Gardai hit Drogheda feud mobs hard arresting 93 dealers and seizing nearly €1m in drugs and cash this year
- 21 Nov 2020, 8:30 Up Dated by Watchers.
LESS than one year ago the bloody Drogheda gang war made headlines around the world with the brutal murder of teenager Keane Mulready-Woods.
The 17-year-old, who was dismembered, with some of his body parts dumped in separate locations, was the third killing as part of the feud which has now claimed four lives overall.
An Irish Sun investigation reveals the major crackdown in Drogheda has seen gardai seize over €500,000 worth of drugs and nearly €400,000 in cash in the town alone.
We have also learned that 93 dealers in the area have been nabbed since the beginning of the year — a rise of over a third compared to 2019.
Although both outfits are still issuing threats to each other in the feud, they have been hit hard.
As the Garda crackdown continues, Chief Superintendent Christy Mangan — who has also called for seized gangland cash to be reinvested back into communities — has vowed to continue the offensive against the warring mobs.
He told the Irish Sun: “Our seizures in Drogheda and Louth are way above the norm in the country, that’s of huge importance to us.
“We’re heavily engaged with the two feuding gangs. Their numbers have dissipated compared to what they were.”
He added: “The figures in relation to arrests don’t lie. Because they are absolutely phenomenal — in excess of 90 people have been arrested in the Drogheda town for drug dealing, which is huge for a town of Drogheda’s size.”
The two gangs were once a part of the same faction before they turned their guns on each other.
The Drogheda feud exploded on July 5, 2018, when mob boss Owen Maguire was shot six times by feared hitman Robbie Lawlor.
Although left for dead, Maguire survived but was left paralysed.
Since the botched hit, there has been a spate of fire bombings, gun attacks, arson attacks and threats to kill across Co Louth in tit-for-tat incidents on both sides.
But their rivals then carried out the barbaric murder of Mulready-Woods, who had been lured into the Maguire gang at the age of 14.
Two senior members, part of the mob behind that killing, fled Ireland and have yet to return.
The chief suspect Lawlor finally met his end when he was assassinated in Belfast in April.
By the end of that month, Lawlor’s pal and Drogheda feud troublemaker Paul Crosby was caged for four-and-half years for the arson of a stolen car.
On the Maguire side of the Co Louth gangland war, a close associate of the mob boss fled to the UK in January.
Grieving Joe Maughan’s son Willie, 34, and his Latvian girlfriend Ana Varslavane, 21, were murdered by associates of Maguire in 2015.
Speaking about that gang, Joe told us: “These people have never had anything in their lives until they got into the drugs trade.
“I wouldn’t call them thugs — that word is a polite one for them — they’re just evil.”
But the Garda offensive has left the gangs in turmoil. Other figures obtained by us show that under ‘Operation Stratus’, which was established to combat the feuding mobs, there were 975 drug searches, 1,287 checkpoints and 6,505 patrols this year.
And under the same op, the Criminal Assets Bureau stepped in and seized two mobile homes valued at €20,000 each and two plush Audi A6s.
The Maguire gang has also been hit by Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau seizures, who nabbed product on its way to its destination in Drogheda on two occasions this year.
And local gardai have made “numerous” life-saving interventions by seizing firearms — including a machine gun in January, a handgun the following month and a sawn-off Beretta shotgun in September — stepping in after murder threats, and targeting criminals after gathering a huge amount of intelligence.
Chief Supt Mangan has thanked the people of Drogheda, who turned out in their droves in a march against violence in January, for their support.
He said: “It was a particularly challenging time for us dealing with two warring gangs trying to take control of a town and its drug dealing market.
“But we received phenomenal support from the public and it’s really appreciated. We got a lot of intelligence from members of the public as regards to drug dealing and who’s involved in it.”
Killings and botched hits that fed feud
JULY 5, 2018: THE deadly Drogheda feud is sparked when Owen Maguire is shot six times by gunman Robbie Lawlor at a halting site in the Co Louth town and is left paralysed.
FEBRUARY 27, 2019: Mob boss Maguire’s brother Brendan is then shot at the M1 Retail Park in Drogheda, but survives the murder bid.
AUGUST 27, 2019: Keith Branigan becomes the first murder victim of the gang feud as he’s blasted to death by associates of Maguire at the Ashling Caravan Park in Clogherhead, Co Louth. Branigan had been regarded as a ‘soft target’.
NOVEMBER 4, 2019: Richard Carberry is shot dead by the rival Maguire faction outside his home in Bettystown, Co Meath. He was seen as a significant player in the feud.
JANUARY 12, 2020: Drogheda teenager Keane Mulready-Woods, an associate of the Maguire gang, is murdered and dismembered before his body parts are discarded in two separate locations in Dublin the following week. However, the 17-year-old’s torso is never recovered by gardai. The gruesome killing makes world headlines.
JANUARY 13, 2020: Paul Crosby, part of the anti-Maguire gang, is targeted in a Mulready-Woods revenge hit, but the gunman shoots an innocent taxi driver who had been driving the hood around the Co Louth town.
APRIL 4, 2020: Crazed hitman Lawlor, who shot Maguire in the botched hit which kicked off the feud and was the chief suspect in the gruesome Mulready-Woods murder, is shot dead in Belfast. It is believed the psychopath was double crossed by the infamous McCarthy/Dundon mob who arranged his execution with associates of
Chief Supt Mangan also revealed how a number of younger people have been arrested in relation to drugs and are before the courts.
But he said agencies who help with addiction issues like the Red Door Project in Drogheda and the Family Addiction Support Network, which operates across the north east, need proper support.
As it stands, the proceeds of crime go into the Exchequer, which is then under the control of the Minister for Finance.
A meeting between local TD Fergus O’Dowd, local councillor Paddy McQuillan and the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee is to be set up so progress could be made on the issue.
But Mangan wants it reinvested back into the community.
He said: “There needs to be action now.
“We’re seizing large sums of money. It would be of great benefit to the town of Drogheda if some of that money was reinvested back into the services, in particular, for the people of Drogheda.”
But the Gardai’s success does not mean the effects of the feud, or of the gangs’ continuing drug activity, has gone away.
Pio Smith is a local councillor and works with The Red Door Project. He told the Irish Sun: “The two gangs are probably not trying to shoot each other overtly like they were a year ago. But there’s still a lot of activity going on and a lot of intimidation going on.
“But the biggest impact on the feud and drugs supply in Drogheda in the last 12 months is the increased Garda pressure.
“That’s made a difference and in terms of the availability of drugs for supply. And it’s made a difference in terms of the activities of various gangs.
“Now even though that has happened, it still doesn’t mean that there is no significant work going on by the gangs. There is, because the market is too big. In Drogheda alone, the market is probably €5million a year.
“What happens is when people don’t see an awful lot of the stuff that’s going on on a regular basis — like burning out houses intimidating people, shootings — when the general public don’t see that, they think ‘it’s grand’.”
Minister McEntee’s Department carried out a scoping exercise to assess the impact criminal activity in Drogheda is having on the community and make recommendations for action going forward, which was welcomed by community projects and gardai.
Jackie McKenna of the FASN added: “We are delighted that the voices of the people who are impacted the most are being heard.”