Deirdre Quinn with some sharp commentary on the background to the murder of Vinnie Ryan. Deirdre Quinn held Vinnie Ryan in high regard and after reflection was moved to write in a bid to ensure that no more deaths occur as a result of a cause that bears only minimal resemblance to republicanism.
It was at 3.40, Monday 1st of March, while on the way to an appointment, that my phone kept ringing. Knowing the number but not having it stored I let it ring on and off for a few minutes. Although being in a rush my nose got the better off me and I called the number back. What greeted me, I can honestly say, was of no shock. But a feeling came over me that only death can bring. The caller informed me of the killing of Vincent Ryan.
I would have known Vincent for quite a few years prior to his deaths: a capable young man who had committed his short life to the IRA. Vincent, whilst being a republican in his own right, had followed what one could say was the family path of his two elder siblings, Alan and Anto, who both had served time in gaol for activities related to what became known as the Real IRA.
What we do know about the Ryan family is that the brothers were totally committed to the aims and objectives of their given organisation. They were never found wanting whenever asked to step up to the plate. No task was beyond them, their commitment was absolute.
But can the same be said for those that give the orders that ultimately led to both brothers paying with their lives? Why should one family bear the responsibility for an organisation that led this family to believe that they could protect them from certain criminal elements?
Prior to Alan’s death and the coming together of the New IRA both brothers were members of the Real IRA in which they came under the direction of its leadership. Key here being that they came under its direction; that they followed orders and carried them out to the best of their abilities. In the 26 counties they would have reported to their commanding officer, a man who had developed a nickname known as “The Beast.” This man is the person who led the brothers to hell and left them there.
During this period the so-called war on drug dealers had commenced and pockets were being filled. The organisation became a magnet for opportunists like Declan Smith and his ilk. Money that was to be sent “up the road” was being spent on lavish life styles around city centre pubs. The opportunists were cashing in and living the life of what more resembled the mafia than that of a secret revolutionary organisation.
Of course on occasion a few euro would have to make its way up the road and a pat on the head would be given just like you would reward an obedient dog.
One does not need to look very far to see how it all went wrong, how the allure of money and the quest for power became the order of the day. Double crossing, back stabbing and Chinese whispers were rife. Although an air of distrust had developed, there was what seemed to be a shining light in the horizon: the amalgamation was on its way. It was this that the Ryan brothers held onto. Alan was heard on numerous occasions saying that the drug issue would have to take a back seat as the preparation for an offensive against the forces of occupation within the North must now take centre stage. His brother Vinny even travelled north to meet with other volunteers to plan operations and organise the transport weapons.
But you cannot fight a war without a war chest and the responsibility fell on the shoulders of Alan Ryan. Alan had assumed the role of OC Dublin Brigade. Not long after he travelled to meet a bag man for many drug dealers in the city in a hotel in Tallaght. Along with him came his brother Vincent, Declan Smith and a number of others. Also present with the bag man was a former OC of the Provisional IRA in the South. The meeting was arranged by a former security employee at the City West who also happened to be a Garda informer.
During the meeting certain demands for money were made to the bag man. Declan Smith was reported to have told the guy what he had previously done to a man in an alleyway in Belfast in an incident where the victim was killed with a shovel. Smith was admitting what most people knew or suspected: that he was the shovel man.
The meeting ended with the bag man receiving a severe beating at the door of the hotel. At this point Alan told the guy that he was a dead man and that all those with him were also dead men walking. At this point the former Provisional IRA O/C asked Alan if he was threatening him also. Alan explained that he was not. Alan Ryan lay dead within a few short weeks.
A step too far had been taken. Former Provisional leaders within the Dublin brigade, who had long term relationships going back years with criminals based in both Ireland and Spain, had been challenged as they saw it by the new guys on the block and manners would have to be put on them. They had served their purpose over the previous ten years cleaning up, doing the dirty work and collecting money from cigarette deals. It was now time to dispense with them before they grew too strong.
These people, being past masters, knew that the killing of Alan would yield rewards for them. They could influence this new leadership and get their own man appointed so that their own interests could be protected. The river of dirty money would have to flow with blood. That blood would be Ryan blood for their time had come.
The funeral of Alan was a chance not to be missed by those who felt that their light had faded: a big day out in blacks and whites for all and sundry. A challenge to the state that the IRA had risen from the dead and a message to the drug dealers that the IRA are coming to get you. They travelled from all over Ireland to get their pictures taken. Self-importance would be restored. They could return to their respective areas sure in the knowledge that they would be in the Sunday World the following weekend and they would be the talk of the local pub.
Of course this was all for the optics. Behind the scenes another game was at play in which moves were under way to put in place in the new leadership in Dublin. Within days arrests took place all over the city as a direct result of the funeral and Vincent along with few others were removed off the streets on trumped up charges to facilitate a smooth transition of power. The state which had witnessed all of this in the past was once again really pulling the strings.
Once inside jail Vincent came into direct conflict with the new leadership in Dublin. He openly challenged them on their links to those whom he had believed had given the go-ahead to have his brother killed. He became a persona non grata very quickly. His time was marked.
On Monday last I attended the wake of Vincent Ryan. To see the baby of the house laid out in the front room of his home was a very sombre moment. His partner Kelly cradled his head and his brothers constantly moved in and out of the room, not wanting to leave their brother too long as tomorrow they would say good bye for good.
Whilst travelling to the wake at times I was overcome with anxiety at the thought of seeing a young man who had so much to live for lying dead in his home. As disturbing as it may sound the journey and wake did me good. Whilst I had lost a friend it served me as a reminder to stay out. No good can come of it. His name will soon be a distant memory, only his family and close friends will remember him. They will have to find some meaning in their suffering. His poor mother may never find any solace.
Let it be a lesson to any young person that the cause is being manipulated to serve the interests of a few who serve no cause but their own.