- Irish Mob
The Irish Mob is one of the oldest
organized crimegroups in the United States, in existence since the early 19th century. Originating in Irish American street gangs, as immortalized in Herbert Asbury's 1926 book " The Gangs of New York", the Irish Mob has appeared in most major American cities, including Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and New Orleans.
Several cities in
Canada, Ireland, England, and Scotlandalso have a history of Irish gang activities.
In the United States
Boston has a well-chronicled history of Irish mob activity, particularly in the heavily Irish-American neighborhoods like Somerville, Charlestown, South Boston ("Southie"), Dorchester and Roxbury where the earliest Irish gangsters arose during Prohibition. Frank Wallace of the
Gustin Gangdominated Boston's underworld until his death in 1931, when he was ambushed by Italian gangsters in the North End. Numerous gang wars between rival Irish gangs during the early and mid 20th century would contribute to their decline.
The Winter Hill Gang
Winter Hill Gang, a loose confederation of Boston-area organized crime figures, was one of the most successful organized crime groups in American history. It controlled the Boston underworld from the early 1960s until the mid 1990s. It derives its name from the Winter Hill neighborhood of Somerville, Massachusetts, north of Boston, and was founded by first boss James "Buddy" McLean.
While Winter Hill Gang members were alleged to have been involved with most typical organized crime related activities, they are perhaps best known for fixing horse races in the northeastern United States. Twenty-one members and associates, including
Howie Winter, were indicted by federal prosecutors in 1979. The gang was then taken over by James J. "Whitey" Bulgerand hitman Stephen "The Rifleman" Flemmi, who was of both Irish and Italian heritage.
Irish Mob War
The Irish Mob War is the name given to conflicts throughout the 1960s between the two dominant Irish-American organized crime gangs in Massachusetts: the
Charlestown Mobin Boston, led by brothers Bernard and Edward "Punchy" McLaughlin, and the Winter Hill Gangof Somerville (just north of Boston) headed by James "Buddy" McLean. It is widely believed that the war began when George McLaughlin tried to pick up the girlfriend of Winter Hillassociate Alex "Bobo" Petricone, also known as actor Alex Rocco. McLaughlin was then beaten and hospitalized by two other Winter Hill members. Afterward, Bernie McLaughlin went to Buddy McLean for an explanation. When McLean refused to give up his associates, Bernie swore revenge but was soon killed by McLean in Charlestown City Square.
The war resulted in the eradication of the Charlestown Mob with its leaders, Bernie and Edward McLaughlin, and Stevie and
Cornelius Hughesall having been killed. George McLaughlin, the one who started the war, was the only one who survived by being sent to prison. McLean was also killed, by Charlestown's Hughes brothers, and leadership of The Winter Hill Gang was taken by his right hand man, Howie Winter. The remnants of the Charlestown Mob were then absorbed into the Winter Hill Gang, who were then able to become the dominant non- mafiagang in the New England area.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the FBI's Boston office was largely infiltrated through corrupt federal agent
John J. Connolly, by which Whitey Bulger was able to use his status as a government informant against his rivals (the extent of which would not be revealed until the mid to late 1990s). This scandal was the basis for the book "Black Mass" and served as the inspiration for the fictional film " The Departed". [cite web | title = Good Will Killing: The Departed | author = Steve Sailer | url = http://www.isteve.com/Film_The_Departed.htm | publisher = The American Conservative| date = 2006-11-6 | accessdate = 2008-05-03]
During the "Gangs of New York" era, countless Irish-American street gangs such as the Forty Thieves,
Dead Rabbitsand the Whyosdominated New York's underworld for well over a century before facing competition from others, primarily recently arriving Italian and Jewish gangs during the 1880s and 90s. Although gang leaders such as Monk Eastmanof the Eastmans and Paul Kelly of the Five Points Gangwould rise to prominence during the early 1900s, others such as the Hudson Dustersand the Gopher Gangwould remain formidable rivals during the period.
