The night they killed Declan Flynn
Maggie O'Kane talks to the Fairview Killers.
Tony Maher didn't go to work that day. It was his foot, his mother thought it was gangrene, but the doctor said it was a rash from the heavy duty army socks. He went out later though, down to East Wall to see his girl and then to Fairview Park.
It's not far from Mahers to Fairview Park; just a short walk down Poplar Row, over Annesley Bridge where you can see the prams and mattresses stuck in the silt at low tide, past the Presbyterian Hall built long before the flats. Down to Fairview Cinema which faces the park and where Tony and the lads got in free sometimes because they knew the fella on the door.
Tony Maher went down to the park since he was a kid. They used to sit at the monument under the stone statue of a man with a book in his hand - they didn't know who he was - they'd never looked really, some fella with his name in Irish.
When he was young he used to play football there, they still did sometimes, or else they'd take their girls for a go on one of the benches on the railway path.
Sometimes if they had a bit of money they'd bring cider with them. Tony didn't like drink much, it made his stomach sick.
Other times they'd rob a few cars and bring them down to the flats or go into Barney's on O'Connell Street to play Space Invaders or a new game called Defender which was even better.
The night they killed Dec1an Flynn the girls had gone home. The girls always went home when they went queer bashing or bashing people they thought were queers. Sometimes it didn't really matter if they were or not but it was better if they were because queers used to molest young kids and stuff like that in the park. Robert Armstrong just didn't like queers.
One of the lads thought it would be a good way of getting a few bob - robbing a few queers like.
In the beginning it was just a chase; then they started to get sticks from the trees. A few of them had been queer bashing for six weeks before and had battered 20 steamers. Steamers, they called them. They used to grab them and if they hit back they would give it to them.
There were six of them that night; Tony Maher and Robert Armstrong with their crew cuts because they were in the army. Robert Armstrong used to live in Finglas until his Ma threw him out for causing trouble. Tony's Ma said he could stay with them and let him live in their flat for six months. Colm Donovan was 17 and didn't have a job, neither did Patrick Kavanagh who lived over the bridge in St Brigid's Ave and used to be on the Dublin Minor team. Little Keegan came along on his bike from the East Wall. They called him little because he was only 14 and small. Curley was there as well, but he was smart, they say, didn't get himself into trouble.
It was a warm night for September and Kavanagh, Donovan and Maher all had their girls so they went into the park to see if there was any crack, that's where everyone went at night. Robert Armstrong wasn't in work that day. He was up in the park with his bird from the East Wall.
The girls left about eleven and walked home to East Wall. Tony Maher's girl Catherine always says now that she should have made him walk her home. Sometimes he did but usually he'd stay in the park with the lads.
The first man they'd chased had got away out onto the North Strand Road so they didn't bother going after him.
Declan Flynn was their second victim. They say he sat down on the bench beside Kavanagh and they hid behind the trees with the sticks.
It was easy to get good sticks because there was plenty of trees with low branches.
They watched. Armstrong said he saw the two starting to scuffle on the bench. Kavanagh shouted "get the bastard". Dec1an Flynn began to run; across the grass and down by the playground hedge towards the lights and noise of the North Strand.
He almost made it. They got him just ten yards from the gate and the main road where the Fairview Grill is open
They began to beat and kick him. When they had finished Dec1an Flynn lay on the path choking on his own blood. Tony Maher knew he was dying, he opened his shirt button, his hands were trembling, he felt all panicky. Robert Armstrong went to get the ambulance, the others just stood there and looked. They turned him on his side and then they legged it.
They legged it back past the Presbyterian Hall where youth activities were held every Saturday between six and eight. Over Annesley Bridge and back up to the flats. It was very quiet, there were no kids hitting balls off the balcony walls or prams being pulled up the stairs. "Jasus, maybe we roughed him up a bit much", said Donovan. But Armstrong knew he would die. He had seen the blood coming out of his mouth and it wasn't just running out, it was pumping.
