But gardai believe former dissidents are still 'trading off' name in order to scare opponents
The "IRA" gang referred to in a British murder trial last week as running the drugs trade in Liverpool is almost certainly a mixture of local gangsters and their Dublin and Limerick-based associates, gardai believe.
The mention of the gang came in the murder trial of Thomas Haigh, 26, who was convicted last week of the double murder of two men referred to as gangland "enforcers", David Griffiths, 35, and Brett Flournoy, 31. Both men were shot dead, their bodies burned in a car and then buried on a remote Cornwall farm in June of last year.
The court heard that Haigh was a low-level member of a Liverpool drugs gang. He said he had been forced to carry out a drugs run to South America and to oversee the cultivation of cannabis plants at the farm in Cornwall to pay off a €40,000 debt to the gang which he insisted, in statements to police, was run by the IRA.
When the two enforcers came to the farm there was a confrontation and Haigh shot the two dead and buried their bodies. He was convicted by a jury at Truro Crown Court last Tuesday and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 35 years. In the UK a minimum term is the set time a prisoner must serve before he or she is eligible for parole.
Garda sources last week said there has never been any evidence of an organisational link between the IRA and drugs criminals in the UK, but they are aware that former IRA members, including members of one well known family with both IRA and criminal links in south inner Dublin, has links to organised crime and drug dealers in Liverpool and the Midlands of Britain.
These links, gardai say, go back for at least two decades and one of Liverpool's biggest drug dealers also was a close associate and bought drugs off John Gilligan and his gang.
After Gilligan's gang was broken up during the investigation into the murder of Veronica Guerin in 1996 these links continued. Gardai know there were strong links developed by the major Dublin and Liverpool gangs as they rubbed shoulders in Costa del Sol holiday resorts where they owned villas.
Liverpool, Dublin, Limerick and even Belfast-based ex-loyalists all became interlinked as they shared drug trafficking operations. Over the past two decades there have been persistent disputes and dozens of murders in the UK, Spain and Holland -- the centre of drug trafficking in Europe.
Gardai said the most likely figures that Thomas Haigh was referring to as the "IRA" in Liverpool are members and associates of a south Dublin family-centred gang with close links to the criminal "Fat" Freddie Thompson.
This family and their close associates are central to the drugs supply in Dublin and have well-established links with UK criminals. Ironically, gardai point out, the same IRA and Sinn Fein figures were closely involved in the anti-drugs movement known as "Concerned Parents Against Drugs" which was active in Dublin in the Eighties, picketing the homes of heroin dealers and carrying out vigilante attacks.
During the Nineties this IRA group eventually became involved in extorting money from certain drug traffickers and then became centrally involved in drug trafficking.
One of their associated former IRA families from Ballyfermot in Dublin became one of the biggest suppliers of heroin in the State, at one stage using private jets to import large quantities of pure heroin supplied by Dutch-based Eastern European traffickers.
The major Irish drugs cartel in Spain, broken up by joint Spanish and European police action in the summer of 2010 also had strong links to Liverpool and London gangs.
Gardai believe that the "IRA" associates of the Liverpool gang, referred to in the Haigh trial, are almost certainly the "ordinary" Dublin traffickers and their associates who were formerly in the IRA but who have continued "trading" on the IRA name in order to scare opponents.
On Friday convicted drug dealer John Gilligan was given a further six-month sentence by the Special Criminal Court after he pleaded guilty to possession of a mobile phone at Portlaoise District Court in 2010.