The Dunnes - the inside story of a criminal family

From the Magill archive, by Mary Raftery who died on January 10, 2012 following an illness. It was this investigation of the Dunne family in 1983 that brought to Mary's attention the abuse of children in state industrial schools; the Dunne brothers each told Mary similar stories of abuse under the 'care' of religious orders. (The full PDF of this edition is embedded below.) In 1999, Mary Raftery's documentary series States of Fear exposed the true extent of physical and sexual abuse suffered by children in state industrial schools run by religious orders. 


In 1961 at the age of 24, Christy Dunne, the eldest of the family, wrote a book. He had been charged with robbery and was on the run. He evaded the law for six months by living in a Jesuit retreat house in Dublin, and during that time, he wrote his book. By Mary Raftery. Additional reporting by Colm Toibin.

It concerned his childhood and that of his brothers and sisters. It told of their life on the streets of the Liberties, where their parents had a clothes stall in the Francis Street markets, and later of growing up in Dolphin's Barn, where the family moved into one of the Rutland Avenue Corporaation houses shortly after they were built in the mid-1940s.

But it concentrates particularly on the time the elder boys spent in industrial schools throughout the country, and on his own escape to England at the age of twelve and a half.

The industrial schools catered for boys up to the age of 16, and were run by religious orders, mainly by Christian Brothers. without State assistance. They were custodial centres in which orphans, school truants and boys with criminal convictions were all locked up together. They were known for the constant use of violence.

Eight of the Dunne brothers spent time in industrial schools. Christy was sent to Carriglea on Rochestown Avenue in Dun Laoghaire when he was eleven. Larry was in Daingean. Robert, Henry and Vianney all spent years in the Artane school. Gerard also spent time in an industrial school and

Johnny and Hubert were sent to Uptown in .County Cork which was run by the Rosminians.

Shamie and Charlie managed to avoid reformatory by leaving for England before they were sentenced. They were looked after by various aunts and uncles.

As they each progressed into their teens, the Dunne brothers became increasingly involved in petty crime and some were sent to reformatories for such offences as robbing gas meters and shoplifting. Their father, Christopher (known as Bronco) used always turn up at their court cases, but did little throughout the years to discourage them. Both he and their mother, Ellen, drank heavily and the children were often neglected for long periods at a time. She was always very upset when they were being sent away.

A long-standing family friend remembers visiting the house and seeing Johnny in a room totally bare offurniture surrounded by eight small children, trying to feed them all out of a pot of stew.

Christy came back to Ireland in 1955 when his father sent him a telegram which said: "Come home. Hubert's been drowned." It was typical of his father's bluntness. The boys in the industrial school in Uptown had got into difficulty while out swimming but they had all been saved except Hubert. Hubert was 14. Johnny was in the school at the same time. He has never told any member of the family the full story of what happened and says he never will. Not long after Hubert's funeral Gerard was born.

Christy did not return to England. Instead himself and Johnny attempted to keep the family together and look after the younger ones, especially when their father went away to England. But at that stage, many of the older boys were in industrial school, and the younger children were running wild. When neighbours complained about them to their mother, she would beat them, but she could not control them.

Neighbours remember that as a family they kept very much to themselves, and did not share their problems with anyone. As the children grew older and became more innvolved in criminal activity, they never bothered anyone on the street. Although they were well-known in the area for their criminal activity, they were never seen as a threat to either the property or the safety of the local population.

Christy had stayed with his, grandfather in Liverpool.

His grandfather had moved to England, leaving his wife and family in Dublin; during the 1930s. The family felt that he had been hounded out of Ireland due to his Republican activities. In the civil war he had' shot two men, as well as his brother-in-law, a free stater, whom he shot in the backkside in his house in Queen Street.

Mag Dunne, his wife, was left behind in Dublin. In 1939 her son Christy (the father of the 16 Dunne children), killed a man in a fight. The man had been paying too much attention to his mother. He was found guilty of manslaughter and served 18 months in Portlaoise. It is said that while he walked from the train station to the prison in Portlaoise he was jeered by people ~-rom the town. The family say that he had to carry a ball and chain while on his way to the prison.

