Northern Ireland

Gangland enforcer Kevin Conway ordered vulnerable people to take out credit union loans to clear drug debts

Lurgan man shot dead in west Belfast on Tuesday

West Belfast murder victim Kevin Conway

Gangland enforcer Kevin Conway ordered vulnerable people who owed money to his ruthless drugs gang take out credit union loans to clear their debts.

The father-of-two, who was originally from the Kilwilkie estate in Lurgan, was shot multiple times in his home at Rosnareen in the Andersonstown area of west Belfast on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old has been described as an enforcer for the notorious Co Armagh based drugs gang known as The Firm.

Informed sources say he was well known in his hometown for collecting debts for the despised narco-gang.

Mr Conway was shot dead almost a year to the day after Lurgan man Shane Whitla was also gunned down in Lurgan.

He was one of three men charged in relation to the Whitla murder, which took place on January 12 last year, and was alleged to have lured the victim to his “execution”.

Odhrán Kelly is now the third person to be murdered in Lurgan in the last year after the death of Natalie McNally last December and Shane Whitla (pictured) in January.
Shane Whitla was murdered in Lurgan last January

Prosecutors have claimed Mr Whitla was killed over a suspected drug debt to The Firm.

The cross-community drugs group has emerged as one of the most dangerous crime gangs operating in the north and has been implicated in murder and other crimes.

Several leading figures in the group come from republican and loyalist backgrounds, although they are not believed to be politically active.

With international links, the gang holds a tight grip on the flow of drugs across a large area of Co Armagh and surrounding districts.

With a powerbase in Lurgan, many of its key figures come from the town.

Police and forensics remain at the scene on Thursday , in relation to the murder investigation of Kevin Conway in west Belfast

A prominent member of the gang, Mr Conway was well known in the area as an enforcer and debt collector.

Informed sources say he regularly demanded payment from those who owed the gang cash.

Members of The Firm are also known to put pressure on worried relatives to settle the drug debts of their loved ones.

Sources say Mr Conway, and other members of the gang, previously told the people they targeted to take out loans with their local credit union in order to clean their slate with his crime crew.

Credit unions are lending institutions operated on behalf of the local communities.

It is believed that some people have been driven to take their own lives over debts to the The Firm.

The Irish News is aware of the suicide of a young man in the Craigavon area last year who is said to have owed members of he gang money.

A list of alleged drug dealers in the Portadown area, which was circulated on social media before Christmas, also linked a named individual to the sudden death of a teenager in north Armagh last month.