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Garda speaks of fighting for his life against gangland criminal armed with grenade and gun

Sergeant Andrew O’Connor received an excellence award at the AGSI conference in Killarney.

Sergeant Andrew O'Connor who received an excellence award at the AGSI conference in Killarney.
Sergeant Andrew O'Connor who received an excellence award at the AGSI conference in Killarney.
Image: Niall O'Connor/The Journal

AN UNARMED GARDA who fought in a life and death struggle to disarm a well-known gangland criminal has spoken about the terrifying moment.

Sergeant Andrew O’Connor and his garda colleagues Conor Garland and Niall Minnock were on patrol when they received a call about a man armed with a machine gun in Ballymun.

Sergeant O’Connor, who is a member of the local drugs unit in the area, was on enquiries on the night in March 2019.

The report was that a man was firing shots and terrorising his neighbours in the housing estate.

When they arrived they found Derek “Bottler” Devoy armed with a submachine gun. As the gardaí moved in he fired on them, with bullets hitting the wall just inches behind them.

As they struggled with the notorious criminal they then noticed a grenade without a pin – army bomb disposal experts would later discover that a rusty detonator failed to explode.

Devoy was arrested and later sentenced to 17 years imprisonment.  

Yesterday O’Connor was honoured with an excellence award as a delegate at the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) conference in Killarney.   

“I have over 20 years experience in the job from all aspects of it, and I’ve done jobs overseas, but it’s not your usual day’s work no matter what way you look at it,” he said. “And luckily it’s not something that happens very often in this country.”

You expect to go home at the end of your tour of duty, that’s what we all do when we go out to work – it’s only a job at the end of the day. So to come across something like that – there was a number of rounds fired very close to me and nearly struck  Garda Niall Minnock in the head because he was directly behind me.

“It’s something that would make you think quite often about your safety out and about while working, even with the experience we had between the three of us working in gangland environments,” the garda sergeant said.

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Devoy (37), from Balbutcher Lane, Poppintree, Ballymun, Dublin 11 previously admitted possessing a 9mm Makarov PM63 RAK submachine gun with intent to endanger life and in suspicious circumstances at Cranogue Road, Ballymun, Dublin 11 on 11 March 2019.

The convicted criminal had also pleaded guilty to two charges under Section 19 of the Public Order Act for assaulting Garda Conor Garland and Sergeant Andrew O’Connor in the execution of their duty at Cranogue Road, Ballymun, Dublin 11 on the same date.

Devoy had further pleaded guilty to possessing an explosive substance, to wit a Yugoslavian M75 hand grenade with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to a property at Cranogue Road, Ballymun, Dublin 11 on the same occasion.

At the sentence hearing presiding judge Mr Justice Tony Hunt observed that Devoy “effectively ran amok in a densely populated suburban area” in the middle of the afternoon “by brandishing and using two lethal items”, a loaded semi-automatic machine gun and a hand grenade.

A subsequent investigation revealed that both of these items were viable and capable of causing significant death, injury and destruction in each case, he explained.

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