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The man who groomed Dunne and Hyland

THIS is the man who groomed Ireland's most infamous gang bosses, Eamonn 'The Don' Dunne and Martin 'Marlo' Hyland.

The Herald can today reveal the Godfather Eamonn Kelly (61) as the mastermind behind the rise of Dublin's most notorious criminals.

Gardai are currently trying to build a case against the elusive Kelly for allegedly organising the intimidation of two Dublin individuals at the behest of two builders.

Detectives understand that serious threats were made against a number of individuals and in one instance a car was torched.

Eamonn Kelly was lifted on Tuesday by officers from the Organised Crime Unit (OCU) along with a 77-year-old former member of the provisional IRA and a 28-year-old thug.

He was one of the first men in Irish history to be convicted of attempting to import cocaine into the country.

The two builders were also arrested but all five were released on Wednesday morning and the gardai are preparing a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)

Kelly has remained a close associate of the Don's notorious Finglas drug gang, which was once headed by Martin 'Marlo' Hyland in recent years.

Both Marlo Hyland and Eamonn Dunne were assassinated in brutal gangland killings, in 2006 and April this year respectively.

Eamonn Kelly, from Furry Park Road in Dublin, met with Eamonn Dunne regularly in the years up to his death in pubs and restaurants across Dublin.

"Both men had a mutual respect for each other and Kelly would have acted as tutor for Dunne," a source said.

"Kelly would know every major figure on Dublin's northside."

The gangster was also responsible for grooming young Dublin criminals including Martin 'Marlo' Hyland (39).

Hyland was one of the biggest drug dealers in the country and was involved in drug-trafficking and gun-smuggling.

He was the target of Garda Operation Oak and investigating gardai had arrested 30 associates and seized over €15m worth of drugs before his murder.

Hyland was murdered in 2006 as he slept in the home of a relative in Finglas.

Kelly, a popular and clever gangland figure, is believed to have curried favour with most of Dublin's major crime gangs.

But despite his popularity, gardai have told Kelly that a credible threat had been made against his life by a Dublin crime gang, and advised him to re-examine his personal security.

Father-of-nine Kelly cut his teeth as a robber working with the Official IRA in the 1980s. Despite never swearing an oath to the paramilitary group, Kelly worked with the organisation's shadowy Group B unit.

The group specialised in armed robberies of cash and drink deliveries, and was behind some of the biggest bank heists of the decade.

In 1988, Kelly was jailed for three years for an assault on a member of the Worker's Party outside a club near the party's headquarters in Gardiner Place, Dublin.

Kelly also has convictions for offences including shop-breaking, house-breaking and breach of the peace.

In the early '90s, Kelly became one of Ireland's first criminals to be jailed for bringing a major consignment of cocaine into the country.

In May 1993, he was sentenced to 14 years behind bars after he was caught with almost a kilogram of cocaine following a garda surveillance operation.

Now, despite his advancing years, Kelly has maintained contact with a number of figures in the criminal underworld.