MANY observers feared that Alan Ryan’s murder would lead to a ferocious backlash from the IRA but instead since September 2012, dissident republicanism has been wracked by infighting and weakened by major garda successes.
This did not seem a likely scenario on the afternoon of Saturday, September 8 when Dublin saw the biggest paramilitary show of strength in a generation at Ryan’s funeral.
The massive funeral in Donaghmede attracted huge controversy after a volley of shots was fired over Ryan’s coffin as it left his family home shortly after 9am on the day.
Ryan’s graveside oration was given by notorious Armagh dissident republican, Colin Duffy.
Duffy described Alan Ryan as “a brave Irish republican and fearless IRA volunteer” who was dedicated to “fighting foreign interference in our country”.
Gardai made no arrests on the day of the funeral because of fears that such an action would lead to a “full scale riot situation”.
However, a detailed investigation, led by the Special Detective Unit and known as Operation Ambience, into the events surrounding the funeral led to a number of men facing IRA membership charges after armed gardai carried out dozens of high-profile dawn raids.
These resulted in 17 arrests including that of four of Alan Ryan’s brothers Vincent, Anthony, Eoin and Dermot - who were all later released without charge.
As gardai increased their investigations into the IRA on the back of massive public and political outrage over the events of the funeral, cracks began to appear in the organisation with money disputes at the centre of bitter internal feuding.
When detectives raided the north inner city home of Ryan’s close pal Nathan Kinsella they made an extremely significant discovery.
Officers removed a cover from an extractor fan over a cooker in the kitchen of Kinsella’s home and found three pieces of paper which gave a clear idea of the level of extortion and violence that Ryan’s mob was involved in.
On the first page the author stated: “I understand that I went against army orders by not going to my OC,” while the second page made reference to financial transactions involving large sums of €120,000, €20,000 and €60,000 accompanied by various names.
There were also references to a Glock firearm and two shotguns, references to a person still having those weapons and a statement that the weapons had been given back.
This showed that Kinsella - who is now serving a two-year jail sentence at Ireland’s highest security prison in Portlaoise for IRA membership was heavily involved in extorting money from the drugs gangs that had murdered Ryan.
Kinsella was later accused of stealing money by his former IRA bosses who shot him in the leg in a punishment attack in Ballyfermot in November, 2012 - the first definitive sign that the dissidents were at war with each other.
Tensions had indeed appeared within the IRA before Ryan’s murder. This was obvious after an incident four months before Ryan was killed when he shot another dissident republican in the leg in an attack on the Malahide Road in north Dublin.
But then as the weeks turned into months after the murder, it became clear that the Real IRA was at war with itself and large sums of missing cash were at the centre of most of the feuding.
On January 19 of last year, Fat’ Deccy Smith - the thug who Ryan was visiting on the day he was shot dead - was summoned to an internal IRA meeting.
Smith was later found with a gunshot wound to his leg in a housing estate in Saggart - another punishment shooting organised and sanctioned by senior dissident republican figures.
While this bitter infighting was going on, the dissidents carried out a symbolic’ murder when they targeted former crime godfather Eamonn Kelly who was shot dead in front of a schoolgirl on the evening of December 4, 2012 as he walked his dog.
Kelly had previously survived an assassination attempt at his home in the summer of 2010 when Ryan’s mob tried to murder him after he refused to pay up to their extortion demands.
Kelly was a well-known criminal who had been the feature of many high-profile news reports and the IRA decided that an example had to be made of him three months after Ryan’s murder.
Shortly before Kelly was shot dead, many of the gangsters who had fled Ireland after the death of Alan Ryan returned home as it became clear that the IRA were not in a position to take them on.
Meanwhile, after Smith was shot in January, 2013 the Real IRA made it publicly clear that they were now involved in a “clean-up drive” in which many of Alan Ryan’s associates were to be expelled from the organistaion.
IRA bosses in the North ordered the “weeding out” of members who they deemed to be a risk to their plans in their ongoing war against the British security apparatus in the six counties.
At the time,
A high-level dissident source said that over 10 more figures in the Dublin area were to be removed as they were deemed too much of a “risk” to the organisation.
At this stage some of Ryan’s best mates were forced to flee their homes under threat from their former IRA associates and the increasingly powerful mobsters who were involved in Ryan’s murder.
In March of last year the internal feuding within the Real IRA had its first murder when well-known dissident Republican Peter Butterly was shot dead outside the Huntsman Inn at Gormanston, Co Meath, when he turned up at a meeting with some of his former associates.
Butterly had been involved in a long-standing internal feud with Alan Ryan and his mob and was even blamed by Ryan’s cronies for setting the terror chief up for murder after a number of bitter cash disputes.
As the feuding continued, gardai exerted huge pressure on the dissidents which heightened tension within the organisation.
Such an action would have been unthinkable a year earlier and it showed that criminals were no longer afraid of the faction still loyal to Alan Ryan.
Officers had vowed to make sure that there was no repeat of the paramilitary scenes that marked Ryan’s funeral and the the desecration of the grave was the most significant event of the day which passed off without major incident.
In the months that followed criminals stepped up a campaign of harassment against the Ryan family and in April of this year were suspected of being involved an incident in which a car belonging to Alan’s brother Eoin - who has no involvement in crime - was completely destroyed outside the family’s Donaghmede home.
But it has not been all bad news for the Ryan family. Last October Alan’s younger brother Vincent (23) was cleared of serious firearms charges in relation to the date in September, 2011 in which drugs trafficker Michael Micka’ Kelly was shot dead by the IRA.
Vincent and his co-accused Darragh Evans (24) had spent 13 months locked up on remand in Portlaoise Prison before they were eventually cleared but came out of jail knowing that they were facing a death threat.
This is now a brutal reality for most of Alan Ryan’s former associates - a reality that would lead to the murder of one of Ryan’s closest associates Fat’ Deccy Smith who was gunned own outside a north Dublin creche in March.