An innocent man's life can be bought for a few grand in gangs' urban war

The murder of a 50-year-old man, whose apparently tenuous links to the Hutch family was enough to end his life, is a depressing reminder that after three years of savagery, despite huge efforts by the Garda, the madness is far from over.

When a hitman walked up to Clive Staunton’s work van on Thursday night and opened fire, shooting him several times through the windscreen, a new milestone was achieved in the 50-year history of organised crime in Ireland.

Mr Staunton became the 19th victim of the Hutch/Kinahan feud – an unprecedented gangland conflagration between two powerful, yet mismatched criminal entities: one of them a ruthless international crime syndicate; the other their one-time partners in crime whose influence does not stretch much further than the north inner city of Dublin.

Despite the finger of suspicion falling on the Kinahans, gardaí are still open-minded as to whether the street trader may have fallen foul of other gangsters who then exploited his connection to the Hutch family to eradicate him.

Clive Staunton was from the north inner city neighbourhood where the Hutches grew up.

He was a regular sight at big soccer games and other events selling merchandise to fans and he was known to have been involved in the sale of smuggled tobacco, none of which marks him out as a kingpin of organised crime.

None of that mattered to his killers, for whom a life is worth no more than a few grand.

The murder of an innocent man is a central component of the modus operandi of the Kinahan murder machine.

So far it has been responsible for all of the killings except two. The associates of Kinahan mob member David Byrne, who was gunned down in the infamous Regency Hotel attack in 2016, have murdered three of the Monk’s nephews, a brother and two lifelong friends.

Apart from two totally innocent victims, gunned down in Spain and Dublin in cases of mistaken identity, other people were targeted solely on their being friendly with the Hutches – and were seen as easy targets.

This all fits neatly within the narco-terrorism paradigm and has its roots in the common criminal characteristics of treachery, avarice and hate.

Gardaí, police sources abroad and other agencies have seized drugs, cash and property worth eye-watering sums.

In Ireland dozens of drug runners, bag men and gun men are either behind bars serving long sentences or awaiting trial for serious offences.

International associates of the Kinahans have also been feeling the heat from this huge offensive.

The accepted fact that the gardaí have so far interrupted or prevented up to 50 planned assassinations gives the scale of this gang war and the numbers of people being targeted.

The fact that the ongoing counter-offensive has cost the taxpayer most of €100m is another sobering statistic.

Between the body count, the volumes of seizures, arrests and the cost to the State, it is not hyperbolic to suggest this qualifies as a low-intensity urban war.

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