Connections | 

How Patrick Irwin built his drug empire through close ties with South American traffickers

Irwin, who has connections to crime gangs all over the country, is believed to have key contacts with drug traffickers in South America and the Middle East.

Patrick Irwin (41). Photo: James Connolly


Patrick Irwin is one of Ireland’s most prominent gangland criminals with the 41-year-old has been involved in serious and organised crime for more than two decades.

Now back living in his native Sligo, detectives suspect his power base will increase with the conviction of his drug-dealing rival Barry Young for directing the activities of a criminal organisation.

Irwin, who has connections to crime gangs all over the country, is believed to have key contacts with drug traffickers in South America and the Middle East. “This means he is in a very strong position in terms of the supply,” a senior source said.

Described as “super-fit and intelligent”, Irwin has been a huge target for gardaí including specialist units for years who have also been investigating his associates.

Irwin’s former girlfriend Deirdre Moran was jailed for five years in 2011 for transporting a gun from Dublin to Sligo for the gang boss. She denied the charge at her trial but was found guilty.

Gardaí had stopped her car near the M4, and the weapon was found in a sock underneath the front passenger seat.

The discovery came after gardaí set up a surveillance operation and saw Moran drive into the car park of Liffey Valley Shopping Centre, where she spent about an hour. As she returned to her car, she was seen on her phone, appearing to look for another vehicle.

Moran then drove in convoy with a van to a tyre depot. The driver of the van made contact with Moran and she then drove towards the M4 where she was stopped by gardaí.

In 2014, Moran told RTÉ radio in an interview that she her involvement in the gang began when she “got back around” with Irwin in 2008.

In the same interview she said, that the hit RTÉ drama Love/Hate was an accurate reflection of Ireland’s real-life gangsters.

‘They’ve done their homework,” she said of the show’s writers. “The way that Nidge’s [the show’s lead character] life crumbled around him – that eventually happens to them all.”

Moran had a son with Irwin in 2003 but the relationship deteriorated in the following years.

Irwin’s gang first came to prominence when associates carried out the murders of Traveller criminal Hughie McGinley in 2005 and armed robber David Lynch in 2008.

In March 2008, gardaí set up Operation Golf to target the Irwin gang and they searched 19 locations, including Church island on Lough Gill.

Gardaí believe the gang used the remote island to store drugs and cash and had been using a €13,000 boat to secretly move drugs around.

Irwin, who has criminal convictions for burglary, drug-dealing and a savage assault on a garda, became a major target of the Criminal Assets Bureau. CAB seized a luxury home from him, and laid claim to various gang assets, including bank deposits totalling €106,000, a Ford Transit van operating as an ice-cream van, a pleasure boat and a Toyota 4x4 in 2011.

By this time Irwin was in jail serving sentences totalling 10 years for possession of €67,000 worth of cocaine as well as breaking a garda sergeant’s jaw in a savage assault.

His release from jail in 2018 sparked concerns that he would engage in a deadly turf war against drug-dealing rival Barry Young. In the event, the expected feud didn’t ignite.

“These two individuals do not like each other but they did tolerate each other because they knew what was best for business and that is certainly not murder,” a senior source said.

Gardaí believe that in the years after Irwin’s release his gang’s drug-dealing activities continued to grow, and a key associate was targeted in CAB raids in July 2019, when €24,465 in cash was seized and €151,000 in financial accounts was restrained.

By the time of the alleged incident involving barrister Alan Toal in Tullamore, Co Offaly, last year, Irwin had established himself in organised crime on a national level. And now after months based abroad, Irwin is back and the belief is that his gang are primed to become huge players again.

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