Christy was in and out of jail on a series of theft offences during the late 1920s and '30s. His brother Jimmy was a well-known criminal, with a long prison record. Christy worked on and off on the docks, and in the late 1950s ae worked in England for some years. He was a Republican syrnpathiser and was pro-German during the war.

While the parents were working and while the father was "way, the children were looked after by Mag Dunne or by :heir maternal great-grandmother Nellie O'Brien in Stanaway Road in Kimmage; her husband Peter had fought in the First Wo rId War, the Boer War and lived to be a hundred. Her house was always full of her great-grandchildren and she 'is remembered with great affection by the family.

Christy's book would have been the first to expose the inhumanity and short-sightedness of the industrial schools, all of which have now long since been closed down. It was, however, never published. Several publishers in fact agreed to bring it out, but each one withdrew for fear of libel. When the book was shown to Peadar O'Donnell, he was apparently impressed by it, and did not consider it libellous. "You can't libel the whores of Dublin" was his remark.

It was through a realisation that he couldn't remain in hiding in the retreat house for ever, and also a determination to find a publisher for his book, that Christy asked a priest whom he had known for sev.eral years to make representations on his behalf to the relevant authorities, testifying to hIS good conduct and resolve to get a job and go straight' in future.

Approaches were made to Charles Haughey, then just about to become Minister for Justice, to the Attorney General Aindrias 0 Caoimh, and to Assistant Garda Commmissioner William P. Quinn, in charge of the Dublin Metroopolitan Area. They all agreed that Christy had shown a serious commitment to reform, and the charges were droppped. Haughey remarked that six months in a retreat house was as good as any jail sentence. The Assistant Commissioner agreed that on the merits of the case the charges should be dropped. But when informed that the individual concerned was a member of the Dunne family, he said: "You'll never be able to reform any of that family."

United we stand

In 1966, Christy Dunne became deeply involved in the presidential election campaign. He worked for the Fine Gael candidate, Tom O'Higgins, and suppplied and drove the lorry from which the candidate and several senior Fine Gael politicians made their election speeches in the Dublin area. Among those who spoke from the back of Christy's lorry were Liarn Cosgrave, Richie Ryan and Declan Costello. He was very friendly at the time with most of the senior members of Fine Gael, and was on particularly good terms with Patrick Cooney. He himself was occasionally permitted to deliver speeches during the 1966 campaign.

Since 1961, when the robbery charges against him had been dropped, Christy had made a serious attempt to settle down and get a job. He ran a taxi for a while, and then set up his own small building contracting firm. But in the late 1960s his building business fell apart, and he- was back in prison, serving short sentences for minor offences.

At this time most of the brothers were in England.

Johnny and Ann had both married there and had no innvolvement in any form of crime. But Shamie (who had been there since the age of fourteen), Charlie, Robert, Mickie, Larry and Vianney had been in and out of British jails during the previous decade. They had established a network of contacts in the criminal world which was later to stand them in good stead.

Christy finished a two-year sentence in Portlaoise for receiving stolen goods in 1974.Shortly after that, three of the brothers who were living in Ireland began to organise and carry out a series of armed robberies. Gradually, one by one, the other brothers returned from England during the mid-1970s and joined what had then become a highly efficient family organisation of armed robbers. The broothers operated as a team and distributed the money equally between them. Some of the members of the family also began to dabble in drugs during that time. They dealt in cannabis in a small way, and from 1974 to 1977 Henry, Frances and Gerard were convicted for possession of cannaabis.

During 1978 and '79, however, conflict began to develop among the brothers. Some of them felt that others were not contributing. enough to the members of the family who needed support. A power struggle was also developing within the family over who should be in overall control of the armed robbery operation. There was bitter opposition between the brothers who had been in Ireland for some years and those who had only recently returned from England.

These rows coincided with the start of some of the family's involvement with heroin dealing, and as the armed rob bery team gradually dissolved, the brothers began to set up their own heroin businesses. They were never again to operate as a team, and while particular members, especially Larry and Shamie, and Christy and Henry, remained close to each other, the family began again to drift apart.

