For years Joey ‘The Lips’ O’Callaghan was immersed in the world of gangland after being groomed as a young child to work for evil Brian Kenny. In this extract from Nicola Tallant’s new book, The Witness, Joey describes a night partying with some of the biggest figures in organised crime.
“When you don’t get betrayed… with that old Judas kiss… Oh my mama told me… there’d be days like this…” Marlo Hyland swayed from side to side as he led the room in singing and drowned out Van Morrison for the umpteenth time. Stubbing out his cigarette in an ashtray, he bent down to the table in front of him with a rolled-up €50 note and hoovered up a massive line of coke. When he lifted his head he looked over toward me and roared over the music, “C’mon The Lips, get it into ye.”
‘There’ll be days like this’, the throng chanted and clapped their hands above their heads. The thing with coke is it makes your nose run like hell and has you so hyper that even if you do stop talking for a minute, your jaw keeps going, grinding your teeth like a Magimix. Mine were beginning to feel sore. I’d probably been on the sniff for 24 hours but I didn’t care; the atmosphere was electric and although we were in a shed at the back of the Bradleys’ house, I felt like a Vegas high-roller. ‘Days like this…’
The music was like our anthem, the same song that ‘Fatpuss’ and Brian used to always play at full volume after speeding across the backroads of Dublin to Mitchelstown Cottage, following a successful ram raid or a cash-in-transit robbery. I took a huge gulp from my can of cider and ran my sleeve across my face, wiping my nose as I did. By the time I had taken two steps to the table, where a perfect line of white powder was waiting for me, I was running like a tap again. Marlo threw his head back and laughed out loud. “Days like this…” he roared into my face as I lowered my head to the table and sucked in every grain of powder. I came back up for air to a huge cheer. “Go wan The Lips.”
Gang: Eamon ‘the Don’ Dunne, who was shot dead in April 2010
I knew most of the faces: there was Brian’s pal Peter Joyce, the milkman who’d been done with him for the smack, Eamon Dunne, one of Marlo’s dealers who’d brought most of the coke, and some of the lads from the Filthy Fifty, who were slugging back beer and groping girls in mini-skirts and high-heeled boots. I saw Wayne talking in a corner with John Daly and Deccie Curran. He was going in and out of the shed and through the house to the front to keep an eye on the unmarked patrol car sitting outside on Cappagh Road. “Tango One in place,” he’d announce each time he came back, sending Marlo into heaps of laughter. Fatpuss was on the decks playing requests that varied from The Prodigy to Flashdance.
It was a big night but nothing special. They regularly held impromptu raves like this either at the Bradleys or in the shed at Mitchelstown Cottage, where there was a snooker table and a dart board. Some of the guys Marlo supplied from Blanchardstown arrived and a crew from the north inner city along with a load of girls they knew, some of whom they had picked up on the way. There was champagne, vodka, beer and mountains of white.
Every so often Fatpuss would put a song on the decks and everyone would put their arms around one another and sway from side to side as they sang along. Outside on the street the undercover garda car sat watching the house all night, but nobody gave a f**k – not until the paranoia kicked in, that was.
Marlo was the first to start. “Hey Brian, is that your mate Strats out there? He really has one fuckin’ hard-on for me and the lads. Hope yer not singing.” Brian laughed and told Fatpuss to turn the music up, but he wasn’t paying any attention. “Ye think it’s fuckin’ funny do ye?” Marlo was turning nasty, although you never knew if he was joking or serious.
The music seemed to lower and the shed went quiet while Marlo held Brian’s stare. Without turning his eyes he pointed over towards me.
“Ye better make sure The Lips knows what to do if he’s lifted. Ye hear me?” My nose felt hot and wet. “He knows,” Brian said almost meekly, looking nothing like the monster who pummelled his fists and feet into me at will. “The Lips knows.”
All the way home to Mitchelstown Cottage he ranted and raved to me never to let him down and if that cop ‘Strats’ ever lifted me, I was to say nothing, touch nothing and do nothing.
My jaw was aching so I opened and closed my mouth and rubbed the sides of my face as we drove at speed through Finglas and out towards Kilshane Cross.
The next thing I remember was the back of his fist coming at me full force and the warm sensation as blood poured down my nose onto my lap. “Are ye fuckin’ listenin’ to me?” I nodded, trying to catch the blood in my t-shirt before it stained the car seat.
The fist came down again and again and again, as that all-too-familiar demon engulfed Brian. When he got back to Mitchelstown Cottage he was shaking and foaming at the mouth.
He barely took the time to stop the engine before dragging me out of the car across the driver’s seat and onto the concrete yard. He tried to stamp on my head and I rolled around in the darkness trying to protect myself. “Get in to the shed,” he hissed, grabbing me by my hair, my ear and my neck and finally almost pulling my arm out of its socket.
The shed’s metal door slammed shut and he grabbed me around the throat, his eyes only inches from mine and red with rage. “I’ll fuckin’ show ye to yawn when I’m talkin’ to ye.”