Several Irish journalists were warned by Gardaí (Irish police) to leave their homes due to threats made by Dublin crime gangs eager to put an end to the crime reporters’ coverage of their latest feud.
In a surprising move, Independent News and Media revealed that several threats had been made to members of staff after the Irish Independent published a front page story on February 12 featuring an image of murdered Irish journalist Veronica Guerin.
In 1996, Guerin was fatally shot by a Dublin crime gang for continuing to write stories about their crimes despite numerous death threats and a previous attempt on her life.
The Independent headline read “Why We Won’t be Intimidated” in a defiant stand against the gangs' threats on the lives of their crime reporters.
“Twenty years after the murder of Veronica Guerin by criminals who feared her courageous exposés of their activities, journalists working for Independent newspapers are under threat from gangsters. They did not intimidate her then, they will not succeed today,” the front page editorial read.
The newspaper also released a statement confirming Gardaí had informed several reporters that their safety was at risk.
“The circumstances are worse now than in Veronica’s day, in a way, as far as the violence,” said the Guerin’s brother, Jimmy Guerin, who ran as an independent candidate in last Friday’s general election.
“But at least now people are aware that the danger is real and they know what can happen. I also feel for the families of the reporters who have been targeted. You don’t understand the trauma involved until you go through it personally.”
INM’s editor-in-chief, Stephen Rae made it clear that the newspaper group will not back down.
He said: “Our media group will not be deterred from serving the public interest and highlighting the threat to society at large posed by such criminals.”
Due to Irish libel and privacy laws, the names of the threatened journalists have not been revealed.
The recent threats came as Dublin crime journalists covered a bloody feud between rival crime gangs that erupted in the city at the beginning of February, involving the murder of two men, one taking place at a boxing weigh-in in a northside Dublin hotel.
The complicated crime network in Dublin has expanded internationally in recent years, with Irish crime bosses setting up bases in Spain.
Recently, violence overflowed on home ground, however, as David Byrne, 32, was gunned down on February 5 in the Regency Hotel. Byrne was believed to be a local enforcer for Ireland’s alleged chief crime boss, Christy “The Dapper Don” Kinahan.
Born in a dilapidated estate in south Dublin, Kinahan is said to speak four languages and have two university degrees, both undertaken during prison stints, and according to Garda Síochána and Interpol, has laundered nearly $1.09 bn (€1bn) in the last 15 years from his base on the Spanish Costa del Sol.
The attack on his crime family in the Regency hotel is believed to have been carried out by rival crime boss Gerry “The Monk” Hutch with six people entering the boxing weigh-in, one of whom dressed as a woman, with AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifles.
It is reported that one of the main targets of the attack was Kinahan’s son Daniel, who escaped out a window.
The attack was motivated by the shooting on Hutch’s nephew Gary in September 2015, who Kinahan’s gang believed to be a Garda informer.
The Gardaí also believe that the heightened rivalry may be down to attempts made by Hutch to move into Kinahan’s Spanish-based empire.
In retaliation for the February 5 hotel showdown, Kinahan’s men shot and killed Hutch’s brother Eddie Hutch Snr, a “soft target” taxi driver, two days later.
The threats on journalists have been widely condemned by Irish politicians as they continued on the campaign trail before last Friday’s general election.
Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny said: “Threats to the lives of journalists is an appalling affront to democracy. We support them and all journalists today.”
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams also tweeted his stand against the threats.
Threats to journalists have no place in our society.https://t.co/lzf4LIq47U— Gerry Adams (@GerryAdamsSF) February 11, 2016
Many were surprised at the strong stand made by INM but Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists Seamus Dooley told The Daily Beast it came as the country is finally forced to pay attention to the violent drug-running empires growing in Dublin.
“I think for awhile it was a question of everyone thinking, ‘Well, they’re just killing each other so we don’t bother with them,’” he said.
“But the threat to journalists and the memories of what happened to Veronica really started to make all of this hit home.”
The Guardian report that there have been an estimated 200 deaths caused by gangland feuds in Ireland’s underground in the past 16 years.