However, with the emergence of Italian criminal organizations such as the
Morello crime familyand the Black Handgangs encroaching on the long Irish-held New York waterfront, the various Irish gangs which had plagued the area for decades united to form the White Hand Gangduring the early-1900s. Although initially successful in keeping their Italian rivals at bay, its unstable leadership and infighting would prove the gang's downfall as the murders of Dennis "Dinny" Meehan, "Wild" Bill Lovett and Richard "Peg Leg" Lonergan would cause the White Hand to disappear by the mid-1920s as the waterfront was taken over by the Italian mobsters Vincent Mangano, Albert "Mad Hatter" Anastasia, and Joe Adonis.
During the early years of Prohibition, "Big" Bill Dwyer emerged among many in New York's underworld as a leading bootlegger. However, following his arrest and trial for violation of the
Volsted Actduring 1925 and 1926, Dwyer's former partners were split between Owney "The Killer" Madden, a former leader of the Gopher Gang, and Frank Costelloagainst Jack "Legs" Diamond, "Little" Augie Pisano, Charles "Vannie" Higgins and renegade mobster Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll.
The Westiesare an Irish Americangang hailing from Hell's Kitchen on the West Side of Manhattan, New York City.
The most prominent members have included
Eddie McGrath, James Coonan, Mickey Featherstone, and Edward "Eddie The Butcher" Cummiskey. Coonan was imprisoned in 1986 under the RICO act, along with multiple charges of murder. Coonan had let his wife, Edna, become involved in his affairs, and she too was imprisoned. Mickey Featherstone became an informant after his arrest in the early 1980s. The Irish-American gangster Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll is sometimes named as an early member of the Westies, although the solitary nature of his actions often leaves him outside any specific gang.
Michael Spillane vs. James Coonan
A power struggle between two factions for control of
the Westieslasted from 1966 until 1977. Michael Spillane's position as boss of Hell's Kitchen was challenged by James Coonan, an up and coming gangster. There was a long history between Spillane and Coonan involving an affair between Spillane and Coonan's mother. It is said that Coonan started the war by shooting up an apartment with Spillane in it. Coonan then started kidnapping Spillane's associates, holding them for ransom or executing them.
In the 1970s, with Spillane's organization already weakened by years of warfare with Coonan, a war started to brew between Spillane and the
Genovese crime familyover control of a construction site in Hell's Kitchen. The Genovese family moved quickly, murdering Spillane's top three lieutenants in 1976. This prompted Coonan to attempt a complete takeover of the Spillane organization by forming an alliance with Roy DeMeoof the Gambino crime family. The Genovese familydecided that the Westieswere too violent and well led to go to war with and thus mediated a truce via the Gambinos. The Westieswere left in control of Hell's Kitchen (paying 10% of their profits to the Gambinos), and the Genovese family were left in control of the construction site they wanted, paying part of the profits to the Westies.
Daniel "Danny" O'Leary fought with Maxie "Boo-Hoo" Hoff over control of
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's bootlegging throughout Prohibition.
Post-World War II
In the years following World War II, the Northeast Philly Mob, also known as The
K&A Gang, was the dominant Irish gang in the city's underworld. A multi-generational organized crime group made up of predominantly Irish and Irish American gangsters, the Philly Mob originated from a youth street gang based around the intersections of Kensington and Allegheny, which grew in power as local hoods and blue collar Irish Americans seeking extra income joined its ranks. In time, the group expanded and grew more organized, establishing lucrative markets in gambling, loan sharking, and burglary.
The group shifted gears in the 1980s and expanded into neighborhoods beyond Kensington. It was during this time that Italian Mafioso
Ray Matoranoand over 36 others were indicted for their alleged involvement in a large methamphetaminering.
The group continued into the 1990s without much publicity. It's alleged they were involved in hits and attempted hits of certain Italian Mafia figures, however these claims are uncertain.
