Death in D1 -- how central Dublin exploded into violence as two separate gang feuds ignited
The streets of north inner city Dublin are among the most heavily policed areas of the country because of the bitter feud that has claimed five lives. But the gang war -- sparked when paedophile gangster Christy Griffin was charged with raping his girlfriend's daughter -- is not the only feud which has blighted the area.
Another north inner city war has been raging since 2006, resulting in two murders. Like the Christy Griffin feud, the separate Summerhill feud is deeply entrenched, motivated by astonishing levels of hatred and revenge.
The last murder linked to either feud was in June, when Michael Taylor (53) was shot six times in the head and chest with a handgun as he stood outside a caravan in a park in scenic Donabate, north Co Dublin.
Taylor was not known to gardai for involvement in organised crime but was involved in feud-related incidents over five years. The first murder linked to the Summerhill feud happened in 2007, but full details of it can't be disclosed here for legal reasons. Taylor was closely associated with a man who was questioned about that murder on the northside.
The feud began when two criminals in their 20s from the north inner city were involved in a bitter row over a woman in late 2006.
Family members on both sides then got involved. Cars and motorbikes belonging to one side were damaged in a vandalism incident which directly led to an associate of Michael Taylor being stabbed three times while he walked in the north inner city with a small child.
He received only minor injuries -- but less than a week later the suspected knifeman was shot dead in revenge. A month later a hand grenade was thrown at the home of a family associated with Michael Taylor in Summerhill.
Miraculously, none of the 10 occupants was injured in the attack, which came a night after the two rival groups clashed in the Mater Hospital as one family visited a relative.
In that incident, a woman was stabbed in the hand while a man suffered head wounds.
In another, one of the main protagonists was found with a knuckle-duster in his back pocket after being searched by gardai. He claimed he had the weapon for his own protection.
Then, in December 2007, a female associate of the first murder victim was caught with a loaded pistol as she drove through the north inner city. The woman, in her 30s, was given a three-year suspended sentence after Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard she got the gun after her associate was shot dead and there were serious threats against her life.
There can be no doubt about the vicious nature of the 'Summerhill feud'.
But it is the gang war that started after mob boss Christy Griffin was arrested and charged with raping a young girl that has made most of the headlines.
Griffin was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in April 2007. At that stage, once-loyal comrades had turned on each other. Two tense trials followed during which gardai were forced to set up an armed checkpoint outside the victim's family home.
This brave woman, who gave crucial evidence, had been regularly sexually abused by Griffin from the age of eight to 16.
While this reign of sexual terror was going on, Griffin became one of Ireland's most prolific armed robbers, a senior member of a gang of over 30 men and women who made a fortune robbing from cargo containers in Dublin's docklands and from drug dealing.
Everything changed when Griffin (42) was charged with the sex offences in 2004. In a further blow for the gangster, his brother 'Collie' was shot dead in a botched post office robbery in Lusk, Co Dublin.
When the jury failed to reach a verdict at his first trial at the Central Criminal Court, in May 2006, there were violent scenes outside the Four Courts when associates of Griffin clashed with family friends of the rape victim in front of frightened onlookers.
Throughout that summer, tensions mounted in the north city, and it wouldn't be long before the dispute erupted into all-out war. Gerard 'Batt' Byrne (26), a key ally of the rape victim's family, became the first fatality when he was gunned down in Dublin's IFSC on December 13, 2006. A fortnight later, small-time crook Stephen Ledden (28) was coldly executed in a revenge attack as he slept on a couch. By this time, Griffin had moved from his north inner city base to Swords, where he survived separate grenade and gun attacks. These were followed by revenge attacks on the rival faction.
Handing him a life sentence,for his litany of crimes, Judge Paul Carney, who was placed under armed garda protection for the trial, delivered a scathing judgment, describing Griffin's previous record as "horrendous".
But the life sentence did not end the feuding.
With both sides having links to other crime gangs across the country, including all of Dublin's crime syndicates and Limerick's deadly McCarthy/Dundon crew, the factions had the firepower and muscle to continue the violence.
The Griffin-backed mobsters were determined to avenge the death of Stephen Ledden, killed in a case of mistaken identity.
They got their chance in July 2010, when Ledden's killer, Stephen 'Madser' Byrne (32) was gunned down in broad daylight at the junction of Sheriff Street and St Laurence's Place East.
Byrne, from Mariner's Port, Sheriff Street, knew his life was in grave danger after he'd shot Ledden dead, instead of targeting another man.
After his murder, Madser's dad Noel explained the paranoid life his son had been leading.
"He couldn't go outside the door. Anytime he wanted to go out he asked me to go with him. He phoned me on the night be died and I said no. I said I wasn't able to go out because I was not well and that we would go out some other night. So he went out on his own and this is what happened. He was a prisoner in his own home," he recalled.
"I knew he was going to get one man, or one man was going to get him. I knew it was going to happen. The police had told him there was a contract on his head and he knew who was going to do it."
By the time of his murder, 'Madser' had built up 30 criminal convictions, including a 12-year sentence for a string of armed robberies.
Byrne was one of three first cousins murdered in the bloody feud. 'Batt' Byrne was shot dead in 2006 and Aiden Byrne (32) was shot dead in February 2010. Separately, Madser's brother, David (26), died in July 2009, after being hit over the head with a sock filled with batteries in Mountjoy prison. His body was then desecrated by criminals who broke into an inner city funeral home and wrote 'Rats' across his forehead.
The murder of Stephen 'Madser' Byrne was the last killing linked to the Christy Griffin feud. Sources believe that a reason for this is massive garda raids in November 2010 that targeted members of the faction opposed to the rapist Griffin's mob. Only a month before the raids, Gary O'Reilly (34), a nephew of Griffin, was lucky to escape with his life when he was shot in the arm and leg in an attack at his home in Swords.Within an hour of the O'Reilly attack, a man from the opposing faction was given a severe hiding by a gang of men in the north inner city after dropping his children at school.
Weeks later, in an unprecedented show of force, on the morning of November 8 last, over 300 gardai met at Garda Headquarters, Phoenix Park and in Wexford and Cork stations from 4am before raiding over 30 locations in a co-ordinated pre-dawn operation. They searched 33 addresses in Dublin, Cavan, Wexford, Cork and Kildare.
Some 13 people, including all of the key targets, were arrested -- nine of them in Dublin, and two in both Cork and Wexford.
Detectives seized a small quantity of cocaine and confiscated mobile phones, computers and bulletproof vests. Records linked to property investments were also taken from the offices of solicitors and accountants by members of the Criminal Assets Bureau.
The last major shooting incident linked to the feud happened on January 25 when shots were fired at the home of slain hitman Stephen 'Madser' Byrne.
The garda response to this incident was prompt and less than 24 hours later. "Gardai have well and truly got to the grips with the situation," said a source.