Cormac O’Keeffe analyses the risk of dissident republicans being dragged into Dublin’s gang warfare

FIVE feud murders in less than 12 weeks. It’s a death toll thought to be unprecedented in gangland in Ireland.

Now, there’s the possibility of dissident republicans being dragged into the fray.

One community in the north inner city has been battered by three of the murders and its people are living in fear.

Across the River Liffey, another community is waiting for retaliation.

And despite the insistence of garda chiefs, local gardaí say resources to prevent further attacks have been cut.

It’s a grim picture and one about which highly experienced detectives are gravely concerned.

The two worst gangland feuds the country has seen, the Crumlin-Drimnagh feud and the Limerick feud, claimed up to 16 lives and at least 12.

However, those murders were spread out over roughly 10 years. In the Crumlin-Drimnagh feud, almost a year passed before the first murder was avenged.

In its most violent period, in three days in November 2005, three people were killed. That year was the bloodiest in the feud and four people were killed.

In the McCarthy-Dundon feud with the Keane-Collopys, the most people killed in a year was three.

In the Kinahan-Hutch feud, there have been five murders since February 5 (in addition to the murder of Gary Hutch last September in Spain).

“There is a difference in the intensity of this compared to those other two [feuds],” said one experienced detective.

In those past feuds, each murder was usually, though not always, in revenge for a killing by the other side.

In this feud, five of the murders (Gary Hutch, Eddie Hutch, Noel Duggan, innocent bystander Martin O’Rourke, and Michael Barr) are being blamed on the Kinahan cartel and one on the Hutch gang (David Byrne at the Regency Hotel).

It’s possible the Kinahan cartel will keep on going.

Michael Barr, from Co Tyrone, but living in the north inner city of Dublin, is thought to be the latest victim of the Kinahan-Hutch feud.
Michael Barr, from Co Tyrone, but living in the north inner city of Dublin, is thought to be the latest victim of the Kinahan-Hutch feud.

However, there are also similarities between the Crumlin-Drimnagh feud and the Kinahan-Hutch one, apart from some of the people on the Kinahan side. In both cases, the sides were once allies, all part of one criminal network. In both cases, there are suspicions there was an informer.

In response to the initial murder in both feuds, family members were targeted, typically brothers. In the current feud, Gerry ‘The Monk’ Hutch’s innocent brother Eddie Hutch was murdered in revenge for Byrne’s death.

In both feuds, personal grievance, and status, are the dominant forces, rather than criminality or territory.

There are other differences in that the heartland of the two sides of the current feud are in different parts of the city — the Hutch gang in the north inner city and the Kinahan cartel in the south-west area of Crumlin, Drimnagh and the south inner city.

Making the feud even more worrying, is the possibility of the Real IRA becoming involved, making it a three-way feud.

Barr, from Tyrone, but living in Finglas, north Dublin, was a member of the dissident grouping. He was previously charged, along with six others, of membership of the IRA though they were subsequently acquitted.

He was suspected of playing a possible role in supplying guns to the Hutch gang through another dissident.

This dissident, also from Co Tyrone, was subsequently nicknamed “Flat Cap” after he was photographed with the hat and holding a handgun as he ran from the Regency Hotel. Barr was also suspected of providing Flat Cap with a safe house after the shooting.

It is not entirely clear what will be the response of the Real IRA to the murder of a member. While some gardaí say the northern leadership was not happy that their weapons were used in the gang feud, other sources said this was not true.

However, all the sources are slow to predict the response of the Real IRA. However, sources seem to agree that if the dissidents do retaliate they will do so “on their own” and will not link up with the Hutch gang.

Gardaí suspect the Hutch gang will respond and will have to in order to save face. That is why gardaí on the southside are anxious, not least because of the sheer number of Kinahan associates in their area, numbering more than 40.

Some sources said that despite statements from garda management, checkpoints and patrols are not as intense as they once were and that local officers have to use their own overtime budgets, taking away from dealing with local crime.

“It might sound a bit much, but keep an eye on your kids,” said one garda source.

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