In the 2000s, the group has remained very much under the radar and some speculate they reduced their activities immensely. In 2002 Ray Matorano, upon his release from prison, forged a plan to take over the Philadelphia Mafia. To this end, he requested backing from the Five New York Families and enlisted the help of various biker gangs, including the Pagans and Warlocks. It was also alleged he had hired a couple dozen hitmen from the Northeast Philly Mob for the forthcoming mob war. When Ray Matorano was shot and killed on the way to his doctor's office, the war had ended before it got off the ground.
The group is known to have links to the Italian Mafia, the Irish Republican Army,
Biker gangs, the Roofers Union, Polish and Jewish organized crime figures, and various independent drug and hijacking gangs of various European ethnicities.
The successors of
Michael Cassius McDonald's criminal empire of the previous century, the Irish-American criminal organizations in Chicago were at their peak during Prohibition, specializing in bootlegging and highjacking. However, they would soon be rivaled by Jewish and Italian mobsters, particularly Al Caponeand the Chicago Outfit.
The organizations existing before Prohibition - including the
North Side Gang, which included Dion O'Banion, George "Bugs" Moran, and Louis "Two-Gun" Alterie; the Southside O'Donnell Brothers; the Westside O'Donnell's; Ragen's Colts; Francis Cavanaugh; the Valley Gang; Roger Touhy; Frank McErlane; James "Big Jim" O'Leary; and Terry "Machine Gun" Druggan - all were in competition with Capone for control of the bootlegging market.
Other cities in the United States
Danny Walsh, an early member of the " Seven Group", was known as one of the leading organized crime figures on the east coast until his disappearance in February 1933.
Cleveland, mobsters Danny Greeneand John Nardifought for control over the cities underworld against James Licavoliduring the late 1970s.
John Patrick Looneycontrolled bootlegging and extortion in Rock Island, Illinoisuntil his eventual arrest, after a two year manhunt, in 1924.
Egan's Ratsruled over St. Louiscriminal operations until the early 1930s.
*George Horace "Kid" McCoy held the Jefferson County and
Shelby County, Alabamaunderworld under his control in the 1920s and 30s until Donald "Little Man" Popwell had McCoy killed on December 24, 1938 at a Christmas Party in Bessemer, Alabama.
Birmingham, Alabama, Carlton C. "The General" Russell was named boss of the Celtics in Alabama by the New Orleans Commission. Not long after "The General" ordered a hit on Georgia's Celtic Boss, Roy Sirus. The murder is currently a cold case file in the Fulton County Sheriff's files. A Grand Jury failed to take action in the case (2002).
Savannah, Georgia, Johnny Bouhan, an attorney, held significant influence over county and city government until the late 1960s. He was loosely allied with the Dixie Mafiabut a falling-out after Bouhan's death led to the arson of his law firm, Bouhan, Williams, and Levy. This was widely believed to be a retaliation for the law firm filing suit against a Toombs County, Georgiajudge who was a leader in the Dixie Mafia.
*From Northern California stretching up through Oregon, Idaho and Washington, the "Protectors of Ireland" also known as "P.O.I." have been operating since the late 1970's and currently manage underworld dealings in cities such as Boise, Portland and Seattle (their center of operations).
twin citiesof Minneapolisand St. Paul have also been the base for several colorful Irish-American gangsters. During Prohibition, St. Paul's underworld was ruled over by "Dapper" Danny Hogan prior to his murder in 1928. In Minneapolis, his equivalents were "Big" Ed Morgan and Thomas W. Banks.
Elsewhere in the world
Glasgow, the previously unknown Patrick O'Meara killed local mobster Declan O'Sullivan, about which the song " O'Meara's Grace" was written.
Melbournehas a long history of Irish organized crime stemming from the poor Irish Catholic working classes. Many Melbourne trade unions have been infiltrated or brought under the mob's control. Originating from waterfront workers in the Melbourne docklands after World War II, they controlled a large part of the drug trade until the old Painters and Dockers Union was disbanded in 1984. Since the late 1990s, the Moran familyis one of the more powerful Irish crime families in Melbourne and allegedly played a significant role in the 1998-2006 Melbourne gangland killings.