The Drug Run

In 1979 and 1980 two events occurred which were to have a dramatic effect on the activities of the criminal members of the Dunne family. In Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah in a bloody

revolution, and Afghanistan witnessed an invasion of Soviet troops which was resisted by the rural and hill tribesmen.

In the weeks before the Iranian revolution there was a mass exodus of the country's aristocracy, and businessmen. They converted their huge reserves of local currency mainly into heroin, which is considerably easier and less bulky to transport than gold or diamonds. Many of them travelled to Europe where they sold their heroin for dollars and various European currencies. This resulted in an enormous and very sudden increase in the availability of heroin on the streets of Europe, and particularly of Amsterdam, drugs capital of the world.

Panel: The Dunne Family*****************

The specific details as regards the convictions and charges against members of the Dunne family are as follows:

• Larry Dunne: arrested and charged with possession and intent to supply heroin, cocaine and cannabis with a combined street value of between £50,000 and £60,000 on 19 Oct 1980. Found guilty 25 June 1983. Not sentenced as he absconded while on bail 24 June 1983. Whereabouts unknown.
• Collette Dunne: arrested and charged with possession and intent to supply cocaine on 13 October 1980. Sentenced to 2 years in Limerick prison in July 1982. She is due out next month.
• Henry Dunne arrested and charged with the ise of a firearm to resist arrest in May 1981. Sentenced to 10 years in Mountjoy in Feb 1983.

• Michael Dunne and his wife Dolores arrested and charged with possession and intent to supply heroin with a street value of between £1,000 and £1,500 in Michaels case and possession of heroin in Dolores' case, in August 1982. In October 1983, Michael sentenced to 7 years in Mountjoy, Dolores given a two -year suspended sentence.

• Valerie Dunne (wife of Shamie) arrested in early 1983 and charged with receiving stolen jewellery. Sentenced to 3 years in prison in October 1983. She is appealing her conviction.

• Shamie Dunne arrested July 1983 and charged with possession with intent to supply of £400,000 worth of heroin. He has pleaded not guilty and is currently on bail. His trial is scheduled for the spring of next year.

• Robert Dunne and Theresa (his wife) charged in Novemmber 1982 with possession of heroin and intent to supply. Their trial is scheduled for January 1984.

• Ellen Dunne (married name Tighe) charged with possesssion of heroin with intent to supply also in November 1982. Trial scheduled for January 1984.

• Christy Dunne charged in 1981 with robbery. Trial scheduled for early 1984.

• Gerard Dunne currently charged with petty theft offennces.


The tribal areas of Afghanistan (as well as Pakistan) had, in the late 1970s, been replacing the Golden Triangle counntries of Southeast Asia as the world's largest heroin produucers. And it was in these tribal areas of Afghanistan that resistance to the Soviet invasion was strongest. The tribessmen were traditional opium poppy farmers, and they began to dramatically escalate their production of heroin and to sell it on the international market in order to purchase arms, which further increased the quantity of heroin on sale throughout the world.

During 1979 and 1980 drug treatment clinics throughout Europe and the United States recorded a substantial increase in the level of heroin addiction. The international drugs syndicates were seeking. new markets to which to sell their surplus heroin.

Some of the older members of the Dunne family became aware, through their long-standing contacts with criminals in Britain, of the effect that international upheaval was having on the heroin trade. They realised that with a product like heroin, where supply creates a rapid and escaalating demand, the selling of the drug to an Irish market would not only be far more lucrative than their previous activities of larceny and armed robbery, but would also be' considerably safer.

The Dunnes did not all become involved in the trade simultaneously. Neither, when they did set up as heroin suppliers, did they operate together as a single organisation. They each had their own areas and methods of distribution, and their own routes of supply, the details of which they did not divulge to each other. Neither did they inform each other of their international contacts.

