The homecoming of Larry Dunne
1. Larry Moves On
No MATTER HOW OFTEN HE RAISED THE subject and no matter what argument he used at family meetings, the verdict was always the same: "You're going down, Larry." Still, thinking back to the hung jury in the April trial, wishful thinking won the battle with his common sense. Even Christy, the eldest brother and an indefatigable optimist, told him he was going to jail.
Although he knew the State case against him was overrwhelming and there was no chance of nobbling the next jury, Larry still held out against running.
Maybe he was believing his own publicity, thinking he was invincible: he didn't even have any contingency plans.
The prosecution had no illusions and they were outraged at him so blatantly frustrating them just two months before. Even before the trial began on Tuesday morning June 21, 1983 special protection had been sought for the jury.
Larry treated the proceedings with a cocky contempt: it was only after Mr Justice McMahon had thrown out the battery of defence objections so meticulously prepared by Mr Barry White SC and the first five witnesses had machineegunned off their damning evidence in twenty minutes that Larry Dunne realised how he had been deluding himself: he was going down.
The message was repeated on the faces of all the defence lawyers; he received the signal loud and clear.
The Gardai didn't object when he applied for bail at the lunchtime recess. He wasted no time. A friendly taxi was called to the pub where he waited and he was driven away from the bar and Dublin's Central Criminal Court.
The judge ordered that the trial continue when he didn't tum up after lunch and Larry heard about his disappearance on the radio news.
He saw the newspaper stories and the pictures of his £100,000 house at Sandyford emblazoned across front pages and it was in the comfort of the safe house in Dublin's staunchly working class Crumlin area that he heard on the TV news how the jury had taken just twenty minutes to find him guilty on all the charges of trafficking heroin, cocaine and cannabis.
He laughed when he heard that the homes of more than forty of his friends had been raided in one of the biggest search operations ever mounted by the gardai. News that a "ring of steel" by the authorities had sealed off the ports and airports drew howls of derision and he was thrilled at media speculation that he was already in some exotic locaation.
He was still holed up in the house in Dublin when his closest associate flew home from Gran Canaria where he had been holidaying with his family.
Arrangements were made for him to see Larry straight away and he brought a home dyeing kit with him: Larry had plans to become a red head.
All Saturday afternoon was spent dousing Larry's hair with the messy dye. It went without a hitch. Larry, who had always cut his own hair, had freshly trimmed it and the lotion was applied to his eyelashes and eyebrows as well. The only difficulty was with the eyebrows where the dye didn't take very well.
Then there was the problem of Larry's heavy growth of naturally very dark beard: it would be suspicious if a reddhaired man was to have a noticeably heavy black growth. He was to shave twice, sometimes three times a day and wear a light foundation make up.
While the media and gardai checked atlases and leafed through holiday brochures Larry, with his disguise in place, headed north and west of Dublin, up to Ireland's least populated county, i.eitrim, to the house of friends who had a house near the Shannon.
He was warmly welcomed and told he could stay as long as he needed to but they warned that they had been raided a few months ago by gardai looking for drugs. They said they felt they were under suspicion and that they may be raided again.
In such a tight-knit rural community where every strannger is conspicuous, it just wasn't worth the risk of being recognised and Larry stayed just a few days.
He hired a six-berth cruiser and sailed down the Shannon.
The weather was glorious and Larry sunbathed as the cruiser - meandered down the river. Every night he and his friend would pull in to shore and eat in a respectable restaurant and have a bottle or two of wine with the meal. After a few pints in a bar they would go back to the boat and pulled away from the shore each night, always mooring in the middle of the river.
Several times they moved through a lock where a local guard, his bicycle propped against a nearby wall, would open up the lock and pass the time of day, unaware that the guy with the red hair was the most wanted man in Ireland.
They pulled in to County Clare where there were a couple of dozen communities of hippies and seekers of an alternaative lifestyle, some of them refugees from the drug-laden days of the 1960s and '70s.
Others had sought alternative spiritual fulfilment. Most had dabbled in both.