Irish mob in popular culture
Irish mobsters appeared as characters in the early "gangster" films of the 1930s and
film noirof the 1940s. These roles are often identified with actors such as James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Frank McHugh, Ralph Bellamy, Spencer Tracy, Lynne Overman, and Frank Morgan(although Bellamy and Overman were not of Irish descent), as well as stars including Humphrey Bogartand Edward G. Robinson.
*"Underworld" (1927), Prohibition gangster Bull Weed (George Bancroft) befriends a down and out former district attorney "Rolls Royce" Wensel (
Clive Brook). However, as he is helped back on his feet, the two begin fighting over the gun moll known as Feathers McCoy ( Evelyn Brent).
The Racket" (1928), As Chicago police officer Captain James McQuigg ( Thomas Meighan) matches wits with bootlegger Nick Scarsi ( Louis Wolheim), their rivalry threatens to uncover the secret mastermind behind "The Organization", the criminal syndicate running Chicago.
The Public Enemy" (1931), Played by James Cagneyin his film debut, Tom Powers is a Prohibition bootlegger whose older brother Michael ( Donald Cook) attempts to reform the gangster while he fights his way to the top of the underworld.
*"Scarface" (1932), Tony Camonte (a fictional version of
Al Capone) fights several Irish gangs in Chicago. One of the gang leaders is played by Boris Karloff.
Angels with Dirty Faces" (1938), After former mob boss Rocky Sullivan ( James Cagney) returns to New York's Hell's Kitchen, former childhood friend, Father Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien) tries to save him from himself.
On the Waterfront" (1954), After witnessing the murder of a fellow longshoreman, Terry Malloy ( Marlon Brando) must choose sides between his brother Charlie ( Rod Steiger) and mobbed up union boss Johnny Friendly ( Lee J. Cobb) against crusading priest Father Barry ( Karl Malden) and Edie Doyle ( Eva Marie Saint).
St. Valentine's Day Massacre" (1967), Director Roger Corman's retelling of the St. Valentine's Day Massacrestars Jason Robardsas Al Capone, Ralph Meekeras Bugs Moran, and an appearance by George Segaland Jack Nicholson.
Prime Cut" (1972), Nick Devlin (Lee Marvin), an enforcer for the Chicago Irish mob, is sent to Kansas to collect a debt from Mary Ann (Gene Hackman) the owner of a slaughterhouse.
The Sting" (1973), Con artists Henry Gondorff ( Paul Newman) and Johnny Hooker ( Robert Redford) attempt to swindle Irish mob boss Doyle Lonnegan (Robert Shaw).
The Friends of Eddie Coyle" (1973), Eddie Coyle ( Robert Mitchum) is a gunrunner for the Boston Irish Mob. Facing harsh prison time, he becomes an informant for the ATF. When the mob finds out Eddie is an informant, they send his friend Dillion ( Peter Boyle) to kill him.
The Long Good Friday" (1980), The main character, a boss in the British criminal underworld, runs afoul of the Irish mob and the Irish Republican Army.
Miller's Crossing" (1990), Irish gangster Tom Reagan ( Gabriel Byrne) tries to prevent a gang war between Irish boss Liam "Leo" O'Bannion ( Albert Finney) and Italian boss Johnny Casper ( Jon Polito).
*"State of Grace" (1990), Undercover officer Terry Noonan (
Sean Penn) returns to Hell's Kitchen to infiltrate The Westieswhich include childhood friend Jackie Flannery ( Gary Oldman) and neighborhood mob boss Frankie Flannery ( Ed Harris).
*"Last Man Standing" (1996), Wandering gunman John Smith (
Bruce Willis) becomes involved in a gang war between Irish gangster Doyle ( David Patrick Kelly) and Italian mobster Fredo Strozzi ( Ned Eisenberg) in the small town of Jericho, Texas.
Monument Ave." (1998), In Charlestown, Massachusetts, a charismatic mob enforcer ( Denis Leary) must decide whether to abide by the neighborhood code of silence when his boss ( Colm Meaney) begins murdering members of his family.
