Pubdate: Sun, 04 April 1999
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: Guardian Media Group plc. 1999
Author: Tony Thompson


The Truce After The Death Of Crusading Journalist Veronica Guerin Has Ended

Dublin is being ripped apart in a series of bloody 'turf wars' as drug
gangs and criminal families battle for supremacy.  The latest wave of
violence, which follows a period of relative calm, is shocking even
hardened members of Dublin's police force. At least five people have
been shot dead this year and dozens more wounded, many bystanders
caught in crossfire. Detectives fear an escalation in the number of

The latest shooting last Wednesday was a classic gangland hit. Two men
parked in the car park of the Premier Dairies plant, directly beneath
a security camera. When a guard asked them to move, they said they
were waiting for a friend and did not want to block traffic on the
road outside.

Fifteen minutes later Thomas Reilly, a 35-year-old forklift driver at
the plant, was shot in the chest as he arrived for work. The gunman
shot him again in the head, killing him instantly.

Supt Tom Conway, who is leading the hunt for the killers, was
reluctant to speculate on a motive. But The Observer understands
Reilly tipped off police about a major shipment of heroin seized in
Dublin this year. A dealer who plied his trade on local estates, he is
said to have boasted about removing rival operators by informing on

Drug-related shootings in the Irish capital, which reached epidemic
proportions during the early Nineties, virtually ended following the
death of Veronica Guerin, the investigative journalist who was
assassinated by a gunman on a motorcycle in 1996.

The killing led to a massive crackdown, but last week the Gardai
acknowledged that gangs have increasingly turned to violence in a bid
to carve out new territories. The sharp increase in drugs-related
violence comes as a film based on Guerin's life is due to begin
filming in Dublin. Titled Though The Sky Falls, it will star
Oscar-nominated American actress Joan Allen, star of Nixon, The Ice
Storm and Pleasantville. Pete Postlethwaite and Patrick Bergin will
also feature in the film which will be directed by John Mackenzie,
best known for The Long Good Friday.

The latest spate of killings is believed to be linked to a number of
large drug seizures. Local gangsters are thought to be punishing those
suspected of informing and of taking out rivals to expand into new

On 6 January, taxi driver John Dillon, 53, was shot dead outside his
home. Dillon, who supplemented his income by hiring out his services
as a getaway driver for a notorious gang of armed robbers and drug
smugglers, had been arrested in connection with a raid a few months
earlier. He was released without charge, but the gang believed he was
planning to turn informer.

His body was found in the porch of his home in the town of Finglas. He
had been shot in the head with a shotgun at point-blank range at least
three times.

On 27 January, Paschal Boland, 43, was shot dead as he arrived at his
home in the Mulhuddart district of Dublin. A major heroin dealer in
the Eighties, he had been released from prison in 1994 and had been
building up a cannabis distribution empire. Keen to increase his
profits, he had ignored threats from rival dealers in

As his car pulled up outside his home, a masked gunman fired six
bullets, hitting Boland in the chest at least four times.

On 9 March, Alan Bryne, a key witness in a drugs-related murder trial,
was shot three times in the back by a gunman disguised as a road
worker. Bryne, who narrowly survived, is now on a witness protection

Other recent killings include that of fast-food delivery man Gerard
Moran, a small-time drug dealer and hard man who was shot dead after
being lured by a bogus call asking him to deliver a pizza.

A new wave of turf wars is expected following the arrest last month of
the man said to be at the head of Dublin's criminal gangs. Dubbed
'Houdini' after twice cheating death, the 45-year-old was shot at last
September as he walked through his home town of Crumlin.

The two shots fired from a speeding car both missed as he dived for
cover. Two weeks later, he was walking with his wife when a shotgun
blast missed him by inches. The gunman gave chase and fired twice
more, but missed both times.

While in prison last year, Houdini was attacked by former colleagues
who believed he had informed on them. They cut his ears into points
with razor blades to make him 'look like the rat he is'.

Despite being hunted by police and rival gangsters alike, he believes
he is untouchable and remains openly defiant. During a recent
interview with police, he smeared excrement on his face and stared at
the wall for more than an hour, refusing to answer questions.
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