By Patricia Devlin
CHRISTY ‘Bronco’ Dunne was once the King of Ireland’s criminal underworld who made millions from heists, armed robberies and trafficking drugs
Today he lives in a Co Dublin council flat with just €3.50 in his pocket. The man who pulled off Ireland’s first Tiger Kidnapping certainly is living proof that crime doesn’t pay.
The 79 year-old has long left Ireland’s criminal scene, dominated by the deadly Hutch-Kinahan feud, but Dunne isn’t afraid to voice his opinion on today’s guntoting gangsters.
“My brother Larry was right when he said, ‘if you think we are bad, wait to you see what’s coming next’. He was very prophetic. There is less regard for life now among people – all people.”
Dunne adds: “There’s a subculture all over Ireland now kids that don’t know their arse from their elbow.
“They only know what they learn on the street…they are feral, wild. And I think it’s a shame.
“There are so many people out there that can’t control their kids, and if the parents can’t control them, who does? That makes them (kids) vulnerable.
“So can you imagine what they are open to? That’s where you get your jihadists from. And it’s (radicalisation) happening here at the moment. That’s what we need to be worrying about.”
Now aged 79, Bronco was infamous during the 70s and 80s as the head of a Dublin crime family.
The high life ended in 1992 when he was banged up for one of the country’s first tiger kidnappings.
He was found guilty of taking a terrified postmaster and his family hostage, where he is said to have tied a fake bomb to the man’s leg.
The conviction led to Bronco not only losing his freedom for a decade, but also his wealth, home and family.
But the great-grandfather insists he was never the criminal gardai and the courts said he was.
“If I walked in to a court tomorrow they’d have to quash every single conviction. They’d have to compensate me for it all,” he said.
“I’d already been convicted of the Finglas post office robbery before I’d walked into court. “The judge was a lunatic. I remember looking up to the clock as I stood in the dock and saw the face of the devil.”
Christy does acknowledge however that he was the prime suspect in many of the biggest crimes in Irish history, including the heist at West’s jewellers in Grafton Street, for which he was charged and eventually acquitted.
“It was a load of rubbish, I was a scapegoat,” he simply said. “The police put that on me.”
“Any crime that I was involved in was as a kid to help my mother. She had 17 children, and my da was locked up in prison for political reasons.
“And when he was in prison I was 10. I was working for the big shops in Rathgar delivering groceries to the rich people.” “And I managed to open them and take a slice of ham there, a slice of cheese here and bring it home.
“I suppose I was like a second husband to my mother because my father wasn’t there. I had no choice but to steal. And that’s the extent of my crime.”
The only hint that Dunne offers to being involved in serious criminality is his connection to Republican organisation Saor Eire. During an early stint in Mountjoy Dunne forged links with members of the group -made up of revolutionaries, anarchists and paramilitaries – which wanted to ignite a socialist revolution funded by armed bank robberies.
As well as helping the organisation source weaponry for its campaign, Dunne was fired a shot outside the GPO to commemorate dead commandant Liam Walsh.
Pressed about his connection to the group, Dunne said: “I did the same thing that my grandfathers and my father would have done, simple as that.”
It was through the sourcing of weaponry that he met another of Ireland’s criminal masterminds – The General Martin Cahill.
“Martin Cahill was accused of everything that was going on in Dublin at the time. They put a name on him, the Rathmines Rapist. Martin Cahill was never in that league. That’s the way the police worked. They gave him a brand name. Eventually he ended up as The General.
“He was a decent man. A very decent man, especially to his own people. He wasn’t the type of fella who was involved in drugs, who tried to pervert people.
“Targeting people and scapegoating people wasn’t done collectively by the police and the government. It was done by individual police men who were worse than criminals. And they did the same to me.”
Dunne also believes his brother Larry – the man considered as being responsible for bringing heroin to Ireland – is also a victim of garda vilification.
“They had to pick somebody and they picked him,” he said. “It was the Iranians and the Muslims who tried to destroy Europe with heroin.
“I confronted Larry about the drugs, he said he didn’t bring it here, and I believe him. Larry Dunne was caught with no more than 1500 pound worth of stuff in his house. He was vilified.
“I have even been called a drug dealer, and I was never a f***** drug dealer. Like I said if I were to walk into court tomorrow every conviction I’ve had would be quashed and every f***** who said I was drug dealer would have to answer to it.
“That hurts me. It hurts me for my mother, for my grandfather. Both of my grandfathers had to leave the country because we were connected to drugs.”
While admitting he once lived a luxurious life, which even saw him own a yacht, Dunne claims all this money was made legally, through his own construction company C and J Dunnes. The business, which was booking in the 60s according to Dunne, went bust in the 1967 bank strike.
“I lost it all,” he said.
He turned to taxi driving, before losing his priceless plate after a stint inside.
For the last 16 years, the pensioner claims he has survived on just €150 a week, moving from one tiny flat to another.
“There’s how much I have in my pocket now €3.50,” he says, showing me a handful of coins. “That’s to do me until Friday.”
“My only regret in this life is that I won’t have enough money for a grave to go to when I die.”
Bronco says he now spends his days mediating and doing yoga on the beach.
“I am a Catholic. I do yoga, I do astral travel, meditation. Every day.
“I am 79 now and all that has had to be beneficial for me. All I did in Portlaoise was go to the gym and go back to my cell and meditate.
“I study about suicide, healing….I would be able to sense something wrong with someone.”
The former gangster also says he has psychic abilities, even predicting his own mother’s death in 1994.
“I was in Portlaoise (prison) at the time. I was lying on the bed and I had a stop watch, it was 3.20am and I was awoken.
“The next thing I know is I went through the ceiling, through the cell above me and through the roof of the building into space. And my ma is in front of me. She put her hand out in front of her and she said, don’t come any closer…I just came to say goodbye.
“And I was back on the bed like that. In just a split second. The next day I was told she had passed away.”
Dunne added: “I didn’t just choose to believe these things, I had to suffer. I wouldn’t be allowed to read a book to understand these things. I even had to deny the Bible. I had to become celibate. I had to become celibate. I will be 25 years celibate on the 27 February next, the anniversary of when I was sentenced.
“You wouldn’t understand, I’d have to be with very deep, spiritual people who would understand.”
Reflecting on his life the pensioner, who considers himself a devout Catholic, believes he has been “protected” from harm.
“I shouldn’t be alive, simple as that. With the people I’ve had to deal with, the State, government, police criminals…you name it. I’ve always been protected.”
*This story originally appeared in the Irish Daily Star in August, 2016.
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