Lately I've been slogging through After Capone, a biography of Frank Nitti that was written by Mars Eghighian. It's an exhaustive, copiously detailed account of the early days of the Chicago Outfit, back during the days of Prohibition. There is so much information, in fact, that the book is difficult to read, and I find myself re-reading sentences and paragraphs to make sense of things. Light reading it's not, but there's something fascinating about the way the whole organized crime ring got started.
It's said that you can still see the pock marks left by a hail of bullets, right there on the cornerstone of Holy Name Cathedral. I'm tempted to take a look one of these days, to see if it's true. The killing did indeed take place, when a mobster was gunned down as he walked on the street, in broad daylight. That was how things were then, a violent version of the corporate buy-out and no attention paid to the innocent bystander.
With all that in my head, it was an odd sensation reading about the latest gangland slaying in Dublin. So much of what is going on there now is just like Chicago in the Roaring '20's. Martin Hyland is the latest gangster to be murdered, shot to death in a relative's house. The gardai knew him well, as one of the island nation's biggest drug dealers, and several of his associates had been rounded up during the latest operation to clean up the city. It has been suggested that Hyland was a marked man, with the law on his tail and the danger that he might reveal some gang secrets to avoid a stiff sentence. The gardai had warned him, in fact, that his life was in danger. Straight out of the Capone era, a touch of deja vu, except the tommy gun has been replaced with an Uzi.
Day after day, someone in the drugs trade has been murdered in Ireland, usually shot to death. Reading the news is like reading a litany of Al Capone's strategy to gain control of the liquor and gambling trade in Chicago, wiping out the competition with utter ruthlessness. Like the old gang wars here, the criminals in Ireland are going at one another with guns, killing off rivals in a bid to gain a monopoly on drug sales and the enormous profits that come with it.
Some might feel that there's no harm done, not really, when they kill each other off and where's the loss in that, anyway? The murderers of Martin Hyland, however, went a step too far. They entered the place where Hyland was in hiding, and murdered the twenty-year-old apprentice plumber who was doing some work at the house. Rather than call off the operation, the murderers killed Anthony Campbell and coldly eliminated a potential witness before turning their guns on their intended target.
Al Capone and his gang were brought down by the accountants of the Internal Revenue Service, in spite of the persistence of federal law enforcement. Here's hoping Noel Conroy, the Garda Commissioner, can find a back door of his own.