Larry met up with some people he knew - devotees of the Divine Light Mission, a cult centred on a young Indian guru that gripped the imagination of millions of young people around the world in the mid-1970s.
The colony of blissed-out cultists welcomed Larry and he was deeply impressed by their apparently genuine communism and mutual help and caring. Their simple lifestyle was a perfect antidote to the frenetic pace he had been living at.
Strict vegetarians, they kept to a rigid diet and they even tried to reform Larry. He flirted with the idea of recruiting them too. Their unquestioning obedience and mortifying self-discipline could be invaluable to the business of smugggling narcotics.
Larry quickly tired of the group. At the end of a week there, frustrated by simple gaps in his idea of civilisation, he decided to quit. It was when he couldn't get salt - they say it damages your health - for his morning egg he decided to move on.
2. Hooked In Spain
LARRY WEIGHED UP HIS OPTIONS: HE HAD none, or rather just one. He headed in to Limerick where he made a flurry of phone calls to his most trusted aide back in Dublin. He told him to make arrangements to have him shipped out of Ireland.
He was ready to go three days after the phone call to Dublin. Arrangements had been finalised by the people in Dublin docks who had looked after his interests for years. He was sailing from Rosslare to Le Havre in France. A car came and picked him up in Limerick.
Over a farewell meal in Wexford his aide explained the financial position: he had been grossing around £12,000 a week from the heroin business in Dublin, netting him around £4,000. When all his assets had been realised there was nearly £100,000 which he could take with him to Europe. And a system of communication was arranged, with times and safe numbers to call memorised.
He had a couple of blank passports which were part of a batch of 100 stolen from a bindery in Artane, Dublin the year before. The theft had been either commissioned by the Dunnes or they had first option on the passports. Larry's picture was in place on the false passport and it )Vas authenticated by a special die they had made which emmbossed the document.
Arrangements had been made with the dealer in Amsterrdam to have Larry met when the ship berthed in France. Larry was a big customer and a respected friend. He had toyed with the idea of settling there but he was politely but firmly told it would not be possible.
They feted him and treated him as outlawed aristocracy, a Mercedes car and driver instructed to deliver him on the Costa del Solon Spain's southern coast.
It was at the hottest point of a heatwave summer when Larry arrived in Fuengirola. Like the rest of his family he didn't particularly like travelling abroad, they would stay in Dolphin's Barn by preference, even travelling outside Dubblin was greeted by suspicion. Anything beyond the shores of Ireland and England was deeply frowned upon.
Larry moved up and down the Costa del Sol, from Malaga to Marbella. Then he checked out the Algarve coast in Porrtugal and became a regular visitor in Faro, Portmao, Villaamoira and Quartera. The Canary Islands were a handy hideeaway, in Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Tenerife.
But Larry had another problem, a monster: he was a heroin addict. Few people ever suspected it. With his mania for keeping fit and the exaggerated care he took of his body, no one could believe he was poisoning himself with smack.
He had picked up the habit by snorting tiny amounts of it when he was dealing, to test the quality of the narcotic. It induced a pleasant feeling and, like everyone else who was ever hooked, he never realised it until he woke up one day with all the symptoms of a bad cold or flu - a snort of smack soon sorted that out.
With constant access to heroin, and his monumental self-esteem, Larry Dunne never really thought he had a problem. But in September 1983 he decided he needed help and flew to Thailand. He spent a month there. A local girl nursed him and gave him local herbs and potions which helped him kick the habit. On his way home he spent a few days in Singapore but his flight was diverted to Warsaw. Larry spent hours in the Polish capital air terminal dressed in thin, cotton tropical wear. He froze.
Back on the Costa del Sol he was joined by some friends from Dublin, one of them a young con man, a tearaway who had a constant need to prove himself to Larry Dunne.
Larry always looked good. He dressed well, expensively and tastefully, with a penchant for Italian designed suits °Giorgio Armani at more than £400 each were favourites Pand Pierre Cardin sweaters with Lacoste tee shirts at £36 each were his casual choice. His shoes were always of the finest, soft leather.
