WHEN gunmen burst into the home of gangland boss Owen Maguire and fired six shots into his body, in July 2018, they had expected to kill him.
Miraculously he survived, but was left paralysed, but the shooting in Drogheda, Co.Louth, sparked a deadly feud that would leave many more dead or injured.
The latest tragic victim of the drug wars on the streets of Ireland is 17-year-old Keane Mulready-Woods, whose arms and legs were discovered in a sports bag in a residential street earlier this week.
The sick killer tortured the teenager and cut off his fingers before shooting him, and may have filmed his decapitation.
The brutal murder and dismembering of Keane has shocked even the most battle-weary Irish citizens and, with gang violence on the rise across the country, many are living in fear.
At least 26 people have died in feuds between rival gangs in the last five years with hundreds injured and maimed. Between September 2015 and December 2018, one feud alone claimed 18 lives.
‘Enforcers’ also dish out savage beatings, stabbings and pipe bomb attacks, with one anonymous Drogheda drug runner recently calling them “scumbags, to the highest degree.”
Speaking on radio show on RTE Radio, he added: “They’re all junked up, they’re all on steroids… they’re manic in the head, they’re very dangerous people.”
The Garda estimates there are around 125 gangs operating in Ireland, ranging from multi-million pound organised crime cartels to low-level teenage gangs dealing drugs on the streets.
Paul Gavin, a lecturer in criminology at Bath Spa University, recently told the Times: “Gangland violence begets more violence.
“One side will keep upping the ante in the hope of winning. It will just continue until the state deals with them.”
Here we look at the merciless drug gangs striking fear into Irish hearts.
Vicious beatings and ‘knives up bum’
Turf: Drogheda, co Louth
Enemies: Small Drogheda dealers
The shocking death of 17-year-old Keane marks a new low in the vicious Irish drug wars.
The teenager was believed to have been caught in the middle of the bitter feud between associates of traveller Owen Maguire in Drogheda – a town close to Dublin – and the up-and-coming rival gangs who have moved in on the territory, and was thought to have been working for both sides.
An anonymous drug runner said the feud began when a younger gang – dealing cocaine and cannabis – moved in on Maguire’s turf and the violence escalated.
A series of petrol bomb attacks followed and, in November 2018, a young man who had been abducted by a rival gang was found by police in a house on the Moneymore Estate.
He had been stripped, beaten, stabbed and left bleeding, but again, he survived.
Maguire’s older brother Brendan, 39, was shot five times in the neck as he sat in his car outside a gym in Drogheda town centre, in February last year but, again, survived.
The gang war claimed its first fatality when 29-year-old newlywed Keith Branigan, a friend of one of the gang members who was not actively involved in the drug trade – was shot and killed outside his mobile home in August.
Three months later, senior gang member Richard Carberry, 29 was shot dead outside his house in Bettystown, Co Meath, with his wife and two children inside.
The drug runner says the violence is getting increasingly terrifying, with targeted attacks extended to innocent family members.
“They threaten your mother’s house,” he says adding that he has seen “an awful lot of bad beatings” and has even heard of victims stabbed with “knives up their a***”.
Ordinary people are now caught in the crossfire, with innocent taxi driver John Myles suffering a shotgun wound last month when gunmen attempted to shoot his passenger.
And the Moneymore Estate, which is caught in the centre of the feud, is on “lockdown”, according to local councillor Pio Smith, with local events cancelled and armed police carrying out hourly patrols.
Because of Maguire’s background, innocent travellers who venture on the estate are also being targeted, with one resident telling the Irish Times he had seen two men from the community selling door to door.
“Next thing, I walk around the corner and there were two lads kicking the f***ing s***e out of them,” said the man.
Mafia massacre at boxing weigh in
Turf: All over Dublin
Enemies: The Hutch gang
When two heavyweights boxers met for a weigh-in at Dublin’s Regency hotel ahead of a match billed as the Clash of the Clans, in 2016, it was guns, not fists, that proved the decider.
Six men, disguised as police officers and one as a woman, stormed into the event spraying bullets from AK-47s, and killing 33-year-old David Byrne, a key enforcer for gang boss Christy ‘The Dapper Don’ Kinahan.
They injured two associates and narrowly missed killing Kinahan’s boxing promoter son Daniel, possibly the intended target, who escaped out of a window.
The move was a declaration of war against Ireland’s most powerful cartel boss, with an international operation worth £500million.
The hit was ordered by rival gang boss Gerry ‘the Monk’ Hutch and three days later a hit squad smashed into the home of his innocent brother Eddie Hutch, 59, while he was unloading his groceries, and killed him, leaving his blood splattering the walls of his hallway “like soup” according to a family member.
The bloody dispute originated in 2014, when police found a £2million haul of cocaine and cannabis after stopping a Volkswagen van on the M6 in Cheshire.
Gary Hutch, a nephew of gang boss Gerry and close friend of Daniel Kinahan who was working for the Kinahan Organised Crime Gang (KOCG) in Spain, was suspected of informing police of the drug shipment.
