Cracks appearing in Kinahan cartel as gardaí close net

Crime gang suspects in custody and facing long jail sentences reveal what they know

The media's gaze was so intense that the clicking from the photographers' cameras was the only noise that filled the air. The body of David Byrne, inside an ostentatious US-style casket, was carried on the shoulders of his male relations into St Nicholas of Myra Church on Francis Street in Dublin's south inner city.

A member of the Kinahan cartel, Byrne (34) had been shot dead in a group attack in the Regency Hotel, Whitehall, Dublin, a fortnight before; on April 5th last year.

At the head of the Kinahan cartel is Christy Kinahan, a middle-aged Dubliner who left Ireland for Spain almost two decades ago.

He didn’t come to Dublin for Byrne’s funeral, but his two adult sons did; Daniel and Christopher jnr. So incendiary was the atmosphere around the now entrenched Kinahan-Hutch feud that the church was swept for explosives by Garda sniffer dogs.


Photographers and journalists mingled with mourners and curious onlookers as Byrne’s family, and the underworld figures he ran with, shuffled into the church.

But it was some time later that a truly remarkable scene unfolded. And it was missed by the cameras.

When the ceremony was over, a lot of mourners walked behind the hearse down Francis Street until it reached the junction of The Coombe; a main road through the south inner city.

The hearse stopped at the junction and the mourners on foot – probably about 100 people – took that as their queue to disperse.

But in the middle of the scene a huddle was forming.

This reporter was present, having simply ambled down the street with those walking behind the hearse.

Daniel Kinahan stood in the centre of the road. And droves of young men were making a beeline for him to say hello and shake his hand before he was gone.

Looked excited

The scene was striking; young working class men, most of them in tracksuits and trainers, almost jostling each other out of the way to get face time with the clear leader of the peer group.

And the younger men – in their late teens or early 20s – who shook his hand looked excited. He was flanked by a couple of henchmen who simply observed and nodded to those lining up to reach out and touch a Kinahan.

The young boss cut a completely different figure to those paying homage. He wore a salt and pepper, immaculately groomed beard and a flat cap to match.

He was dressed in an expensive looking black suit with a black shirt and overcoat. He completed his all-black outfit with a scarf and black gloves.

It was an outfit not sold in stores where the other men present had sourced their leisure attire.

Gangland thug

He looked more like a very wealthy young businessman, who took great pride in his appearance, than a gangland thug. Of course he is both.

And standing here in the middle of this Dublin street, in the middle of a gangland war and with a heavy Garda presence laid on, he roamed freely untroubled by the law or his enemies.

But 15 months on that scene would be unthinkable. And that is the real story of the Kinahan-Hutch feud.

This week James "Mago" Gately (30) survived a gun attack because he was wearing a bulletproof vest when ambushed in his car at a service station in Clonshaugh, north Dublin.

He was a close friend of Gary Hutch (34) whose murder in Spain by the Kinahan gang in September, 2014, had begun the feud.

Both kids of the mean streets of the north inner city, they were once Kinahan mobsters too. But they fell foul of them in Spain. When Gary Hutch tried to shoot dead Daniel Kinahan his days were numbered.

He was executed by a swimming pool for fear that he might try to get Kinahan again. And Gately was targeted this week for the very same reason; a poisonous gangland cocktail of hate and the need to kill those you suspect are planning the same for you.

On both sides of the feud that has claimed 11 lives to date, the protagonists have surrendered their freedom.

They are, all of them, not only on the run from each other but also from the Garda.

If Daniel Kinahan showed up for a funeral in Dublin now he would be arrested as he got off the plane.

His brother Christopher is in the same situation and their father will very likely never set foot on Irish soil again for the rest of his life.

On the opposite side of the “feud” – itis an onslaught of Kinahan on Hutch rather than a feud – the main protagonists live, fearing the shadows.

Gately, recovering in hospital under armed guard since being shot on Wednesday, is a case in point. He was living in Northern Ireland; scurrying up and down the M1 to see his partner in Coolock when he thought it was safe.

Gary Hutch's uncle Gerry Hutch – the elder of the clan and the man who tried to resolve the dispute before it blew up – has not been seen in Ireland since last summer.

He has fled fearing for his life. But the Garda are also seeking to speak to him about what he may know about the violence.

After more than a year of intensive investigation into the feud, especially the 10 murders by the Kinahan gang, the cracks have begun to appear in the cartel. Six people on the Kinahan side are now charged in connection with the murders attributed to the gang.

Conspiracy to murder

Another man is charged with conspiracy to murder. And a large number of people, some of them peripheral to the Kinahan gang, are faced with very lengthy prison terms connected to the seizure of guns, cash and drugs.

Most troubling for the Kinahans is not simply that a growing number of their personnel are languishing in jail; it is what those people may be telling the Garda in exchange for some form of secret favourable treatment.

One suspect, for example, has linked senior Kinahan gang members to a crime that would attract a sentence of up to life in prison.

If the Garda can fashion a serious criminal charge from that information the leadership of the gang would be in extremely serious difficulty.

“What happens after the kind of long investigations we’ve had and all the various charges is that these people with information get time to reflect,” said one Garda source.

“Some of them are unknowns who have never been to prison. And when you have people like that looking at a long stretch, the fear of the gang they are in doesn’t always hold.”

Another Garda officer says: “Some of them were going about their business in Dublin for a long time, even after this [feud] started. But they have gone abroad now because they are under pressure from us and the other side [in the feud].”

Gardaí, understandably, remain tight-lipped about who may be providing information.

However, the rate of success – and sheer taking of huge scores against the gang – is all grounded in information. And at least some of that is coming from inside the Kinahan cartel.

In recent months alone the Garda has:

Seized 15 firearms – some of them loaded – along with over 1,300 rounds of ammunition in one haul.

Found and confiscated 1.8 tonnes of herbal cannabis at Dublin Port valued at €37 million and owned by the Kinahan gang.

Arrested two suspects with firearms and charged them.

Found a loaded gun and petrol canister in a stolen car, apparently prepared for a murder bid.

Charged three people in relation to feud murders.

Arrested three men in a house search where list of Hutch family members and associates found.

Seized €750,000 in cannabis and €300,000 in cash.

The leadership of the cartel now appears to have fled southern Spain, from where their extradition would be a formality under the European Arrest Warrant.

They have decamped to the Middle East and appear to be spending most of their time in Dubai.

The United Nations regards the United Arab Emirates as the world's most popular transit country for drugs. However, drug dealing carries a death penalty there – though it is mostly commuted to life in prison.

Extradition from the UAE to Ireland is possible. But the language and cultural barriers that often limit cross-border police work would be much greater for Garda members working with UAE police officers to catch the Kinahan gang than with Spanish officers.

“In many senses you might be, not quite starting all over again, but starting from a very low base,” said one source familiar with cross-border investigations.

Sometimes the UAE authorities deal with these matters swiftly themselves, death by firing squad at dawn their favoured form of execution.

However, Garda sources believe the work that brings them down will be done in Ireland and that much of it is already completed.

“Nobody can sustain those kinds of losses that [the Kinahan gang] have suffered even since the start of this year, never mind last year,” said one Garda source.

“Everyone is out of pocket and resources are lost. And what happens to guys like the Kinahans is that the people around them see them under pressure and their power ebbs away. And then they are vulnerable from even their own people.”

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times