His physical condition was excellent too: every day he swam for an hour and he would be seen jogging along an empty beach most days.
He was a regular in many of the bars in and near Fuenngirola. He slept late most mornings after spending late nights in discos, often until Sam. He was seen in Screwy Hughies, Hill 16 or the Cottage Bar. Some of the Irish tourists who recognised him were gardai on their holidays but they innvariably looked the other way.
A couple of times he left his sea-front apartment in Fuengirola and headed down to Marbella where he stayed with Britain's most celebrated villain, Ronnie Knight. Senor Knight, who masterminded the £5 million gold bullion heist from Heathrow airport among other spectacular crimes, was a friend of the family.
When he stayed in Malaga he stopped at the American Hostel before heading the few miles to Torremolinos. He was constantly on the move, paranoid, always looking over his shoulder.
It was a gypsy life, and the constant moving was wearing him down. He missed his daughters dreadfully and most days he spent a lot of time and money calling Dublin from public telephones, feeding them with fifty-peseta coins.
He would play cassettes of pop records which his oldest daughter had painstakingly made up in Dublin and sent to him. There were cassettes of his children chatting to him, telling him about school and the family, small talk, chit chat. It made him all the more homesick, as he told friends, "My kids will never want."
In his apartment in the Edifacio Aries in Fuengirola he would play tapes on his ghetto blaster. He had a very bland taste in music, mostly Kris Kristofferson and country singers, although he took a passion for a Barry White (no relation to his august defending counsel) tape and played it connstantly for weeks at a time.
He liked the Irish bars in the town, the sing-songs there.
He was often recognised and as the evening wore on someebody would get brave and shout, "There you are, Lar." He liked the warmth and wit of Dubliners and he quietly ennjoyed his celebrity.
But he never crossed the Spanish police, although he told friends of his plan should they come to arrest him and try to deport him - he would punch a policeman. That way, he reasoned, he had broken Spanish law and would be required to go to a local prison before being shipped back to Ireland.
When he felt that he was becoming just too familiar with the Irish on the Costa del Sol, he would take off, down the coast road, driving through Algeciras, up to Cadiz and then cut off the main road and head to a little used border crosssing into Portugal, On other occasions he took the ferry.
3. Bored In Portugal
PORTUGAL WAS MORE RELAXED THAN Spain. It was on the Algarve he learned a new, P altogether more middle-cla.ss means of relaxing recreation, golf. He even made a new friend on the course at Villamoira, the local chief of police.
Larry Dunne was a bad and dangerous driver. He had thirty-three criminal offences on his record, the vast majoority for motoring offences. In Dublin, with nineteen convicctions for driving without insurance, he always had a driver. But set free in Europe with a metaphorically clean slate, he was driving again, like a maniac mostly.
It was inevitable that he would have a crash and he was required to show his passport to the Portuguese police when it happened.
Some time later the chief of police called Larry over at the clubhouse on the golf course and told him that he had seen something belonging to him (Larry) which was not legitimate, his passport. Curtly, but politely, he told Larry that he would do nothing further but to enjoy his golf and not to do anything in his area.
Contrary to what he told a lot of people Larry never visited Dublin during his time abroad. His family visited him a number of times at various places.
He was spending more and more time with the young blood from Dublin who was becoming embarrassingly connspicuous. He did acrobatics walking along a wall at the seaafront and did hand-brake turns in the car.
Nobody discovered if it was he or Larry who was driving when they came within inches of killing themselves on the Costa del Sol. Larry and his friends walked into the Los Ram pas bar in Fuengirola badly bruised and cut, one of them with a plaster cast on his arm. They looked as though they had fought a war; everyone said cars would be Larry's downfall.
Larry's money supply was running out. The original idea had been for the heroin racket to be run by his closest associate while he monitored the operation from abroad. It was a disaster. As others cut into Larry's territory and violence flared, the associate buckled under the pressure and began using heroin heavily himself.
But Larry Dunne was bored too. The never ending sun, meeting different people every two weeks, all of them on their holidays, slackens the grip on reality. And, with the money supply dwindling, Larry went back to work.