They did, however, lend each other money, and they also sold one another supplies of heroin, when a Drugs Squad bust would have left one of them short. They also occasionally used the same locations to store their supplies. But each of them was in total control of his or her own operation. It was not a family business, and there was no "godfather", or overall boss of operations. When one or even two of the family were arrested, it did not substan-. tially alter the activities of the others.

The Dunnes amassed large quantities of jewellery through their heroin deals. Addicts frequently paid for their supplies with jewellery stolen from their parents or from breaking into houses. The Dunnes had no difficulty in selling the jewellery. They had close links with several jewellery shops in the city centre of Dublin, and through these they had easy access to the equipment required to melt down gold and cut diamonds. There is evidence that some of the jewellery stash was used in an attempt by one of the brothers to set up a heroin smuggling route through Spain.

Of all the brothers aside from Johnny, Christy was the only one not to become involved at some level in drugs. Four of them emerged during 1980 and '81 as major dealers: Larry was the largest heroin supplier to the area stretching from Bray to Dun Laoghaire; two other brothers operated in the south inner-city, particularly around the Corporation flats complexes of Dolphin House, Teresa's Gardens, Fatima Mansions and Oliver Bond flats; and another brother, who has not to date been charged with any drug offences, controlled a major share of the northhinner-city business.

These four had the minimum of contact with the pushers who worked for them, and with one exception they did not use heroin themselves and ensured that their wives and chilldren had no contact with the drug. Although the internaational contacts which each of them had were different, the way in which the four operated was similar.

Each had his own couriers, usually women who were unknown to the police. They considered that women were less likely to be searched by a predominantly male customs and police force. Couriers were despatched at regular interrvals to Europe, usually to Amsterdam, although London and Paris were also used, to collect the pure heroin after the deal had been finalised between the Dunne brother and his foreign contact. Couriers rarely carried amounts in excess of around one ounce (worth about £400,000 on the streets) in case they were caught, which incidentally was a rare occurrence.

When the pure heroin arrived in Ireland, usually through Dublin Airport, it was taken to a "safe house" to be diluted or "cut". Cutting agents include any white powdery subbstance, with talcum powder, glucose and milk powder freequently used. The heroin sold on Dublin streets is between 10% and 20% pure, and the rest cutting agent. It was then stored and distributed in small amounts to the dealers working under each brother, and from there it would be sold in £10 or £20 packs to the pushers and addicts. Some of the brothers had dealers working directly for them; others sold the heroin to a number of dealers for a fixed price, and the dealer could then charge what he liked for it. The latter method was that used for distribution in Ballymun of heroin supplied by the brother who operated on Dublin's northside.

In Dun Laoghaire and Bray, the trade took place primaarily in pubs. In the inner-city areas pubs were also used, but the major centres of heroin availability were particular flats in all of the major Corporation complexes. Heroin was delivered to the flats and the money collected by taxi. Taxi drivers call this "the drug run". A man would hire a taxi, usually in St Stephen's Green, and a typical run would take him to Teresa's Gardens, Fatima Mansions and Dollphin House. At each place, he would get out, knock on the door of one of the flats, step inside briefly, and then return to the taxi, and on to the next stop. The taxi would then return him, usually about two hours later, to Stephen's Green. The Dunnes never drove their own cars while on business. Michael never had a driving licence and Larry, after his seventeenth conviction for driving without insurrance, never drove again and was chauffeured by associates.

Seven of the other members of the family operated on a more modest level, and some also became addicted to heroin. Four of the brothers, including Michael, and one sister have at various stages been heroin addicts. Of the seven, three are currently serving prison sentences, two have served sentences for drug offences, one is currently facing charges and one has no charges of any kind pending.

Racehorses, Saunas and Roman Marble

Larry Dunne paid £100,000 for a new house in May 1982, while he was on bail awaiting trial on charges of possessing heroin with intent to supply. He transferred the money straight out of his bank account.

The previous occupants of the house were not aware of the identity of the buyer. Larry did not visit the house before hie bought it. All transactions were carried out by Patrick Farry, a Phibsborough solicitor. Patrick Farry is a promiinent member of Fianna Fail, and is in the running for the party's nomination in the forthcoming Dublin Central by-election. It is considered likely, however, that he will withdraw in favour of Mary Colley, as he was a close political associate of the late George Colley.

