Nicola Tallant: Paddy Barnes must face harsh reality of his choice
He captured the nation’s hearts by winning two Olympic boxing medals, but last week Paddy Barnes set his face against Irish society by backing mob boss Daniel Kinahan.
Paddy claimed there was no “proof” Kinahan was involved in crime when signing for MGM Marbella, a gym linked to the feuding gang.
Despite the fact that community activists, the Gardaí and Europol are all in agreement about Kinahan’s role in drugs trafficking, Barnes dismissed it all as “slander”.
Here, Sunday World Investigations Editor Nicola Tallant explains to Paddy the truth about the man he is “happy to have in my corner”.
You seemed a bit confused about the reaction to your announcement that you had joined the MGM gym. And even more so this weekend, when you said you knew nothing of the Kinahans and would be happy to have Daniel Kinahan in your corner.
After all, you asked, where’s the facts and the proof? How, you wondered, could people slander Daniel’s good name when he is roaming the world “with no convictions and no warrants for his arrest”?
“If he wants to sit in my corner, he can sit in my corner,” you stated.
I read about how you were in a quandary when MGM made their offer – an offer which you admitted was the only one on the table after the heartache of the Rio Olympics.
With the €40,000 a year you received from Sport Ireland now gone, and with a child on the way, you needed to see the colour of money. And nobody can blame you for that.
We have all been there.
MGM have enticed plenty of young boxers to join their stable. They have plenty of money to get you the fights you desperately want.
But, Paddy, let me tell you a little bit about MGM...
MGM is to Daniel Kinahan what Atletico Nacional Football Club was to Pablo Escobar.
Have you heard of Escobar? Are you watching Narcos? He is the powerful cocaine dealer with all the money, the one who ran the Medellin Cartel, the one who remorselessly killed any man, woman or child that stood in his way.
Pablo was a psychopath, but he loved football, and he bought the best players with his blood money so he could control Colombia’s favourite sport.
Daniel likes boxing. And MGM was born out of an idea he had with his best friend, Matthew Macklin, in the immediate aftermath of Operation Shovel – a multi-agency offensive on the biggest drug gang to ever come out of Ireland and described by the Spanish Government as the “Irish Mafia”.
Daniel and his brother, Christopher Jnr, their father Christopher Kinahan Snr and his sidekick John Cunningham – the Jennifer Guinness kidnapper – were among those arrested and thrown into jail in 2010 by Spanish cops.
The police spent hours listening in on the Kinahans’ phones and they had worked out the structure of their organisation.
Daniel, the guy you are happy to have in your corner, was just under the top tier, as his dad ran the show.
And just in case you didn’t know, he is the mob’s head of murder and drug dealing. I think we can safely say that, just like Pablo Escobar, he orders death in the same way the rest of us might ring for a pizza.
Anyway, I digress. Daniel and Matthew decided they should open a gym to give something back to the community.
They found a premises near Puerto Banus and set themselves up as a not-for-profit organisation. To ingratiate themselves further with the local community, they chose a charity for sick children to donate any money they made to.
That was four years ago, at which point Daniel was a little bit shy about his involvement in MGM.
But, as time went on, Daniel became more confident of himself. He began to pose with the boxers at the club and openly managed them.
I suppose you could say that when he wasn’t organising drug shipments and murder he was a pretty good guy.
Now I am sure, Paddy, you know all about the Regency Hotel and the murder of David Byrne during an MGM weigh-in for a boxing extravaganza.
But maybe you don’t realise what has happened since.
You see, Daniel, who is now in charge of the cartel after his dad retired, has been very angry that anybody should challenge his authority.
There are 10 men dead, Paddy, many of them innocent people with nothing to do with organised crime. They have been shot in their doorways, on the streets, in broad daylight.
The rage is like a dark, black, evil cloud that hangs over our city. Kids who are living in the areas most affected by it are petrified.
And do you know what they are doing? They are getting into gangs where they feel safer. And they are talking in awe about Daniel Kinahan.
They are kids just like you once were when you were growing up in Cliftonville in north Belfast.
We were so proud of you when you brought home your medals from London. You were a true hero, a guy that all the parents would tell their kids about.
So you see Paddy where I am going with this? Do you understand why people are upset?
Can you comprehend that your sport is being poisoned – and that you have not only become part of that, but you have tried to defend it.
Take the blood money if you must. Wear the shirt of the Kinahan Cartel, but don’t try to tell people destroyed by their drugs and their hate that, really, they aren’t a bad bunch.
And please, Paddy, don’t wear the Tricolour again.
That, at least, is ours. And it cannot be bought.