Travellers cheques were stolen and the young tearaway would pass them in banks and shops.
In the fashionable 27 Disco Bar in Fuengirola they treated Larry and his company as celebrities. They were known to the locals as the Irish mafia and at least one of the local villains knew exactly who "Richard" was.
Larry spotted him one night in the bar before the Spaniard recognised him. Larry looked away. The young Spaniard was sitting just a few feet from Larry Dunne, in a corner of the bar, smoking hashish. It was Jesus Reyes Medrano, who was strongly suspected of setting up Shamie Dunne in March 1982 when Valerie Dunne and four others - along with the Spaniard -- were arrested in Malaga. They fled after being granted bail. In different times Larry would have interrogated him about the incident.
Known everywhere as "Richard", Larry Dunne was well known to the small ex-patriate Irish community around Fuengirola.
It was when the young tearaway got himself into yet another spot of bother that the anger and frustration Larry
Michael Dunne being taken to Mountjoy in October 1983 after being sentenced to seven years imprisonment for possession and intent to supply heroin
Dunne felt at his antics came to the surface.
The young tearaway had bought a deal of cocaine but he had been ripped off. Larry went into the narrow back streets to find the dealer with him and they were surrounnded by hostile locals.
Larry spoke to a Moroccan, he was gay, and his partner, who had sold the drug, and the young Irishman was told to cool down, it would be sorted out.
Larry was looking good. He wore his favourite jacket, a handmade leather model in the softest calf, it was light grey. He was encrusted with jewels: a solitaire diamond ring worth some £4,000 and a diamond cluster he had designed himself set in a concave so the stones would not catch on any fabric. It was insured for £8,000. He was wearing his gold Rolex watch too.
The young tearaway needled Larry, and the older man decided the kid needed cutting down to size. He flung off his jacket and tried to take off his jewellery when they left the 27 Bar for the beach to have their showdown. The young blood caught Larry with a karate kick to the side of the face, catching him by surprise.
Larry Dunne hit him just twice, the young man buckled up on the sand unconscious. The kid was revived and Larry began to tease him while he was revived. It was after four in the morning but Larry still decided to go for a swim. Foolishly the young tearaway followed him into the sea. He was still groggy and almost immediately got into trouble.
Larry dragged him from the water and had to administer mouth to mouth resuscitation. But Larry was deeply angry: his jewellery was missing and so was his leather jacket. He suspected some of the Spanish friends of the dealers who had followed them out of the bar when they knew they were going to fight. Eventually the rings turned up but the watch and jacket were never recovered.
It was the next day before Larry discovered that the jacket contained the driving licence that matched his passsport as well as four hundred dollars. It was a body blow to Larry Dunne, it meant he would be dependent on others to hire cars in future.
He headed off to Gran Canaria after that, settling in Playa del Ingles for a while and staying in various aparttment blocks. He stayed at the Koka then the Salmones before moving to Los Algas. He visited Gran Canaria four times in all and drank in the four Irish bars in the resort.
Late at night he could be found in the basement of the Metro shopping centre, in the bars where the dope dealers, prostitutes, transvestites and pimps felt at home. Normally. troublesome, none of them ever bothered Larry Dunne. They didn't know who he was but they knew he was trouble.
Rumours circulated about him in Playa del Ingles. There had been a killing on Tenerife when Larry was there, another murder in Lanzarote when he visited that island. Wild rumours circulated that he was a contract killer. They were groundless.
In Playa del Ingles he was seen with a known member of the INLA visiting from Ireland and again it was thought he was doing business with them.
The Irish, changing every few weeks, didn't get a chance to see too much of him although he saw a couple of prison officers on holiday.
4. Home Sweet Home
LARRY DUNNE HATED SCREWS. HE SAID they were perverts and told how he had dealt with what he said were the most sadistic of them. He said he followed one officer for two weeks in a van he had converted for surveillance, watching him leave for work, returning and noting the times and places where he went shopping. For two weeks he studied the officer's routine.