Larry's previous address was at 20 Carrickmount Drive in Rathfarnham, a modest Corporation house. His new abode was along Woodside Road in Sandyford, a large, luxurious detached house in its own grounds, located at the foot of the Dublin mountains with a panoramic view of Dl)blin Bay. The family still has the Rathfarnham house, which they are renting out.

Although Larry was one of the more successful of the brothers in financial terms, he was by no means the only one who showed evidence of sudden wealth. Colette, although she never had a job, lived in a luxury flat in Clonntarf. Henry employed a building contractor to entirely renovate his Rutland Avenue house. Prior to 1980 he and his family lived in a Corporation flat off Thomas Street. He acquired the Rutland Avenue house by means of a transsfer with the then tenant, a Mrs Ellis, the mother of his sister-in-law Dolores Dunne (married to Michael). She moved to the Thomas Street flat and they moved to Ruttland Avenue. A few days after they moved, the renovations started. The-house was extended half-way down the long back garden, spiral stair-cases, a sauna and a private bar were installed. The front of the house was also extended, and was covered with new, striking brickwork. Henry's house has become a land-mark along the street.

Henry's wife Mary owns a race horse. Called Roebuck Lass, it was bought about four years ago at under £2,000 and is now worth in the region of £10,000. On the 15 January last, it won its first race - the Thomas Grant Fletcher Perpetual Memorial Cup at Navan with prize money of £966. The odds were 7 to 1, and there were some sizeable bets placed on the horse at the last moment.

Last summer the neighbours along Rutland Avenue had occasion to complain to Henry and Mary Dunne whose seven-year -old son had recently made his first communion. Both he and his four-year-old brother had been given chilldren's motorcycles to celebrate the occasion. The two boys were riding them along the footpath, and had nearly knocked several people over. After the complaint, they stopped riding the motorbikes, which cost several hundred pounds each.

At Henry Dunne's trial, in February of this year, for the use of a gun to resist arrest, Fr Michael Sweetman SJ appeared as a character witness on his behalf and spoke of him being "an exceptionally good husband and father". '.

At around the same time as Larry was moving to Sandyyford and Henry was doing up his house, Boyo moved from his flat in Teresa's Gardens to a large house nearby - Adam House in Weavers Square. He used the same contractor a's Henry to renovate this old house. He imported many of the materials used in its renovation; the bathroom marble, for example, was specially brought in from Rome. When living in Teresa's Gardens, Boyc's four children were known as "the kids with the bikes". They had all simultaneously been bought expensive Chopper bicycles.

Shamie likewise made the attempt to move from his modest Herberton Road house. He was in the process of acquiring a large house in Rathgar, when the owner found out who he was and withdrew from the sale. Shamie had meningitis as a child and can neither read nor write. His wife Valerie is English. He met her while living in Drayton, London, and she has been described by a member of the family as "a proper lady". Shamie and Valerie, have howwever, separated, and during her trial earlier this month much publicity centred around Shamie's mistress, a woman living in Rathmines,

Michael Dunne lived at Fatima Mansions. He returned to Ireland four years ago, when he applied for a job in Guinness, but failed to get it. He was a small-time criminal; one of his previous charges (in 1982) was for the forgery of £50 in travellers cheques. Evidence was given at the trial of his having been seen trying on and buying clothes in Burrton's shop shortly before his arrest.

He was himself addicted to heroin, but would not go to the Jervis Street clinic for treatment. He was afraid of what they might do to him, as a Dunne. He did, however, attend one of the community meetings in Fatima Mansions held to discuss ways of eliminating the heroin dealing from the flats. He offered to assist the residents to clean heroin out of Fatima, and his offer was accepted. Funnily enough, he did not reduce the extent of his own operations in the area.

All of the Dunnes spent their money freely. Several of them liked to gamble, and they regularly ate in expensive restaurants, sent their children to private schools and travellled abroad on holidays. Almost alone among them, Larry was more cautious, and banked most of his earnings. Larry, and several of the other brothers also had a reputation for great generosity. They were proud of how well they looked after their parents.

