He hates them. When he sees them in the street, he smirks and mocks them. When they bring him in for questioning, he takes a leaf out of the Provos' book and simply stares at the wall – refusing even to acknowledge their existence.
But now he owes gardai his life.
A routine patrol in Dublin last week intercepted suspects who detectives believe were on their way to murder the man who is quickly becoming Ireland's number one gangster. If the unarmed officers hadn't stopped the two would-be assassins, it's highly likely The Gangster would be dead now. Not that he'll thank them, of course. To him, the gardai are more his enemy than the gougers who are now intent on killing him. And anyway, he has his own, extrajudicial, way of dealing with people who try to rub him out.
In my last blog, I speculated that it would only be a matter of time before criminals turned their attention on The Gangster: I didn't think it would happen so quickly, however. I thought he maybe had six or seven months, a year even, before they caught up with him. But gangland moves quickly. He got lucky last week thanks to some good old fashioned police work by the people the State employs to counter him and his ilk: uniformed and unarmed gardai spot a car acting suspiciously and close in.
The only shock about the murder attempt was the people behind it. I thought that allies of Michael Roly Cronin, whose death – along with his sidekick James Maloney – he ordered on January 7 would have gone for revenge. Cronin was a dangerous drug dealer with plenty of allies – surely, I thought, they would target The Gangster. But it wasn't Cronin’s gang. The Gangster is suspected of organising several murders in the last three years and it was friends of one of them who are believed to have sanctioned this hit.
But, thanks to the gardai, they didn't get a chance to take their target out. The irony is that the man the gardai saved will probably go on to order more murders, more drug importations, more mayhem. Doubtless someone else will try to kill him soon. It reminds me of the chilling boast by the IRA when they almost killed British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Brighton in 1984. “Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always.” The gangster can’t, won’t, rely on gardai to save his life again. They’ll go for him again - he’ll have to be lucky again. Or else he’ll have to get them before they get him.
Many people will probably be cursing the gardai who prevented last week’s hit. One of them is bound to be the man who The Gangster paid a few grand to kill Cronin and Maloney. His life is now under direct threat from The Gangster. He is a low level criminal from north inner city Dublin. Gardai are amazed that The Gangster even thought of using him as the hitman. He is a chronic drug addict who carries out armed robberies to feed his habit: detectives never had him marked down as a killer. A violent thug, yes, a hitman, no.
And the fact that he left so many vital clues shows that The Gangster was stupid in his choice of killer. He dropped the murder weapon, a Magnum .357 revolver, close to the scene; he abandoned gloves and a coat nearby; he left his DNA in the car in which he shot Maloney and Cronin; he is likely to have been caught on CCTV sitting in the car before the murder. In other words, he has given gardai a huge amount of clues and it’s likely they’ll soon be able to charge him with he murders. If he is tracked down by gardai, the possibility is that he could turn tout and give evidence against the gangster. There is a precedent for this in the shape of James Martin Cahill, who killed Limerick doorman Brian Fitzgerald for one of the gangs there. That would be a huge result for the gardai and a nightmare for The Gangster.
And it leaves him in a sticky situation. He can either hope the killer, who is believed to have fled to Spain, stays hidden and isn’t arrested. Or he can take his own, decisive, action to make sure there’s no danger that the killer ever, ever, talks.
The killer really only has two options: turn himself in to the cops, serve his time and save his own life. Or he can rely on his own wits and try to survive alone in a foreign country – with cops and The Gangster breathing down his neck.