One day the officer left a supermarket and returned to his car. He was a heavy man and as he slumped into the driving seat he screamed and jumped out of the car: two razor sharp blades had been embedded in the seat and immpaled him in the thighs when he sat down. They were meant to cut off his testicles.
Again he told of another particularly hated prison offiicer in Portlaoise. The man kept very valuable dogs in kennels behind his house. One evening as he was drinking in his local pub he received ajphone call from Larry. He was told-so get home straight away, there was a crisis. When he arfived home the kennels were destroyed by fire and his fifteen valuable dogs perished in the blaze.
Visitors on Gran Canaria would get used to seeing him there drinking pints of San Miguel beer and bargaining for Major cigarettes, his own brand from home. He seemed so quiet and polite, soft spoken and mannerly. But some of the Irish women employed as couriers in Playa del Ingles avoided him. One of them said he made her shudder.
'He would disappear as suddenly as he appeared with smart new luggage in tow.' He seldom went more than a few weeks without contacting some of his immediate circle at home in Dublin. They were all convinced he had been recaptured once when he didn't get in contact for a month.
He became friendly with a number of prosperous Irish businessmen who have property on the Costa del Sol and in many ways would have blended in easily with their banter and lifestyle.
He became friendly with a number of prosperous business men who have property on the Costa del Sol and in many ways would have blended in easily with their banter and lifestyle.
But he could never really make the jump to legitimacy.
He did get into business once but it was in a pool hall and amusement arcade near Dolphin's Barn.
It was a terrible stigma, he would say, to be born a Dunne, you could never really get away from it no matter how much money you had.
He was deeply angry at the stories about his oldest daughter being taunted by other children in school saying her daddy was a drugs godfather.
The system was loaded against them, he would say, no Dunne could expect a fair trial in Ireland. They were perseecuted and only did what they did to survive. It was all they knew, he would say.
He was alone, say the Portuguese immigration authoriities, who] stopped him at a routine passport check as he stepped off the ferry from Spain.
He thrust the distinctive green hardback passport toward the immigration officer. It was in the name of Richard Cunningham, currently a convicted prisoner in Mountjoy jail, Dublin.
The officer opened the passport but was immediately suspicious; it was the photograph, something about it was just not right. He was told to stand aside while the officer leafed through the "red notices", circulars from the police forces aroundjthe world containing details and photographs of fugitives.J
The officer stopped when he was looking at a picture of Larry Duifhe, the most successful importer of heroin into Ireland in the history of the State. Larry went quietly, maybe he was relieved it was all over.
While he was in the Portuguese prison feelers were put out to see if Mr Paddy McEntee BL and Mr Gerry Danaher BL, the legal team who secured Australian fugitive Mr Robert Trimbole's release from Mountjoy and subsequent deportation problems, would act for Larry Dunne.
But Larry Dunne had already made up his own mind.
He was tired, he wanted to come back to the only place he can call home. It is a prison cell.
HIGH AND DEEP IN THE DUBLIN MOUNTAINS the air is sweet and the living is easy. Among these bald hills even the emergencies are less urgent, especially in summer: the fire brigade play their hoses on the smouldering moorland and the overhead sun lightly grills the shaved landscape and you can gaze down on the city below.
The harsh skyline is diffused by smog taking the hard edge off the ugly new edifices. From this elevated nirvana the clumps of slums that pockmark Dublin lose definition, melting into the spread of faceless new buildings. You can't 'even see Dolphin's Barn; it is another country, a separate existence.
It is breathtakingly lovely up here, the stuff dreams are made of: looking at the neat houses tastefully sculpted into the hillsides you can actually see some of the city's merrchant princes living in self-made mirages.
Up in this rare air somebody even named their house "On a Clearday", with that peculiar spelling, and down the road is a split level villa in the Malibu style called "Gorse Rock", a monument to the I've-made-it-and-this-is-the-proof school of architecture.
But even when Larry Dunne had elbowed his way out of Dolphin's Bam, through Rathfarnham, up the hill as far as "Gorse Rock", he was still dreaming of a life even further up the slope. So did all the Dunnes and they came within a whisker of dragging their fantasy into their ruinous reality.