The Gardai Strike Back

Down through the years every housing estate had its share of criminal families. They were known to be involved in various kinds of crimes, break-ins and shoplifting and the like. The Dunnes were in that tradition, distinguished only by their success and by their progress to bigger crimes. By the 1980s they had become an anachronism - very visible, their connections obvious. Crime had become a more professional pursuit, with speciaalist individuals coming together for criminal projects. As public consciousness of professional crime increased and the issue became one of embarrassment for politicians and police alike the Dunnes became an obvious target.

This was why, in the early summer of 1982, Charles Haughey and Sean Doherty had a meeting with Patrick McLaughlin and Joseph Ainsworth, the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Gardai. Haughey told them bluntly that he wanted something done about the Dunnes, that they were walking the streets freely. He told them he wanted the Dunnes in prison within twelve months.

Within fifteen months, six of them had been convicted, and a further five arrested. It is worth pointing out, howwever, that prior to this meeting charges had been laid against four of them and that it was the slowness of the courts which enabled them to remain at liberty for so long. There was a gap of two and a half years between the time Larry was arrested and his trial. During this time, and while on bail, he managed to build up his large heroin operation.

Since 1967, when the Garda Dublin Drugs Squad was formed, Inspector Denis Mullins has been in charge of it. For twelve years it was composed of a handful of men who chased and caught the odd cannabis dealer. Heroin was virrtually non-existent in the country. There was a relatively tiny incidence of addiction to opiates, usually to the morohine-based painkillers diconal and palphium, which were invariably stolen from hospitals or chemists' shops.

Mullins's approach to the problem was a humane one.

For every person charged and prosecuted under the Misuse of Drugs Act, there were many more whom he dissuaded from involvement with drugs through painstaking surrveillance work and constant advice and counselling.

Mullins was one of the few people in the country who warned of the inevitability of the rise of heroin addiction at some stage in Ireland. He had the international connecctions with police forces throughout the world to be aware both of international drug politics and of the steady inncrease in heroin addiction in Western Europe and the United States. It was not possible that Ireland could escape for much longer.

The explosion, when it came in the wake of political upheavals in the Far East at the start of 1980, was, however, more sudden and devastating than even Mullins had preedicted. But had he been given the staff and resources he had been seeking for several years, the Drugs Squad might have been in a better position to attempt to contain the situation.

It was not until 1981 that the force responded to Mullins's constant appeals and began training the ordinary gardai in the basics of drug detection. It was also not until 1981 that he was assigned two ban-ghardai - up till then the Drug Squad had been all male. There was, however, an extraordinary development in that year which had a proofoundly demoralising effect on the Squad. Their numbers were actually reduced, from 24 to 20. Between them, these 20 gardai were attempting to deal with a most destructive epidemic.

At the time of Haughey's meeting with Mcl.aughlin and Ainsworth, experts estimated the number of heroin addicts in Dublin at 5,000. The only treatment clinic, attached to Jervis Street hospital, was hopelessly unable to cope with the sharp increase in the numbers attending it - it had, and still has, only nine beds. Scores of children as young as eleven and twelve were becoming addicted.

In late 1981 a curious policy decision was taken by the gardai. A special drugs investigation unit was set up in Garda Headquarters at the Phoenix Park depot. It was entirely separate from the Drugs Squad, and it consisted of six men under Inspector John McGroarty. Its brief was to concentrate on more prolonged and specific investigaation, and to assist the Drugs Squad where necessary. It seemed at the time to be illogical to have two separate drugs units, and there was a certain amount of friction between the two.

In the spring of this year, however, the two forces were merged, under the joint leadership of Mullins and McGroarty, bringing the Drugs Squad to a total strength of thirty-three. There no longer appears to be any disagreement between the two sections. and they have been remarkably successful in terms of both the quantity of heroin seized so far this year and the number of arrests made.

