Monday, June 30, 2008

Thugs in the City

Yesterday afternoon, I went to my 'local' bar in the city centre expecting to see some friends there. When I walked in, straight away I noticed all was not quite right.

There were some men sitting along one of the walls with lots of pints in front of them, laughing and talking at the top of their voices. It was slightly irritating but not unusual, I suppose, as this particular bar attracts a mixed bag of people - especially in the afternoon.

Although it is a gay bar, it would not be unusual for non-regulars to drift in without realising where they were. Also, because of its very central location, we often raise our eyes in horror as the whole place is taken over temporarily by some 'stag' or 'hen' party.
Funnily enough, it is also a frequent haunt for straight married men to bring their 'bit on the side' imagining nobody they know would ever dream of walking into a gay bar... the perfect hiding place.
But none of these was the case that day.

All of a sudden, the penny dropped and it dawned on me that most of the regulars for that time of day were curiously absent and, although there was a security guard on duty, he was actually not in the bar at all. He was sitting next door, trying to ignore the bawdy mayhem, and looking a bit sheepish and at a loss for what to do.

Anyway, not willing to be put off my ritual pint of shandy, I sat down in my little corner and tried to ignore them myself.
Pretty soon, we [the few regulars present] were darting silent glances and flashing shocked looks at eachother dotted around the room.

These guys were bragging for everyone to hear all about the shootings and stabbings they committed against some rival gang over the previous days and weeks... and how they were planning to stick a gun in somebody's mouth and 'blow his f*cking brains out!'

We couldn't believe our ears.

They were shameless and had no fear whatsoever of being caught.

They mentioned their nemesis, Fat Freddy Thompson, pictured left, and many people in the bar recognised the name instantly as it was currently in the news.

Fat Freddy is a major drug lord in Dublin's south inner-city and he is currently feuding with a rival gang who are trying to take over his business and force him out of his own area.

The rival gang, I seemed to recall, had recently staged a grenade attack on Fat Freddy's mother's house [or something like that]. But AK47s and bombs were more the weapon du jour.

It has been widely reported that this feud will soon escalate and one or other of the leaders will be killed very soon.

The police involved recognise they are powerless to do anything about it and have even gone so far as to say they have 'lost control' of the situation entirely.

The gang leaders themselves are beyond the law as they are said to be 'squeaky clean'. They do not carry guns or knives but their minders do and can quickly escape arrest apparently if the police approach. They even brag about getting phonecalls in advance to warn them of an imminent swoop.

The leader of the rival group is said to be Declan 'Whacker' Duffy and he, it is alleged, is in charge of the Irish National Liberation Army [INLA] in that part of the city.

The INLA is reputed to be the hard wing of the former IRA. They are widely acknowledged to be ruthlessly attempting to take over the drugs market in Ireland.

This is supposed to be the case in this particular feud. Fat Freddy refuses to allow the INLA to muscle in on his territory.

So it came to pass that we were indeed in the presence of Whacker Duffy and his chums... how delightful.

It is at times like these that one thanks God for the outdoor smoking area. It was an opportunity for us to get out of earshot and compare notes about what we had heard and seen.

It transpired that most of them were armed.
It was also alleged that 2 undercover police were in the bar too, apparently following these untouchables all over town but powerless to do anything about them.
Furthermore, it seemed as though the bar's security guard was told by someone to stay out of the bar til they had left and nothing would happen.

It was strangely bemusing to see security turning a blind eye to such an obvious disturbance. They are themselves notorious bullies and frequently wrestle and drag punters out of the bar for having one babysham too many. All this even though they know they are PROHIBITED by law from putting their hands on someone they wish to eject [and have recently been prosecuted for this offence].

But the bigger question here is: why were the straight thugs in the bar at all?

Maybe they were unable to get served elsewhere.
Maybe they just wanted a quiet pint [of sorts].

Maybe they wanted to intimidate gays by saying: look at us, we can just stroll in here and do whatever we like!

Maybe they were just exploring their feminine side...
No word of a lie - before they eventually left, some of them hugged and kissed eachother on the lips - no doubt as some kind of macho insult to the rest of us.

They displayed raw ego through and through. And wherever I observe ego - in myself too - it makes me sad.
All that struggle to get what you want and to avoid getting what you don't want - it is an exhausting spiral, and is ultimately unendurable and unbearably intense. It does not bring us the happiness we are searching for.

Granted, this was an extreme manifestation of ego we witnessed, playing out its dangerous petty drama in the most unexpected of places. But, when all is said and done, ego is ego.
It wreaks havoc however it appears.
It lives life as if there were no consequences.
It rejoices in hiding in dark places because only there will it hopefully not be seen for what it truly is.

But we recognised it for what it is that day.
We all saw it for what it truly is.

We witnessed the sadness of men who fight to control so much beyond their control - and how little happiness, well-being or safety they actually had.

The mind boggles how different it could so easily have turned out.

The feud could have erupted in our sleepy little quirky little bar.
There could have been a shoot out with the police.
Anyone not realising who or what the gang were could have walked themselves into getting brutally beaten or worse.

The jukebox was playing random tunes quietly in the background. Nobody had the heart to put on some Abba or Kylie or Madonna.
We could all have sung along outrageously as we minced our way into the pages of Gang Warfare History.

I remarked to Maurice today - a huge, loud, Whitney imitator [who was present but oblivious to the whole thing] :

'You do realise darling, if one of your favourite songs had been played, you were one fabulous final show-stopper away from getting your head blown off !'

He replied, 'I was actually dying to go to the loo for a pee... for over an hour... but I was afraid to pass by those guys who were sitting in the way just over there. Who the hell were they anyway?!'

'Nobody special', someone chimed in... 'Another Babysham love?'

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