They had even bought the plot of land.
It was a dope-addled dream induced by the Dunnes and their closest confidantes smoking dope and sniffing! whattever intoxicating powder was handy, although the first preference was cocaine. It was Henry Dunne who first had the vision but they all chipped in to the common fantasy, even Larry, who is more private and introverted thaIr the others.
It was centred on land that Henry bought in the mounntains, deeper in the rugged mountain terrain than Larry's middle class citadel in the foothills over Sandyford. It is bleak moorland, isolated and difficult to find, tucked away
with just a few sheep for company. From it, you can see the Sugarloaf near Bray clearly and the Scalp - the rockkstrewn beauty spot where Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator, once wove dreams for a trampled down peasantry - is not far away.
All the family would build houses there, the dream began, and then chosen friends would be invited to live alongside. Self-sufficiency was the by-word - the shops would sell everything so there would be no need to travel beyond the perimeter walls. There would even be a school for the kids and a teacher would be employed, and the selffcontained community would grow food so that contact with a hostile outside world would be kept to a minimum. There would be an elaborate defence system to keep the cops out. The Dunnes hate the cops, been at war with them all their lives. With all the family, the kids, the extended family, their kids, the trusted friends and their spouses and kids, there would be a community of a couple of hundred people and, with them all huddled together behind high walls, nothing nor nobody could ever hurt them again.
They would call the new town "Dunnesville".
It is a common fantasy of children, betraying a deeppseated insecurity which should surprise nobody who has seen the filth and squalor, fierce violence and deprivation from which the Dunnes emerged.
And emerge they have, arriving at the pinnacle of celebrity, one of the best known family names in Ireland. Foreigners look up the de Val eras and the Yeats' but more Irish school kids know more about the Dunnes than they do about the Pearses, Joyces or even the Smurfits.
In their own eyes the Dunnes are rich and famous. The riches are illusory and transitory and the fame indistinnguishable from notoriety but it is still an achievement, in their own estimation, just to have broken out from the plethora of appalling problems and forfeits that has blighted them from birth.
Such is their fame that every time another youngster impales themselves on a hypodermic syringe and squeezes heroin into their blood the Dunnes are blamed. Public perrception now has them .as the collective Adam and Eve of the original sin of heroin in Ireland. They did for smack what Henry Ford did for the motor car: made it available to the working man and woman, even the kids on the dole, even the kids at school. That is how the Dunnes are seen by most people.
The Dunnes are blamed for the near ruination of a generation; their poison is considered to be responsible for the addiction of nearly ten per cent of the kids in inner city Dublin.
For the past years they have strutted around Dublin, the arrogant princes and princesses of the city. Conquering their patches of the city for crime by intimidation and thuggery where it couldn't be bought. Living above and beyond the law, outlaws. Professional criminals, is their own vision of themselves, tradesmen with a skill that took years to develop and mature. The cleverest crooks around.
They justify everything they do by pointing out what they came from and saying that they rob, steal, peddle drugs, maim and damage children to get by in an unfair world where the game is loaded against them from the outset. They will intimidate jurors and bribe witnesses just to even up the score. They say the police and authorities lie and cheat to trap them. They point out that reformschools and jails have beaten them and bludgeoned them in an attempt to break their spirit.
The Dunnes, they say, are getting even.
6. Family Life
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT TO GET EVEN WITH, even the sin handed down by their father, old Bronco. Way back in 1939 when the world was at war and Ireland had an emergency, Bronco Dunne was getting even with a guy who had been annoying his mother. He punched him twice around the head and when the man's head hit off a door jamb in a tenement room in York Street, Dublin, he slumped to the floor, went into coma and died later. A reputation was born that night and eighteen months in Portlaoise prison for manslaughter did nothing to dispel it.
The kids knew what it was like to go hungry, not to see their mother and father for long periods of time, and suffer the heartache and humiliation of domestic violence. The Dunnes, despite myths, are no tight knit and interdependent family, treating each other with tenderness and respect. They bitch about each other, some of them are openly hostile to others, although a few, especially Henry and Larry, are very close. They will explain that blood is thicker than water but patiently - and delicately - expound a theory that your relatives are often the friends you don't choose.