Throughout the late 1970s the gardai had been keeping a close watch on members of the Dunne family. They were constantly searching their houses (many of them were on first-name terms with Drugs Squad detectives, they had met them so often), stopping them in their cars and checking driving licences and insurance. The Dunnes had decided that the best response to this was to remain calm and resspectful, and to say absolutely nothing.

Shamie, though he usually abided by the rule, lost his head on one occasion. His house on Herberton Road in Rialto has been searched twenty times in the last five years, and during one of the searches he went berserk and took a hatchet to the gardai in the house. He was charged with assault, was found guilty and given an eighteen-months suspended sentence. During his trial, he complained to the court of garda harassment.

The family is particularly bitter about an incident which occurred in 1978 on the day of the funeral of their greattaunt Dora. After the burial, they all repaired to the Aungier House, where they were followed by a large number of gardai. They shouted at the gardai could they not bury their dead in peace, and a scuffle broke out. Some members of the family were charged with assaulting certain gardai, but were acquitted when a jury found them not guilty.

Last January, the wedding of Christy's daughter Jaccqueline was attended by police with long-range cameras. It was a huge wedding. The couple were married in Mount Argus church by Fr Michael Sweetman, who has officiated at several of the family's ceremonies, and in fact married Christy over twenty years previously. The celebration took place at the Killiney Court Hotel, and RTE cameras were present to film what was one of the biggest weddings of the year. It was also probably the last time the family of the Dunne parents, their ten sons, four of the daughters (Colette was the only one not present, as she was in Limerick prison), their forty-six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild would be together. The following month, Henry was senntenced to ten years in prison, five months later Larry fled the country while on bail, and earlier this month Michael was sentenced to seven years in jail.

In February and March 1982, both the Drugs Squad and the special drugs unit ploughed a considerable amount of time and energy into the investigation of the Spanish connnection. One of the brothers had paid several visits to Spain, and was suspected of being in the process of establishing a new route via Turkey through Spain for the importation of heroin to the Irish market. The use of a Spanish route would have been both cheaper and safer than the usual Amsterdam journey - the Spanish drugs police did not have the experience of the Du tch.

There was close co-operation between the Spanish and Irish police on the operation. In mid-March, the Spanish police raided an apartment in Malaga. In it they found large quantities of jewellery and heroin, together with Valerie Dunne, Seamus Nutterfield and Peter Doran. Shamie Dunne and a close associate had left the apartment only half an hour before the raid. Also detained was Shamie's mistress, who had been staying elsewhere. Valerie Dunne and" her husband's mistress were forced for a brief period to share a cell. All, however, were shortly released on bail of around £10,000 each. The total bail was paid by a member of the Dunne family. A few weeks later, they skipped bail and returned to Dublin.

Of the two associates of the Dunnes arrested in Spain, Seamus Nutterfield was sentenced to five years for supplyying heroin by a London court. He was caught as he attemppted to sell 31 grams of heroin to an undercover police officer, Peter Doran, was one of the people involved in setting up the Bistro Vino, a restaurant off Nassau Street which has since closed. He is now thought to be in the United States.

Inspector McGroarty was centrally involved in the Spanish operation, and it was also he who arrested Larry Dunne on 13 October 1980. Larry's house in Rathfarnham was raided. The police had been given information by an informer, a criminal associate of the Dunnes' - some of the informers the police used to arrest the Dunnes were paid. Inside the house they found heroin, cocaine and cannabis with a total value of over £50,000. The heroin had been hastily hidden in a pillowcase on one of Larry's daughters' beds. In the house at the time were Larry, his wife Lily, his brother Shamie and sister Colette, and a man called Liam Breen. Inspector McGroarty subsequently gave evidence at Larry's trial that Larry had said to him "Look, I'm accepting responsibility for everything and that's all I'm saying."

All five present in the house during the raid were charrged under the Misuse of Drugs Act. A week later they were granted bail, despite strenuous objections particularly in the case of Larry from the Drugs Squad. Those who offered themselves as bail (£7,500) for Shamie included a building contractor, a barrister and a company director, for Colette a businessman, and for Liam Breen, an accountant and a street dealer.

