Irish Mob

Irish Mob

The Irish Mob is one of the oldest organized crime groups 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 Scotland also 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 Gang dominated 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

The 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" Bulger and 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 Mob in Boston, led by brothers Bernard and Edward "Punchy" McLaughlin, and the Winter Hill Gang of 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 Hill associate 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 Hughes all 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-mafia gang in the New England area.

Recent years

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 = | publisher = The American Conservative | date = 2006-11-6 | accessdate = 2008-05-03]

New York


During the "Gangs of New York" era, countless Irish-American street gangs such as the Forty Thieves, Dead Rabbits and the Whyos dominated 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 Eastman of the Eastmans and Paul Kelly of the Five Points Gang would rise to prominence during the early 1900s, others such as the Hudson Dusters and the Gopher Gang would remain formidable rivals during the period.

However, with the emergence of Italian criminal organizations such as the Morello crime family and the Black Hand gangs 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 Gang during 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 Act during 1925 and 1926, Dwyer's former partners were split between Owney "The Killer" Madden, a former leader of the Gopher Gang, and Frank Costello against Jack "Legs" Diamond, "Little" Augie Pisano, Charles "Vannie" Higgins and renegade mobster Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll.

The Westies

The Westies are an Irish American gang 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 Westies lasted 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 family over 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 DeMeo of the Gambino crime family. The Genovese family decided that the Westies were too violent and well led to go to war with and thus mediated a truce via the Gambinos. The Westies were 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 Matorano and over 36 others were indicted for their alleged involvement in a large methamphetamine ring.

Recent years

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 Capone and 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


*Providence-based bootlegger 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.


*In Cleveland, mobsters Danny Greene and John Nardi fought for control over the cities underworld against James Licavoli during the late 1970s.
*John Patrick Looney controlled bootlegging and extortion in Rock Island, Illinois until his eventual arrest, after a two year manhunt, in 1924.
*Egan's Rats ruled over St. Louis criminal operations until the early 1930s.


*George Horace "Kid" McCoy held the Jefferson County and Shelby County, Alabama underworld 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.
*In 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).
*In 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 Mafia but 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, Georgia judge 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).
*The twin cities of Minneapolis and 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


*In Glasgow, the previously unknown Patrick O'Meara killed local mobster Declan O'Sullivan, about which the song "O'Meara's Grace" was written.


*In Australia, Melbourne has 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 family is 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 noir of 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 Bogart and 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 Cagney in 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 Massacre stars Jason Robards as Al Capone, Ralph Meeker as Bugs Moran, and an appearance by George Segal and 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 Westies which 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 DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis, this movie showcases the criminal underworld of the Five Points neighborhood in Manhattan, in the 1860s.
*"Ash Wednesday" (2002), Edward Burns wrote, 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 Jim Sheridan.


* "Brotherhood" (2006), Set in Providence, Rhode Island, and revolving around the unlikely alliance between two Irish-American brothers. Michael Caffee, played by Jason Isaacs, is an aspiring mob boss and Tommy Cafee is 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 Kennedy as Graham Kinniburgh and Kevin Harrington as Lewis Moran.

ee also

*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". "Street Soldier".
*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". "Rat Bastards".
*Teresa, Vincent with Thomas C. Renner. "My Life in the Mafia". Doubleday and Company Inc., 1973. ISBN 1-56849-377-0
*Weeks, Kevin. "".

External links

* [ American Organized Crime - Irish Gangsters]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • West Side Irish Mob — The Westies, auch als West Side Irish Mob bezeichnet, waren eine hauptsächlich Irisch Amerikanern dominierte Bande im organisierten Verbrechen von New York City. Der Name war entstanden, weil sie vor allem im westlichen Stadtteil Hell’s Kitchen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mob Fandango — are a 10 piece Soul and Funk band from Dublin, Ireland. They have played every major venue in Dublin over the past few years and released their debut E.P. Dig in May 2011. The band are known for their energetic live shows. Mob Fandango won 2009 s …   Wikipedia

  • Irish in Omaha, Nebraska — The Irish in Omaha, Nebraska have constituted a major ethnic group throughout the history of the city, and continue to serve as important religious and political leaders. They compose a large percentage of the local population.In 2000 62,349 of… …   Wikipedia

  • Charlestown Mob — In Charlestown, Boston Founded by Bernard Bernie McLaughlin Years active 1950 s 1960 s Territory Massachusetts Ethnicity Irish American Membership …   Wikipedia

  • The Mob — may mean:* The Mafia, an Italian organized crime secret society * Irish Mob, the first organized crime group for which the term The Mob was used * Any criminal organization or a terrorist organization * The Mob (film) * 1 vs 100, the game show;… …   Wikipedia

  • Timeline of the Irish War of Independence — This is a timeline of the Irish War of Independence (or the Anglo Irish War[1]) of 1919–1921. The Irish War of Independence was a guerrilla conflict and most of the fighting was conducted on a small scale by the standards of conventional warfare …   Wikipedia

  • List of Irish American mobsters — This is a list of Irish American mobsters which includes organized crime figures of predominantly Irish American criminal organizations or individual mobsters from the early 1900s to the present.To be included in this list, the person must have a …   Wikipedia

  • Licavoli Mob — Notability|date=June 2008The Licavoli Mob was a Sicilian–American mob that was based in Detroit and St. Louis.The Mob was formed by brothers Thomas Yonnie Licavoli and Peter Pete Licavoli, and cousin Jack Licavoli. Background The family formed… …   Wikipedia

  • The Irish (in Countries Other Than Ireland) —     The Irish (in countries other than Ireland)     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► The Irish (in countries other than Ireland)     I. IN THE UNITED STATES     Who were the first Irish to land on the American continent and the time of their arrival are …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Bill Gannon (Irish republican) — Bill Gannon (died 1965) was a well known militant of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and later a leading member of the Communist Party of Ireland. IRA career and the O Higgins AssassinationGannon had fought in the Irish War of Independence. In… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.