Heroin has ravaged the Dunnes as much as any other family in Ireland. Of the family left in Ireland only Christy, and that is probably because of his age (48), has escaped unscathed. Henry, Mickey, Robert, Shamie (the younger ones), and even the untouchable Larry have been hooked, sickened with an addiction they could not control.
The family of course say that they would never have been involved in drugs except through circumstance. After the murder of guards John Morley and Henry Byrne during an armed robbery in July 1980 at Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon, the Minister for Justice, Gerry Collins, annnounced a £100 million secutity plan to foil organised crime and armed robbers. And the Divisional Task Forces were so successful that armed robbers like the Dunnes and their associates were forced into drugs trafficking, which they were only dabbling in before. At least that is what the Dunnes say.
The kindnesses of the Dunnes have been attested to by a lot of people, many of them from outside the criminal fraternity. They were generous almost to a fault with their friends and charitable to worthy causes. They put shoes on a lot of bare feet, and quite a few homeless children into accommodation.
They could never have survived as long as they did and moved through the working class communities of Dublin with such impunity if they didn't have supporters. Each of them had a circle of friends, some of them loyal and deependable.
But they also had a sickening capacity for violence and cruelty. One young man, a vegetarian hippie, returned from abroad with a kilo of hashish. He was a peace and love merrchant who traded a little hash along with his idyllic anarrchism and wanted to live in a cottage in the Wicklow Hills with his girlfriend and love bomb the world through good vibes. The Dunnes wanted his stash, and wanted it bad.
They arrived and took the young man prisoner and drove him away in the boot of a car. When he refused to tell them where he had hidden his hash even after a beating he was told to dig his own grave: He was subjected to sadisstic cruelties. Larry's friends vehemently deny that he was involved and popular wisdom puts that display of barbarism at Robert Dunne's door.
Henry was a great mechanic, a patient and highly skilled craftsman at his chosen profession, and a loving family man too. At one time he was the Godfather of the family, as popular parlance tags the current most affluent Dunne at any time. Shamie Dunne was extremely likeable, gregarious, good company, spectacularly vulgar - and generous - with his money and incontinent at the mouth. He just couldn't keep a secret, a fatal failing in a criminal. He too was family Godfather for a while before being eclipsed by Larry.
By common consent Larry Dunne is the classiest operator in the family, a talented criminal of exceptional intelligence and extraordinary ability.
How he could have been so arrogant and lax as to be caught with £60,000 worth of heroin, cocaine and hashish in his own house shows the little respect with which he held the guards. The Dunnes had always said that they had paid informants within the Gardai and even hinted that they had bought themselves a judge or two. This, of course, was to discourage informants, and there has been no evidence that their corruption ran to anything more than a few petty officials, although there were suspicions about them having their people at docks and airports.
The notion of the Dunnes - clever, cunning and devious as they undoubtedly are - as a terrifyingly efficient crime machine is another myth encouraged by a badly organised and grossly inefficient Gardai and perpetuated by a media starved of heroes and villains trying to shore up the myth of a Dublin working class family of Corleones.
The Dunnes have had their comical moments too, most of them unintentional. Some of them were notoriously prone to malapropisms. A common failing was, "Oh, don't worry. It's just a phrase he's going through."
Then there was the protest march to the Department of Justice in Dublin when the Dunnes and other prisoners were moved to Limerick jail. It was a shambles, and an unndignified one, and buried forever the notion of them as major fixers with political know-how and clout.
Some fifty protestors marched on the Department, most of them young men in the skinhead mould, causing one close criminal associate of the family to remark, "They were a desperate shower of gurriers, they frightened me and terrified everybody who saw them." As they marched through Cork Street on their way from Dolphin's Barn to St Stephen's Green someone thought it would be a good idea to introduce some horses to the parade. A number of ponies were led at the front by Charlie Dunne. Christy Dunne, dressed as immaculately as ever, refused to walk in the demonstration but walked on the footpath slagging them off. He was deeply ashamed. He complained that they lpoked like a "parade of knackers." Some of them have since said that they thought that the parading of the horses would be a display of affluence, a showing of their wealth assuring the authorities they were not without means and chattels. It showed a remarkable naivety for the nation's foremost criminal family.
