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The life and crimes of Larry Dunne - Ireland's original drugs kingpin

  • Heroin baron who said: ‘If you think we’re bad, wait until you see what’s coming after us’, dies at 72


Larry Dunne in 2001

Larry Dunne in 2001

Larry Dunne in 2001

The grim tale of the man who introduced heroin to Ireland ended at 3pm on Monday in St James's Hospital.

Larry Dunne (72) was being treated for catastrophic self-inflicted stab injuries.

He had been rushed to the hospital from his home in Carrickmount Drive, Rathfarnham, on Sunday.

Dunne - one of the most notorious criminals in the history of the State - was in the advanced stages of a battle with lung cancer.

Despite his reputation, which was enhanced when he famously said: "If you think we're bad, wait until you see what's coming after us" after he was handed a 14-year jail sentence for heroin-dealing in March 1985, Dunne had not been an active criminal for well over a decade.


Back in 1985, loud cheers had greeted the lengthy sentence handed down to him at Dublin Circuit Court.

After all, nine other members of the family have been jailed on drugs, firearms and other criminal charges but Dunne was the leader of the pack.

His brother Mickey Dunne was sentenced to eight years in 1987 on drugs charges. Eldest brother Christy Dunne received a 12-year sentence.

Seamus 'Shamie' Dunne was jailed for 12 years in Britain after he was caught with a huge quantity of heroin which he was trying to bring back to Ireland.

However, Larry was the kingpin - the criminal who was the number one target for the drugs squad, a relatively new unit within the garda force.


Larry Dunne in prison. The drugs baron introduced heroin to Ireland

Larry Dunne in prison. The drugs baron introduced heroin to Ireland

Larry Dunne in prison. The drugs baron introduced heroin to Ireland

In an era long before the Criminal Assets Bureau was set up, the criminal, who had been born into abject poverty in a flats complex in inner city Dublin in February 1948, loved to flaunt his wealth from his heroin-trafficking enterprise.

He drove expensive cars and lived a Champagne lifestyle, buying a mansion in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, which would today be worth more than €1m, but he also had a house in Crumlin.

It was in the plush mansion called Gorse Rock in Sandyford where Dunne spent most of his time and this became a notorious symbol of his ill-gotten wealth in the 1980s.

Dunne's lifestyle seemed light years away from his difficult and tragic childhood which had involved him being incarcerated in the notorious Daingean Industrial School in Co Offaly.

He was released from prison in 1995 but would continue to get into scrapes with the law.

In 1998, Dunne was accused of firing a pistol during a robbery at the Bradford & Bingley Building Society in Erdington, England.

However, a jury at Birmingham Crown Court took just over two hours to find him not guilty of having a firearm with intent, robbery and attempted wounding.

Dunne was also acquitted of a charge of attempted murder at a previous trial in which another defendant was jailed for 11 years.

After being cleared of those charges, he returned to Dublin and it was during this period that he received a three-month jail sentence for assaulting an undercover garda with a 4.5m plank and a bamboo cane as officers carried out a drugs raid.

Dunne was also found guilty of cocaine-dealing in 2004 for an offence that happened in 1999, but this was his last major brush with the law, and gardai say he had no major links with the new breed of gangland criminals who are causing such mayhem today.

Dunne's drug importation business in the 1980s swamped Dublin with heroin and led to a massive drug addiction epidemic - and this made him the number one target for gardai.

In time, bigger drugs traffickers such as Christy Kinahan and John Gilligan would emerge, but 40 years ago Larry Dunne was Ireland's number one drugs trafficker.


It is understood that he bribed juries, lived an extravagant lifestyle, boasted he had contacts in the gardai and fled the country when the heat was on, before finally being convicted for drugs supply and receiving a 14-year sentence.

In April 2000, Dunne's wife Lily died in Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross, Dublin, after a long illness.

Despite his criminal pedigree, Dunne was known as a good family man and it is understood that some family members were around his hospital bed when he died on Monday.

However, he also had more than 40 previous convictions, the most serious of which was when he was arrested and charged with possession and intent to supply heroin, cocaine and cannabis with a combined street value of between IR£50,000 and IR£60,000 on October 19, 1980.

He was found guilty after a circuit court trial in June 1983, but he had already absconded by the opening day of the case. The trial continued in his absence.

The court was told that when gardai raided Dunne's corporation house they found heroin, cocaine and cannabis resin.

Although unemployed, Dunne had moved to a home in the Dublin Mountains then worth IR£100,000 in 1982 while on bail for the drugs offences.

In his absence, he was found guilty of being in possession of drugs for supply.

Dunne had fled to Portugal but he was arrested there and then extradited back to Ireland where he was given the 14-year sentence on March 25, 1985.

Dunne was the first drug dealer in Ireland to use more junior criminals to carry drugs for him - often for very little cash reward - a trend that continues in organised crime to this day.

It is understood that the then flashy and ultra-rich drugs trafficker gloated when other criminals said "Larry doesn't carry".


However, his luck ran out when he was busted by gardai and in his latter years Dunne lived a modest and quiet life in the working-class Carrickmount Drive housing estate.

This was the same property where he was busted with the drugs 40 years ago and when arrested all that he said to gardai was: "Look, I'm accepting responsibility for everything and that's all I'm saying."