Irish Mob

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Irish Mob
Founded1800s
Founding locationIreland
Years active1800s – present
TerritoryIreland, United States, Canada
EthnicityPrimarily Irish, Irish American, Irish Canadian
Criminal activitiesRacketeering, murder, hijacking, and drug trafficking
 
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Irish Mob
Founded1800s
Founding locationIreland
Years active1800s – present
TerritoryIreland, United States, Canada
EthnicityPrimarily Irish, Irish American, Irish Canadian
Criminal activitiesRacketeering, murder, hijacking, and drug trafficking

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 of the 19th century—depicted in Herbert Asbury's 1928 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.

Outside of Ireland itself, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom also have histories of Irish gang activities.

In the United States[edit]

New York[edit]

Pre-prohibition[edit]

Irish-American street gangs such as the Dead Rabbits and Whyos dominated New York's underworld for well over a century before facing competition from other, primarily recently arrived Italian and Jewish gangs, during the 1880s and 1890s. Although gang leaders such as Paul Kelly of the Five Points Gang would rise to prominence during the early 1900s, gangs such as the Hudson Dusters and the Gopher Gang would remain formidable rivals during the period.

In the early 1900s, with Italian criminal organisations, such as the Morello crime family, encroaching on the waterfront, various Irish gangs united to form the White Hand Gang. Although initially successful in keeping their Italian rivals at bay, unstable leadership and infighting would prove their downfall. The murders of Dinny Meehan, Bill Lovett, and Richard Lonergan led to the gang's disappearance by 1925, and the waterfront was taken over by Italian mobsters Vincent Mangano, Albert Anastasia, and Joe Adonis.

Prohibition[edit]

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 Volstead 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[edit]

The Westies are an Irish American gang hailing from Hell's Kitchen on the West Side of Manhattan.

The most prominent members have included Eddie McGrath, James Coonan, Mickey Featherstone, and Edward Cummiskey. Coonan was imprisoned in 1986 under the RICO act. Featherstone became an informant after his arrest in the early 1980s.

A power struggle between Michael Spillane and Coonan lasted from 1966 until 1977. In the 1970s, with Spillane's organisation weakened by years of warfare with Coonan, a war started between Spillane and the Genovese crime family over control of a construction site in Hell's Kitchen. The Genoveses killed Spillane's top three lieutenants in 1976. This prompted Coonan to form an alliance with Roy DeMeo of the Gambino crime family. The Genoveses decided that the Westies were too violent and well led to go to war with and mediated a truce via the Gambinos.

Boston[edit]

Prohibition[edit]

Boston has a well-chronicled history of Irish mob activity, particularly in the heavily Irish-American neighbourhoods 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[edit]

The Winter Hill Gang, a loose confederation of Boston-area organised crime figures, was one of the most successful organised 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 neighbourhood 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 organised 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 and his right-hand man and bookkeeper, Salvatore Sperlinga, were indicted by federal prosecutors in 1979. The gang was then taken over by James J. "Whitey" Bulger and hitman Stephen Flemmi.

Irish Mob War[edit]

The Irish Mob War is the name given to conflicts throughout the 1960s between the two dominant Irish-American organised 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 hospitalised 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 Connie 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[edit]

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.[1]

Philadelphia[edit]

Prohibition[edit]

Daniel "Danny" O'Leary fought with Maxie Hoff over control of Philadelphia's bootlegging throughout Prohibition.

Post-World War II[edit]

In the years following World War II, the K&A Gang was the dominant Irish gang in the city's underworld. A multi-generational organised crime group made up of predominantly Irish and Irish American gangsters, the gang 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 organised, establishing lucrative markets in gambling, loan sharking, and burglary.

The gang moved into the methamphetamine trade in the late 1980s and expanded into the Fishtown and Port Richmond neighbourhoods.[2] John Berkery, a member of the K&A burglary crew, became leader of the gang, and was influential in expanding the drug trade. In 1987, Scarfo crime family soldier Raymond Martorano, Berkery, and dozens of others, were indicted for their involvement in a large methamphetamine ring.[3]

Chicago[edit]

Prohibition[edit]

The successors of Michael Cassius McDonald's criminal empire of the previous century, the Irish-American criminal organisations in Chicago were at their peak during Prohibition, specialising in bootlegging and highjacking. However, they would soon be rivalled by Italian mobsters, particularly Al Capone and the Chicago Outfit.

The organisations existing before Prohibition – including the North Side Gang, which included Dion O'Banion, Bugs Moran, and Louis Alterie; the Southside O'Donnell Brothers (led by Myles O'Donnell); the Westside O'Donnell's; Ragen's Colts; the Valley Gang; Roger Touhy; Frank McErlane; James Patrick O'Leary; and Terry Druggan – all were in competition with Capone for control of the bootlegging market.

Other areas in the United States[edit]

East[edit]

Central[edit]

South[edit]

North[edit]

Elsewhere in the world[edit]

Canada[edit]

Australia[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

Irish mob in popular culture[edit]

Films[edit]

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.

Television[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Steve Sailer (6 November 2006). "Good Will Killing: The Departed". The American Conservative. Retrieved 3 May 2008. 
  2. ^ Brendan McGarvey (18 December 2002). "Pole-Vaulting – Another group of Eastern-European gunsels makes its mark". Philadelphia City Paper. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Josepha Daugen (4 August 1987). "Tough Sentence To Be Sought For Berkery". Philadelphia Daily News. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 

Bibliography[edit]