hugo Boss tracksuit and runners — the expensive uniform of gang affiliation.

His dismembered body parts were later found by youths in a bag in Coolock, Dublin, and his head was left in a burning car.

Those same designer clothes that he died in and the lifestyle they conjure up can be a lure for young people to join gangs.

And as each new child is enticed into a gang, their accumulation of outward signs of wealth and status attract more young people from their communities into that extremely dangerous world, which, for vulnerable youths can appear to bring them into a close community, or a family.

Keane’s killing is believed to be the third murder in a Drogheda drugs turf war.

Johnny Connolly, whose research Building Community Resilience research was published last December, warned that young people are viewed as “plentiful and expendable” by drug gangs.

“Vulnerable young people can be groomed into a criminal network. They can be made carry drugs or run guns.

Children as young as 10 are used as runners under the pretence that they can’t be effected by the criminal justice system under the age of 12.

“Once a young person is involved, they can get tangled up in a debt relationship.

"Young people are used to intimidate others, to cause damage to a property or house, low-level intimidation that can escalate,” he said.

Mr Connolly said children can also be drawn into gangs when they admire people within the criminal network, who can give them status, or money.

And the supply of young people to gangs is plentiful.

“Lots of young people are there, they’re available and they’re expendable,” he said.

Commenting on Keane’s death, he said: “It’s terribly depraved. I can’t imagine what his family is going through.

“A crime like this can have a silencing effect on a community, where people will not want to engage with police or the criminal justice system.”

However, he does not believe that the vicious killing is a sign of a new phase of narco-terrorism in Ireland.

“The gruesome nature of dismembering a child and what seems like the deliberate dumping of his body where it will be found is the type of thing you see in Mexico.

"It’s a new low but it can be responded to.

“We have to support communities which are already doing things to protect these young people with very limited resources.

"We have to support young people and provide them with legitimate opportunities,” he said.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan echoed his calls, telling RTÉ and Newstalk that a multiagency approach is needed to combat crime.

He said there had been more than a 50% increase in gardaí in Drogheda in response to criminality in the area, but that a multi-agency response was also needed “to disrupt the chain at a local level”.

He said this issue is at the top of the Government’s agenda in terms of protecting young people from crime.

The minister also assured the public that “those responsible will be brought to justice”.

Speaking at a press conference this week, Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan said: “This is a brutal and savage attack on a child and is completely unacceptable in any normal democratic society.

“It is important to remember that Keane was a child, a young boy, trying to find his way in life, he has now lost his life and his family have lost their loved son and brother. It’s an absolutely horrific murder of a child.”

The deceased’s sister shared broken hearted tributes to Keane on Facebook, writing: “You are so special in my life that I know no other person will be able to take your place my brother. There’s no buddy like a brother.”

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