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Gang boss Barry Young used ‘celebrity’ enforcers to execute drug debts

Young roped in a notorious Dublin criminal among other ‘household names’ as he outsourced violence and intimidation

Barry Young presided over underlings who did his dirty work

Barry Young presided over underlings who did his dirty work

Barry Young

Barry Young’s arrest led to a seizure of €500,000 of drugs and €110,000 in cash

Barry Young’s arrest led to a seizure of €500,000 of drugs and €110,000 in cash

Mark Desmond was involved in debt enforcement

Eamon Dillon

Gang boss Barry Young used ‘celebrity’ enforcers to execute drug debts during his reign of terror in the west of Ireland.

This week, the 38-year-old Sligo thug watched from the dock in the Special Criminal Court as the State’s case against him was laid out before the non-jury court.

What emerged was a picture of a man who manipulated others into moving drugs and cash and then outsourced his violence to dangerous criminals to terrify anyone who defied him.

Barry Young

The court was told how Young used ‘household names’ to enforce debts but that he preferred to sort things out through negotiations.

The Sunday World previously revealed how Mark ‘The Guinea Pig’ Desmond had acted as an enforcer for Young and even moved to Sligo for a period in 2014.

Desmond, who was tried but acquitted of the double killing known as the Canal Murders in 2000, had a reputation for sadistic violence.

The Ballyfermot criminal was a suspect for several other killings and was also suspected of sexual assaults before he was gunned down in 2016 in Dublin.

Young had been looking for a way out of the drugs business and was servicing his debt after getting in too deep, but he was not shy about using the same tactics to manipulate others to carry out his dirty work.

One man, Gerard Clarke, had not been known to gardai at all until Young’s phone was seized in January 2022 as he attempted to catch a flight to Spain.

In messages to Clarke, Young referred to him collecting “two Spanish” which gardai understand to mean two kilos of cannabis.

Barry Young’s arrest led to a seizure of €500,000 of drugs and €110,000 in cash

Bread delivery man Clarke was arrested just days after Young when gardai searched his Sligo home and found €105,000 worth of cannabis and €18,000 in cash.

Clarke had built up a €36,000 drug debt through his cocaine use – which he had managed to reduce by half at one point – but he told gardai he was happy when they finally arrested him.

Last month the father of four, who said he was afraid for himself and his family, got a 22-month sentence at Sligo Criminal Court.

Carpenter Damien McPadden also found his €50,000 drug debt led to him working for Young and he became a very busy courier for the gang boss, moving cash and drugs across the country.

The Leitrim man was caught after he abandoned a van in Sligo in which gardai found 16 vacuum-packed bags of cannabis worth €315,000 in December 2020.

Messages showed McPadden and Young were in regular contact from Young’s Irish and Spanish phone numbers, with the former carpenter receiving orders at very short notice.

Mark Desmond was involved in debt enforcement

In February this year McPadden was sentenced to two years and five months at Sligo Criminal Court.

Separately, Barry Young’s brother Lee was also before the courts in relation to his own drug use after being caught with €8,300 worth of cannabis, heroin and cocaine, along with €5,745 in cash.

At a court hearing last January he was described as a drug addict who was working to resolve his addiction, and denied being a dealer.

His case has been adjourned for sentencing until next October.

Barry Young’s criminal gang had been targeted by a garda operation since 2019 which culminated in his arrest in January 2022 at Dublin Airport as he was about to take a flight to Spain.

The operation identified 20 gang members, some of whom have already been through the courts, and led to €500,000 worth of drugs and €110,000 in seized cash.

Young’s attempts to move cash through a Madrid bank account were uncovered, and raids were carried out in March at properties in Alicante involving officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau.

Young’s previous convictions were heard in court, which included two for assault causing harm as well as a six year sentence for cannabis offences in 2006.

While in prison he became aligned to a group which in turn allowed him to elevate himself from a local drugs gang to one with national and international connections.

Young’s spell in prison allowed him to make more contacts to expand his empire and take over business from the Irwin gang in Sligo.

By the time of his arrest, however, it is believed his debts to the Dublin-based criminal 'Mr Big' meant he was completely at the mercy of the ruthless gang boss.

While it was put forward that Young had got in over his head and was wracked with anxiety so bad that he was sometimes unable to leave his home, the court also heard about his use of enforcers.

While Young’s ‘least preferred option’ was to use the likes of Desmond, there was plenty of evidence found on his seized phone that showed he was willing to unleash the thugs when he had to.

Barry Young’s arrest led to a seizure of €500,000 of drugs and €110,000 in cash

Among the thousands of messages, there was reference to the ‘mental’ and ‘headerball’ gangsters who would be sent to smash up property. They include other messages referring to “going to fix someone the following day,” a “gang of dubs and north would be going through his door” and a gun from the film Dirty Harry being “placed to his head and let two off”.

One underling who asked for help was told by Young “two Russian lads” would be sent to carry out acts of intimidation.

The junior gang member then asked if the enforcers could visit a few other addresses as well.

Photos of damaged houses were sent back up the chain to Young’s phone to show his orders had been carried out.

It also emerged this week that the PSNI is likely to seek Young’s extradition over his alleged role in the murder of gangster Robbie Lawlor in Belfast in 2020.

A number of his cross-border associates have been linked to the killing which a court heard also involved members of the Limerick-based McCarthy-Dundon gang.

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