*"Southie" (1998), Film about Danny Quinn (
Donnie Wahlberg) who returns to South Boston and gets stuck between his friends, who are supported by one Irish gang, and his family, who are members of another.
Hardball" (2001), Keanu Reeves plays a man in-debt to violent Irish-American bookies in a Chicago enclave.
Gangs of New York" (2002), Starring Leonardo DiCaprioand Daniel Day-Lewis, this movie showcases the criminal underworld of the Five Points neighborhood in Manhattan, in the 1860s.
*"Ash Wednesday" (2002),
Edward Burnswrote, directed, and starred in movie about Irish gangsters in New York City's Hell's Kitchen.
Road to Perdition" (2002), Based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, Michael Sullivan ( Tom Hanks) finds himself on the run from former boss John Rooney ( Paul Newman), loosely based on Irish gangster John Patrick Looney, after his son witnesses a gangland slaying.
Death to Smoochy" (2002), The Irish mob is painted as being in control of a children's TV network and eventually builds an alliance with a formerly idealistic performer ( Edward Norton).
Dirty Deeds" (2002), Set in 1969, Irish-Australian gangsters, led by Barry Ryan, run the slot machines in Sydney, Australia. They find themselves pitted against rival Sydney gangsters and even the U.S. Cosa Nostra who all want control of the underworld gambling rings.
*"A History of Violence" (2005), Film featuring gang members from Philadelphia.
The Departed" (2006), Film about two moles, one a cop in Boston's Irish Mob, the other a mobster in the Massachusetts State Police.
Dead I Well May Be" (2007), Set in 1990s New York City, an Irish immigrant lands a job as a mob enforcer.
*"Emerald City" (2008), Film about Irish gangs in Hell's Kitchen directed by
* "Brotherhood" (2006), Set in
Providence, Rhode Island, and revolving around the unlikely alliance between two Irish-Americanbrothers. Michael Caffee, played by Jason Isaacs, is an aspiring mob boss and Tommy Cafeeis one of the state's most powerful politicians. It has developed a cult following, and Showtime has renewed it for another 10 episode season to begin in 2007.
The Black Donnellys" (2007), a canceled crime drama on NBC that follows four young Irish brothers in New York’s Hell's Kitchen neighborhood and their involvement in organized crime.
* "" (2006), a documentary tracing the rise and fall of the Irish mob, including an alleged involvement with the
assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Underbelly" (2008), Australian drama series based on the Melbourne gangland killings. It stars Gerard Kennedyas Graham Kinniburghand Kevin Harringtonas Lewis Moran.
List of Irish-American mobsters
*Carr, Howie. "
The Brothers Bulger".
*Downey, Patrick. "Gangster City: The History of the New York Underworld, 1900-1935". Barricade Books, 2004. ISBN 1-56980-267-X
*Durney, James. "".
*English, T. J. "The Westies".
*_____. "Paddy Whacked: The Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster". New York: HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0-06-059002-5
*Flemmi, Joe. "The General".
*Hornblum, Allen. "Confessions of a Second Story Man: Junior Kripplebauer and the K&A Gang".
*Jacobs, James B., Coleen Friel and Robert Radick. "Gotham Unbound: How New York City Was Liberated from the Grip of Organized Crime". New York: NYU Press, 1999. ISBN 0-8147-4247-5
*Lehr, Dick and O'Neill, Gerard. "Black Mass".
*McCain, Joe. "
Legends of Winter Hill" (2005).
*MacDonald, Michael Patrick. "All Souls".
*McKenzie, Edward "Eddie Mac". "
*Porrello, Rick. "To Kill the Irishman: The War that Crippled the Mafia". Novelty, Ohio: Next Hat Press, 2004. ISBN 0-9662508-9-3
*Shea, John "Red". "
*Teresa, Vincent with Thomas C. Renner. "My Life in the Mafia". Doubleday and Company Inc., 1973. ISBN 1-56849-377-0
*Weeks, Kevin. "".
* [http://www.angelfire.com/blog/organizedcrime/irish.html American Organized Crime - Irish Gangsters]
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