In order to trap him, the Kinahans planted more information which they claimed he leaked.
In September 2015, he was ambushed at the swimming pool of his Marbella apartment by balaclava-clad hitman who shot him six times before making his escape in a getaway car.
Gary Hutch’s murder – and the retaliatory Regency attack – sparked the Kinahan-Hutch feud which saw 18 people shot dead between September 2015 and its most recent murder in December 2018.
In the midst of the feud, Christy Kinahan moved to Dubai to run his operation from there, handing the reins to Daniel.
Patrick Hutch was arrested for the murder of David Byrne but his trial collapsed, in February last year, after the apparent suicide of the chief investigator.
Last year, 29 people in Dublin were warned they were “dead men walking” with contracts out on their lives over the feud.
‘Violent’ teens use Scooters to deliver drugs
The Gucci Gang
Turf: Finglas, Dublin
Enemies: The Corduff gang
The mysterious Mr Flashy is an unnamed mobster in his 20s who runs a gang of more than thirty criminals in West Dublin.
Known to recruit kids as young as 15 as drug runners, who are lured in by the promise of cash and designer clothes, locals in the quiet suburb of Finglas say the teens use electric scooters to ferry drugs to and from a “stash house”.
A source told the Irish Independent: “This is the new breed now and it looks to be a very lucrative trade they are involved in, but the sad reality is that most of these kids should still be in school.
“The fact is that these young fellas are very volatile and violent and their role models are the older members of the gang.”
Mr Flashy, a senior Kinahan cartel associate, is involved in various feuds in Finglas and Blanchardstown. He has also recently become involved in the bitter Corduff feud – between a Blanchardstown mob and the Westies – which saw 100 major incidents in 2019, including arson, shots being fired at houses and a man’s throat being slit in the street.
The major escalation point was when Westies shot a 22-year-old outside a secondary school in Blanchardstown, on April 2, with total disregard for parents and children in the area.
In May, two innocent girlfriends of Westie gang members were viciously beaten by rivals in a tit-for-tat attack.
Five murders in 10 months
Mr Big gang
Turf: Coolock, Dublin
Mr Flashy was also linked to a new gun battle, which erupted in Dublin, in January 2019, which saw five young men murdered in just 10 months.
These included the first victim Zach Parker, a 23-year-old convicted drug dealer, shot dead outside his gym..
Sean Little, 22, was found shot dead off the M1 in Balbriggan, Dublin, at 11.20pm on May 21, beside a burning car.
He had close links to a gang in Finglas and was also thought to have worked for Mr Flashy.
The chief suspect in the Little killing was Hamid Sanambar, a hitman for several gang bosses including Mr Flashy and a Coolock mobster known as Mr Big.
When he went to pay his respects at Little’s Coolock home, a hit squad was waiting and the 41-year-old was also executed.
The final Coolock victim, Eoin Boylan, was shot dead on 24 November 2019 in the garden of his home in a quiet residential area.
Turf: South city, Dublin
Enemies: Drimnagh Gang
A drug raid at the Holiday Inn in Dublin, in March 2000, caused a deadly split between a group of lads who had grown up together and begun dealing drugs though cartels in Spain.
After discovering huge amount of cocaine, the Garda arrested Declan Gavin and two junior members of the gang.
But when Gavin walked free, while the others were charged with possessions, he was accused of being a “rat” – and was stabbed to death outside a takeaway.
The tension caused a rift in the group, with Gavin’s friend Freddie Thompson, from Crumlin, on one side and Brian Rattigan, from Drimnagh on the other.
The ensuing Crumlin-Drimnagh feud left 16 dead, including Rattigan’s 18-year-old brother Joseph, shot dead in the street near his home.
There were also dozens of attempted hits, pipe bomb attacks, stabbings and beatings.
In November 2005, Thompson gang members Darren Geoghegan and Gavin Byrne were shot dead as they sat in the front of a Lexus car in a middle-class housing estate in Firhouse, south Dublin.
It was obvious to detectives from the off that they had known and trusted their killer, as both had been shot twice in the back of the head by someone who was sitting in the back seat.
The murder confused Rattigan’s gang as they had not ordered it and, as the victims clearly trusted the killer enough to sit in the car with him, the Garda were convinced Thompson had ordered the hit in a row over money.
In 2019, Rattigan was sentence to nine years for the manslaughter of Declan Gavin.
Thompson was convicted of the murder of David Douglas in August 2018.
The worrying rise and increasingly brutal nature of gang violence in Ireland is fuelled by the country’s booming drug trade.
Paul Gavin believes police will struggle to deal with the problem because arrests leave a vacuum and “vacuums are always filled. It’s important to remember that criminal gangs are driven by economics. Those involved set out to make money.
“The demand for drugs won’t disappear even if these people are locked up, so resources must be put into trying to cut the demand for drugs in the community or it will just start again.”