Foreign travel, although built up by the media and others as one of the perks of wealth and a means to measure success and sophistication, was never really popular with the Dunnes.
The Dunnes hated leaving Dolphin's Barn and even leaving Dublin for the Irish countryside caused minor cullture shock. Transporting them to a foreign land, especially one with constant sunshine, was to isolate them from their source of power. A Dunne outside Dublin was a bit like Superman cut off from Kryptonite. Nearly every time they moved abroad there was trouble. In March 1982 Shamie Dunne's wife Valerie and his girlfriend Fiona O'Sullivan, were arrested in Malaga, along with Patrick Nutterfield, a Dublin gofer and a Spanish dealer who worked as a barman, Jesus Reyes Medrano.
Shamie Dunne, with henchmen Martin Kenny and Franncis Larkin, fled the resort and hightailed it back to Dublin. The others, after being released on bail, fled too.
In strange lands the Dunnes grumbled about the food, how much they missed Dublin and the irritations of not being able to get a proper cup of tea.
7. The Myth
WHEN LARRY WAS ON THE RUN IN GRAN Canaria some of the family arranged to visit him when he stayed at the resort of Playa del Ingles. Outside the resort, near the village of San Agustin, is a mock western town built for the filming of one of Clint Eastwood's early spaghetti westerns. People can dress up as cowboys and live out a fantasy of being in the wild west of the US of A in the pioneering days. One of the family's most cherished possessions is the series of photographs of them dressed up as bank robbers, armed with guns and robbing a bank in Sioux city. They pronounced it Sigh-ox city.
Christy Dunne, currently unable to raise the £6,000 bail to have him freed from a prison in Palma, Majorca where he is being held for a number of offences involving false passsports and under suspicion of being involved in the armed robbery of £500,000 worth of travellers cheques from the American Express office in Dublin, was looked up to by the younger Dunnes foryears. A well dressed sophisticate with a glib tongue and impressive command of English, he would stand up in company and say, "Let's abort this mission." Then he would leave. This display of worldliness impressed the younger ones. But some of them do not trust him any more.
The myth will endure even though the family has been ravished by narcotics and decimated by the authorities. The Dunnes have had their metaphorical fifteen minutes of fame. As an entity they are smashed and broken, an example of what the forces of law and order can do when they conncentrate. Once again they are a problem family besotted with problems and destroyed by the plague they helped unnleash on their own community.
Larry Dunne told a friend some time ago, "If I didn't do it (sell heroin) somebody else would. I don't force them to buy it." He is devoted to his own children and is deeply disturbed by the news that his oldest daughter has had problems in school from other children who taunt her about her evil, "Drug Godfather" daddy. Ironically heroin hooked him too, has smashed his own family and will ennsure he will be a much older middleaged man, around 50, before he gets to know the daughters he dotes on so much.
With Henry, Larry will be remembered as a useful villain, a criminal of considerable skill, cunning and imagination. They will have a relatively easy time in prison, although nobody, not even the screws, have an easy time in jail. It will just be more bearable because of their standing within the criminal subculture and their relative wealth. But they will still spend a big portion of what is left of their lives locked up.
There have been no songs or ballads yet about the Dunnes. You can bet there will be. They are better known in their native city than anyone of the past half dozen Lord Mayors.
But those sad, sad pictures of Henry and Larry Dunne abandoned, lost and alone in London are haunting. Those kids, strangers in a strange land, spread across page one of the Daily Mirror in 1960 are achingly poignant. Those same faces have graced a few front pages since and brought tears to many other families.
The Dunnes have gone down but the folk anti-heroes and the mythical tales of their derring-do are spreading like head lice in the classrooms and street corners of working class Dublin. •