Tit-for-tat killings are terrorising innocent communities, writes Cormac O’Keeffe

TWO communities that have already seen more than their fair share of gangland violence again face the grim prospect of a prolonged and spiralling feud.

So too the gardaí who police the areas, who face the return of the dark times of living on a knife-edge, struggling to keep a lid of things, responding to armed incidents — and in some cases being shot at and receiving death threats.

This is not to mention the priests, community workers and local politicians coping with the grief and trauma of families and innocent children and the wider ripple effects.

These are feuds that not only hit the lives of gang members and their families, they cut deep into the fabric of local communities — the effects ranging from security fears caused by having neighbours’ windows shot in, parents scared to leave their kids out on the street, and people jumping at the sound of a crack, or cars screeching, outside their windows.

Now the people of Crumlin-Drimnagh and the people of the north inner city again face a pall.

The murder of David Byrne, a well-known Crumlin criminal, at the Regency Hotel in north Dublin last Friday — and Monday night’s revenge attack on Eddie Hutch in the north inner city — have set the tone for what’s ahead.

The murder of Eddie Hutch followed the shooting dead of his nephew Gary Hutch in southern Spain last September — a killing blamed on the Kinahan gang. The infamous Crumlin-Drimnagh feud ran, pretty much at full steam, for ten years, up to 2010, claiming the lives of 13 young men directly linked to the feud, and three others on the fringes.

They died at the end of a barrel of a gun, through the blades of knives, in front of their loved ones and, in one case, after being horrifically tortured.

Across the Liffey, in the north inner city, the community there remembers a local feud during the mid to late-2000s.

That war, between two powerful family-based gangs, with extensive criminal associations, claimed five lives, as well as numerous near-fatal shootings and grenade attacks.

In both cases, the feuding parties lived within earshot of each other. Neither the Crumlin-Drimnagh fued, nor the north inner city feud, were split along geographical areas or turfs.

In both cases they stemmed from a mixture of personal disputes, egos, paranoia, and power.

Both of the feuds dissipated by 2010, through a combination of significant convictions and imprisonments and the dispersal of gang bosses to Spain.

David Byrne was shot dead at the Regency Hotel in Dublin.
David Byrne was shot dead at the Regency Hotel in Dublin.

The hard-earned knowledge of seasoned sources in both communities is that once the violence kicks off, and grievances are ingrained, there is no turning back.

“The hotel shooting had ensured retaliation,” said one experienced garda, “but the speed of the response, and the balls of it — [killing] a Hutch family member, in his own home — sets us on a course of no return.”

He, along with other seasoned detectives on the southside, thought they had seen the back of feud violence in the area, which includes not just Crumlin and Drimnagh, but also the south inner city, on the other side of the Grand Canal.

“We thought we had seen the back of this, had put the likes of [gang leaders] in their place,” said the source. “Now they’re back, gone back to work, and we’ll have to clean it up.”

What makes the prospect of the new feud even more grim is the seriousness and scale of the gangs involved, particularly the Kinahan crime syndicate.

This network, led by family members, boasts serious drug-traffickers and enforcers, based in Spain with associates here.

In addition, the network is linked with a series of major gangs, particularly in the Crumlin and south inner city areas. That is their stronghold.

In the north inner city, the Hutches are a well-known family, headed by former crime boss Gerry “The Monk” Hutch — brother of Eddie and uncle of Gary Hutch. Another nephew, Derek Hutch, is serving time for manslaughter, armed robbery, and gun crime.

The north inner city is the Hutch gang’s heartland, and they have extensive criminal associates in the area and abroad, including in Britain. That capability was made clear at the Regency Hotel by the scale of the firepower — with three AK47s — and the professionalism displayed by the gang. Seasoned gardaí told the Irish Examiner at the time of Gary Hutch’s murder that the Kinahan network had “crossed the line”.

A source then said that the Hutches had “money and very good connections, here and across Europe” and that they would not “take this lying down”.

That turned out to be true last Friday.

And, after that, another garda said that the Hutches “knew there would be a backlash, without a shadow of a doubt”.

And, that panned out on Monday night.

This is one of the city’s first major cross-city feuds and three Garda divisions are now on high alert.

The body count stands at three. At the moment.

And with David Byrne’s funeral expected in the coming days, gardaí will try to prevent further bloodshed. Focus will then turn to Eddie Hutch’s funeral — and then to the days and weeks after that.

“We have 24-hour armed patrols, we have checkpoints, we have overtime, we have our feelers out for information,” said one senior garda, “but we can’t be everywhere, as we’ve seen, and this ain’t going to blow over. That’s for sure.”

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