They sat there until little Murphy came up. They split up in the park and he'd legged it home, leaving his bike lying on the ground. When he got home he turned on his radio and heard that the man beaten up in Fairview Park was dead on admission to Blanchardstown Hospita1.
When Murphy came up to the flats, to tell them Dec1an Flynn was dead, he was on his bike. He was always on his bike, he even brought it up the tracks when he went looking for cider at the parties.
"Your man's after dying on arriva1." Murphy was nearly crying; you could see he was all white.
Everyone split then and Armstrong and Maher let themselves into Maher's flat. They sat just looking at the fire.
Tony Maher kept thinking about what would happen to him and he kept seeing Declan Flynn lying on the ground choking on his blood. He still sees it now and again.
Armstrong went blank: "There's not much to think about when you've just killed a bloke," he says, "except what's going to happen and when they'll come for you."
Tony Maher didn't talk to anyone about what happened but some of the fellas started to tell their girlfriends and it got round.
They were going to meet up outside the fire station the next day but Armstrong brought along this other fella called Kelly and they couldn't talk. Kelly knew there was something up. He brought them into Burgerland in the Hac Centre. He wasn't a friend really, he just used to hang around the park. Someone once tied him to a tree in the park for robbing a man's car. Tony Maher heard he was a bit of a squealer.
On the way down to the Hac, Donovan started to crack up a bit; he was nervy. They saw the newspapers and it was written all over them. Donovan was getting worse and Kelly was watching him. "It was you's that done that last night in the park, wasn't it?" Donovan really cracked up then. "No, we weren't near the park." Kelly said nothing, he knew they went queer bashing so he just bought the burgers and milkshakes ... They didn't talk about it. they knew Kelly was just looking for a bit of beef.
Tony Maher just sat watching the people through the window of Burgerland. He was thinking about the papers:
"It sunk in that he was after dying. I was saying murder. I couldn't believe he'd died, it happened so quick in the park that night." They talked about birds, girls - all that crap. Nobody brought it up.
Everyone went home. Tony Maher sat in the sitting room and called into his mother in the scullery. "Hey Ma, did ye hear that fella died?" "I hope to God you weren't near him ," his Ma said. Tony said no that he was with his girl down at East Wall.
He really wanted to talk about it. He had to see the rest that were involved with him and talk about it. His Ma was there but he didn't want to say it to her or to his Da or anything like that.
Robert Armstrong rang his Ma when they'd finished in Burgerland. He told her what happened. She said he was a fucking eejit but she didn't really believe him.
His friends always called Tony Maher "Bones"; nobody's sure why, except that he's a skinny fella with cropped army hair. He's not a quiet fella, his friends say, but you wouldn't call him a messer either.
The flats aren't big in Ballybough. Tony sleeps on the couch downstairs. He likes it better there, it's warmer.
His Ma, Betty, is around 40 but she looks younger except for the grey wisps that escape from her bun and hang over her face. They've been on the housing list for years - she wants to move - now she can see the park from the bedroom window.
Robert Armstrong lives with his four sisters and his Ma and Da in a small semi in Finglas. It's well kept and the pale green of the windows matches the car. He's lived there all his life. All the neighbours know him and they tell him not to worry.
Sometimes he gets slagged on the bus. Since it happened, people call him a queer but he just says nothing.
When they knocked on the door at eight that Sunday morning Tony Maher knew they'd come for him. He'd been waiting for the knock and he heard his Da going down the stairs in his bare feet. He was glad in a way. It was all out now and that made him feel relieved. He could hear his Ma at the door now, she kept asking what they wanted but they wouldn't tell her, they just gave his Da the warrants.
They took his two brothers as well. Willy, who's very quiet and never causes any trouble and Paul who's been done a few times over motorbikes. His sister was bawling on the stairs when they were being taken out.
They went quickly. He just sat in the car and said nothing. He was thinking of life, spending his life in prison.
They brought him up to Fitzgibbon Street and charged him with murder.
