NewsCrime Desk

5 years on: 'The Don' Dunne's death changed gangland forever

Eamon Dunne, aka 'The Don'
Eamon Dunne, aka 'The Don'

Eamonn DUNNE knew he was a marked man. He was sitting in the Fassaugh House pub in Dublin on April 23, 2010, about to pay lounge boy Geng Zian for a 7-Up when his killer arrived.

Seconds earlier, a red VW Passat had pulled up outside the Cabra pub and three armed men with their faces concealed emerged.

One stood at the door, while another two walked into the pub. One stood back and kept guard as the other man walked to within a few feet of Dunne and shouted at terrified punters to “get down on the floor”.

Dunne grabbed Zian and tried to use him as a human shield. Luckily, someone pushed the lounge boy out of the way just before the gunman fired a dozen shots at ‘the Don’.

Two shots to the head and three others to his vital organs proved fatal.

Graham Farrell, who was in Dunne’s company when he was shot, said: “I saw Eamonn’s head splatter on the back top right of his head. I knew he was bolloxed.”

It was five years ago this week when a dozen shots marked the end of one of Ireland’s most violent ever gangsters.  It signalled the end of one bloody era, but the start of another. 

In the years before the spectacular hit, Dunne signed his own death warrant by ordering up to 17 murders during a reign of terror as Ireland’s most ruthless gang boss.

His killing was believed to have been carried out by criminals from the northside of Dublin, with the sanction of the Christy Kinahan crime cartel based in Spain.

Former associates of Dunne are believed to have helped set him up because he had become so volatile.   His killing spree was bad for business.  Dunne had stepped on a lot of toes.

Much has changed in gangland Ireland in the years since Dunne’s death. The gangland murder rate dropped significantly after the Don was taken out.

There were 22 gangland murders in Ireland in 2009. There were 20, including Dunne’s murder, in the year of his death.

In the whole of 2011, just 11 murders were classified as being linked to organised crime. The past couple of years have seen around a dozen gangland murders a year.

As well as lowering the number of murders, Dunne’s death left his former associates seriously weakened.

It left a vacuum in the underworld that was filled by rising rival factions and led to further violence.

His former cronies have not had an easy time since his death, having to deal with gun attacks and prison sentences. 

His pal Brian O’Reilly has been targeted in two separate murder attempts. In August 2010, a Real IRA gang led by Alan Ryan and buoyed by the killing of Dunne, tried to murder O’Reilly in a pub in Bettystown, Co. Meath.

Ryan’s gang had been demanding extortion payments from members of the Don’s former crew, who they saw as weak following his death.

The same gang also targeted another former Dunne ‘untouchable’ Eamon Kelly. In September 2010, they tried to shoot him outside his home on Furry Park Road in Killester in north Dublin, when the attacker’s gun jammed. He was eventually shot dead by the Real IRA in December 2012.

O’Reilly was shot in another assassination attempt outside a gym in Balbriggan, north Dublin, last June.

O’Reilly’s close pal Derek McLoughlin, from Ballymun on the capital’s northside, was also targeted in May 2013. He was in a car park at the Castle Shopping Centre in Swords, north county Dublin, when a gunman walked up to him, but the hitman’s gun jammed.

Both McLoughlin and O’Reilly carried the coffin at Dunne’s funeral.

Another person who carried the coffin was Mark Buckley, who was jailed last month for two years after being one of four men convicted of attacking a man in a pub.

During that attack, Buckley threw a pint glass at the victim and then punched him. He picked up a bar stool and hit the victim with it while he was on the ground.

Associates of Buckley are believed to have been responsible for the murder of Paul Cullen, who was shot dead in a Cabra pub in March 2013.

Other coffin carriers who have had bad luck since Dunne’s death include Finglas brothers Alan and Wayne Bradley and their former pal Jeffrey Morrow, who were jailed for their part in a conspiracy to rob a cash-in-transit van.

Another pal of Dunne, Sean Enright, was shot in two separate murder attempts since the Don’s death.

The bodybuilder cheated death in January 2011 when he was blasted in a parked car outside a house in Clonsilla, west Dublin. The Real IRA was believed to have behind that attack.

He also survived a gun attack outside a gym in Glasnevin in May 2013.  Karl Wynne, originally from Finglas but living in Tallaght, was arrested over that incident. Wynne, who worked as a hitman for hire, died in July 2013, days after being shot in a gun attack in Tallaght.

Northside drugs kingpin Micka ‘the Panda’ Kelly was a criminal expected to benefit from Dunne’s death.  However, Kelly also became a target for the Real IRA and was shot dead by that group in September 2011.

One criminal who did take advantage of both Dunne and Kelly’s murders was the gang boss known as ‘Mr Big’, who cemented himself as the northside’s biggest drugs dealer in recent years. He is still on top, but he lives with the daily threat of death.

Mr Big was also targeted by the Real IRA gang, but avoided the same fate as Kelly by striking first.

The notorious gangster is believed to have ordered the murder of Alan Ryan, who was shot dead in September 2012, sparking the biggest gangland upheaval since the murder of the Don himself. Mr Big is currently awaiting trial on serious offences and cannot be named here.

One man who thought he would benefit from Dunne’s death was Cabra man Gareth Hopkins. The Trinity-educated man known as ‘Mr Clean’ forged links with a veteran criminal from Ballyfermot, west Dublin, to import huge quantities of drugs from Europe.

However, his luck ran out as he was jailed for a total of 13 years in 2013 after he admitted to the importation of €29m worth of cocaine in 2012.

A 37-year-old man from the Donaghmede area of the capital who was closely linked to missing armed robber and drug dealer Sean Dunne, also grew his drug dealing business after Dunne’s death.

The drugs kingpin, now based in Meath, runs a major gang suspected of importing more than €40m of cannabis into Ireland and the U.K. over a two-year period.

He was arrested in connection with a major drugs haul two years ago, but was never charged. For now, he remains the main contender for the Don’s former title. 

At the very top of the drugs food chain, Eamonn Dunne’s murder cemented the ruthless reputation for the real Godfather of crime. In sanctioning the hit on their own associate, the Kinahan cartel in Spain made it clear that everyone was a target.  Five years on, the Irish Mafia still rules from its Spanish bolthole.