Larry's bail hearing came up a day after Shamie had been released on bail. A shop owner offered himself for the £7 ,500 bail but was turned down. So Shamie collected together the money in cash, brought it into Larry in Mounttjoy, who then stood his own bail. The following February, he substituted a street trader from Finglas as bailsperson. Estreatment proceedings are now in train to establish whether or not she is liable for payment of the bail money, since Larry absconded last June.

The Drugs Squad were very disappointed when charges were subsequently dropped against all but Larry and Colette. Colette was sentenced in the summer of 1982 for possession of cocaine, which was found on her person during the raid. A laboratory scales with traces of cocaine on it was also found in the boot of her car, parked outside the house.

Larry was tried twice for the offences with which he was charged. His case was handled by Jim Orange, a soliciitor who often handles the Dunnes' criminal cases. In the first trial, held in April 1983, the jury failed to agree on the verdict. Garda sources claim to know that it was only one jury member who demurred from the guilty verdict, that they are aware of that member's identity and that they also know that the particular member was "nobbled". It is thought that this incident played a major part in the thinking behind the inclusion of the majority verdict proovision in the proposed Criminal Justice Bill.

A new trial was set for the end of June. On Tuesday 21 June, Larry arrived at the court, and attended his trial in the morning. As an accused person is always in the cusstody of the court, an application must be made to the judge to allow him or her to remain on bail during the lunch break and overnight. An application was made to the judge, Justice James McMahon, on Larry's behalf, and, as the gardai did not object, he was released on bail during the lunch-hour. Larry went immediately to a public house called The Quill, down the road from the Four Courts on Arran Quay. He was not under police surveillance at the time and was not followed. In The Quill, Larry changed into a new set of clothes, brought to him, as arranged, by an associate. He then disappeared from sight. He had preeviously transferred his heroin contacts to one of his broothers.

The trial proceeded in his absence. The jury took only twenty minutes to find him guilty as charged. It was Larry Dunne's thirty-fifth conviction, but only his first on a drugs offence. Larry Dunne was the first person ever to have been convicted in the Central Criminal Court after absconding while on bail.

The Drugs Squad estimate that between them the Dunnes never controlled more than 40% of the heroin market in Dublin. But in the past year, with so many of them either convicted or awaiting trial, their share of the market has substantially diminished. It has, however, not had any impact on the amount of heroin available throughhout the city. As the power of the Dunnes began to weaken in the south inner-city flats complexes, many of the local communities began to organise campaigns to rid their areas of heroin dealing. As soon as Teresa's Gardens threw the pushers out, the trade in Dolphin House trebled, and it also increased in Fatima Mansions and Oliver Bond Flats.

When Dolphin House was recently cleared of heroin pushers, the trade spilled onto the streets and into the housing estates in the area. Last week, along an alleyway joining Cashel Avenue to Stanaway Road in Crumlin, a pusher who lives in nearby Rachland Road flats arrived every day at lunchtime and again at tea-time. On each occasion he was awaited by between 40 and 50 addicts. Following heavy police activity in the area, the trade has moved elsewhere. Even the addicts are no longer sure of exactly where to find it from day to day. But it has not become less prevalent. It has just gone on the move.

The Dunnes' days as major heroin dealers are over.

The next generation of the family is unlikely to enter the trade. None of them has ever been charged, or even susspected, of any crime. Everyone of the parents has taken particular care to ensure that their children do not become involved in criminal activity.

The Dunnes are, however, in the process of being suppplanted by a larger, more ruthless criminal organisation. It is a merger of several of the small gangs involved in heroin dealing, of some long-time criminals, many of whom have served lengthy sentences for armed robbery, of an uppand-coming criminal family based in the Rathfarnham area, and of some notorious north-side criminals. According to garda sources, they are brutal and efficient, have easy access to firearms and will have no hesitation in using them.

The Dunnes are aware of the ambitions of this group to control the city's heroin trade. "If they want to inherit evil, they have to live with it" comments one of the family.

The full edition of Magill, November 1983 is below. Click here to subscribe to Politico's archive of current affairs magazines from 1968 to the present day.