| 8.2°C Dublin

How renegade republicans launched a bloody turf war to rule city pub doors

THE murky world of pub security protection and extortion rackets perfected by the INLA in the late 1990s has reared its ugly head in Dublin city again.

A new outfit from the Continuity IRA has emerged in north Dublin with the aim of controlling pub security in the capital, extorting money from Dublin's leading drug dealers.

They are believed to be behind the murder of small-scale drug dealer Sean Winters on Sunday night after he failed to pay them to deal drugs in a pub they controlled.

The gang are also believed to be behind assassination attempts on an associate of slain gangboss Eamonn Dunne and his mentor Eamonn Kelly only last Saturday morning. The men were ordered to pay out €50,000 or be killed.

The men were not directly involved in the bar trade, but were targeted over their connections to Dunne, who personally organised security on a number of city bars before his death.



Reputations

The branch of the CIRA responsible for the latest violence is run by two brothers in north Dublin who have reputations for itchy trigger fingers.

Gangs have been battling over pub security turf because they know that whoever controls the access to pubs and clubs controls the supply of drugs in Dublin city.

The extortion has therefore led to clashes between 'ordinary' criminals and dissidents, as both sides battle for the drugs cash.

A security source told the Herald: "Pubs are forced to take their men on as doormen and then only drug dealers who pay the republicans off gain access to Dublin's drug scene free of threat and intimidation."

But too often innocent businesses and employees get caught in the crossfire.

Doorman Wayne Barrett (31) was critically injured along with two innocent patrons outside the reputable Players Lounge in Fairview, in a suspected attack by the IRA gang.

Barrett, who had no involvement in crime, was working for a legitimate security company who are trying to operate in this increasingly dangerous environment.

This is not the first time that republican dissidents and traditional Dublin drug gangs have clashed over security control and on every occasion blood has been spilled.

Protection rackets have existed for as long as organised crime, but the INLA brought it to sinister levels in the late 90s, and in more recent years, bringing it into conflict with south city hood 'Fat' Freddie Thompson and others.

In a similar attack to the Fairview shooting this summer, doorman Ronald Draper (25) was shot four times and murdered as he worked outside Charlie P's public house on Dublin's Eden Quay in 2003.

A gunman who was a pillion passenger on motorcycle approached and shot Mr Draper in the neck, head, chest and elbow with a handgun before making off at speed.

Draper, from Tallaght, is suspected of having been killed by the INLA, having earlier survived an attempted bombing in revenge for his part in one the most shocking episodes of Irish gangland: 'The Ballymount Bloodbath'.

The 'Ballymount Bloodbath' occurred when the INLA took six men from a Dublin-based criminal gang hostage as they went to a factory in the Ballymount industrial estate to demand money from the owner on October 6, 1999.

The factory owner had employed the INLA to protect his property. The six were stripped, beaten and interrogated after their hands and feet were bound.



Ordered

Scalding hot and freezing cold water was poured over them and they were told they would be shot before being ordered to leave the State within 24 hours. One was told by an INLA member he was on his way to the North and not returning.

As they were led to a van, 12 more men, again hired by the Dublin criminal and including Ronnie Draper, arrived and a full scale fight broke out. Shots were fired and other weapons, including machetes, used freely.

Belfast-born Patrick Campbell (22) was hacked to death during the violent exchanges.

Following the vicious altercation, another bouncer, Patrick Neville, was shot dead for his involvement in the bloodbath in April 2000.

The INLA's influence waned somewhat following the sacking and later imprisonment of its former head in Dublin, Declan 'Whacker' Duffy.

He was released from prison in 2007 after serving a nine-year sentence for his role but was rearrested shortly after his release and jailed for membership of the INLA.

As the group decommissioned, dissident Republicans attached to the CIRA and the Real IRA moved to fill the void. According to garda sources, the dissidents' strategies were identical to the INLA before them.

One source said: "The racketeering would begin with a call that would usually come late at night when the owner or manager of a pub or club was alone.

"A man or group of men would visit and make their position clear. Pay up or we will torch your premises, beat you up, slash your customers' tyres, or visit your family home.

One victim of the INLA's racketeering was Dundalk publican Stephen Connolly (26) who was threatened by notorious INLA member Nicky O'Hare and associates.

Gardai believe that INLA men associated with O'Hare staged fights in the pub to put off other customers and began to deal drugs there.

The gang was seeking a five-figure down-payment and regular monthly payments from the young businessman.

He was murdered in July 2000 in front of his ex-girlfriend after he refused to pay the protection money ordered of him.



Intimidating

The most chilling aspect of the pub security, racketeering and the extortion game is that the more violent and intimidating you are, the more successful you are.

And despite the collapse in the pub trade -- seen in new figures released this week -- the extortion attempts show little sign of stopping.

The source told the Herald: "As long as there are customers in the bar, however few, this crew will target a property.