"I was in the park that night," he said, and told them what happened.
At 12 o'clock they came back to his mother. "Mrs, I'm very sorry," they said, "he's after admitting to it."
His girlfriend's parents stood bail, £5,000. He'd only been going with her a few months.
Robert Armstrong didn't get bail. He was in St Pats from September to March. That was the worst part. He was sure he was getting seven years and he thought about spending seven years there in that cell. There's nothing to do - you even eat your dinner in your cell. Some of his mates from Finglas were in with him so that made it easier.
You'd get out in the morning for a walk around this yard but after that you were in there nearly all day. There was a bed and blankets, a chamber pot, a water jug and a locker. He read a lot when he was in there, crime books mostly.
Tony Maher joined the army two years ago. His friend Charlie Murphy from Ossory Road was always annoying him about joining the army and getting something to do. So they went down to sign up one day and when Charlie heard that they'd be going to Baldonnell he chickened out because he thought it was somewhere down the country. Charlie hadn't seen much of Tony then until he said he heard that the queer died and he went up to talk to him.
Tony Maher says he'll stay in the army if they let him. His Da's going to see the Minister to ask him if he can stay. He'd do another three years, maybe six if they let him.
The lads in the army keep hassling him to tell them what happened but they didn't give him trouble because he had an uncle in the army.
He was scared in court, he felt bad with his parents there and all that. He was expecting seven years. He was saying to himself "seven years". They all thought they were going to get a lot of time over it. When the judge said he was putting them on remand for five years he thought they were getting five years and he just kept thinking about going back to that cell for five years.
He appeared all the time in army uniform and was represented by the army, his mother thought that was a good thing.
Robert Armstrong saw Declan Flynn's brother in the court. He wasn't worried though because he knew he couldn't do anything to him.
When the judge said they were on remand for five years everyone started crying and that's because they thought they were getting sent down for five years. He said to his Ma: "What's happening, what's he mean?" "You're coming home," she said.
Derek Byrne is 16 and lives down the North Strand. He knows Tony Maher and the others to see around. He hangs around with a gang from Buckingham Street or sometimes he goes down Brigid's. Paddy Kavanagh lives in Brigid's Avenue in a house near the corner - an old wooden door and brass fittings - it's cosy and well kept.
Derek Byrne thinks that they went too far with Declan Flynn but he's not against bashing queers. But that's pervert queers, not ordinary gay people who go their friends' house. But perverts, fellas that molest little boys, are different. He's talking about fellas who go down lanes out in the suburbs and because it goes on a lot in the suburbs. They should be castrated, or if not castrated, a mental blockage put in your head or something so you won't think about sex or won't have the urge to do it. A pervert is a person who has a mental disorder and you can't fix mental disorders, you have to do something physical to them.
Derek went queer bashing once. Himself and his two mates went out to rob a car but they couldn't find one so they decided to go down to Burgh Quay and wait for a few queers.
They went down to the toilets and Derek sent one of the lads over to the Film Centre and told him to look in the glass until someone approached him and someone did approach him. He told Derek after that the man said: "Do you want to go for a walk?" So they went for a walk. He wanted him to get him around by the Metropole because there's a lot of lanes down that way. But anyway your man didn't want to go that way, you know, he was a bit suspicious. He was sort of half bald with a receding hairline on him - about thirty probably. He looked fairly okay, probably a clerical officer or something like that. He went down the Irish Life Mall.
They ran round and cut him off. They gave him a few boots in the Mall and they got his watch and that. He hadn't much money on him and he was just crying, leave me alone and all this. Then they legged it.
Catherine lives down on the East Wall opposite the park_ She says she sees a squad car going around at night and there never used to be one.
Derek Byrne says it won't make any difference. The park is a good place to batter someone, he says, there's loads of getaway points: you can get over the East Wall or down the tracks, down into the dumps or out by Sean MacDermott Street. They haven't a hope.
Four of the names in this article - Little Keegan, Willie, Kelly and Derek Byrne - have been changed.