THE Liberties in Dublin is like the Markets area of Belfast in more ways that one.
Both areas have a tradition of street and market trading; both are close knit communities; both areas have populations that have endured economic hardship and have populations that are renowned for their enterprise and endurance.
Both areas are also afflicted by crime and drugs - and both areas have local mafias who believe they can kill with impunity. In both areas, the local mafia is the IRA.
The similarities are not only broad, they are particular. On Sunday, January 30, the IRA in the Markets area killed Robert McCartney, a father of two boys who happened to have incurred the wrath of the local IRA boss. The murder happened outside a packed pub.
Last Sunday, the head of the IRA in the Liberties shot dead Jim Curran, a well-respected local man and father-of-one who was also unafraid of the IRA mafia. The murder also happened in a pub where the IRA in the area were drinking.
The reason for Mr Curran's murder is unclear. However, it is known that the IRA boss - who doubles as a Sinn Fein election worker - hated the 42-year-old champion kickboxer.
Neighbours said it is possible that Mr Curran had taunted the IRA men for taking money from heroin dealers.
There was an incident in another pub in the area after Christmas, in which two IRA members were similarly taunted for openly taking cash from heroin dealers. Gardai are trying to establish if it was Mr Curran who taunted two IRA men, both of whom were former leading "anti-drugs" vigilantes in the south inner city.
Whatever the reason, Jim Curran made the fatal mistake of going for a quiet drink in the Green Lizard pub last Sunday night, apparently oblivious to the fact that there was a small group of IRA men on the premises.
According to local people, one of the IRA men left shortly after Curran entered the bar and returned about half an hour later. It is believed he went off to collect a gun and delivered it to the head of the IRA in the area, who had been drinking in the bar.
The IRA boss then calmly got up out of his seat, walked up behind Jim Curran and shot him in the head. He then fired another two shots into his head as he lay slumped on the floor.
The IRA man made no attempt to conceal his identity. He walked from the bar and went into hiding.
As in the case of Robert McCartney's murder outside Magennis's bar in Belfast city centre, almost everyone in the Liberties knows what happened in the Green Lizard last Sunday night.
Unlike Belfast, however, the people of the Liberties are prepared to speak. Although gardai will not confirm if they have witnesses at this stage, it is understood they have eye-witness evidence that could lead to an arrest and charge.
Last Monday, gardai arrested an associate of the IRA man who was known to have been in the bar, but it is understood he told them he saw nothing. A female relative of the IRA man was also arrested. Both were later released without charge.
Another suspected eye witness was arrested on Friday morning as gardai searched for the murder weapon, which has still to be found.
The murder of a popular figure like Jim Curran has exposed what people in the Liberties say is a local IRA which has turned into a crime syndicate. They say the IRA men responsible are, like the members of the gang that killed Mr McCartney, "scum".
One woman said that the weekend before Mr Curran was murdered, the local IRA boss had groped a girl in the Green Lizard and had then made an issue of offering an apology which he felt was not accepted properly.
"He's filth," the woman said, adding that the IRA boss and his gang, including members of his immediate family, have terrorised the local community for a generation.
"They're called the hammer gang, here," she said, a reference used by other community members, and which relates to the belief that the IRA man and his henchmen used hammers to attack victims.
The IRA boss is loathed and feared in equal measure. Ten years ago he led a gang which attacked and savagely beat his own sister after her son was accused of dealing drugs. They beat the woman mercilessly, fracturing her ribs.
He is also reputed to have tortured a young local woman - again accused of drug dealing - with a lighter. The woman and her partner were forced out of their home, which was subsequently handed over to another well-known IRA figure.
The IRA man who shot Jim Curran is said to have become rich through providing "protection" for selected and well-known drug dealers.
His nephew - the same man whose mother was beaten - is a one of the biggest drug dealers in the south inner city, and plies his trade with apparent impunity. The IRA in the Liberties has switched from anti-drugs activism to "protectors" of drug dealers, in the same way that the Provos in the North have changed from full-time terrorists to full-time gangsters.
During the Eighties, south Dublin vigilantes terrorised local drug addicts and dealers, eventually killing a six-stone, HIV-infected addict, Josey Dwyer, in a drink-fuelled mob beating.
Twelve men were arrested but after Dwyer's best friend and witness to the killing, Alan Byrne, was shot in the back, other witnesses backed off for fear of their lives.
Byrne survived to testify but subsequently had to leave Dublin because of well-founded fears he would be murdered. Only three of the accused received jails sentences, one for manslaughter and two for violent disorder.
Sinn Fein party leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness visited the area after the killing of Dwyer and attended a meeting in a local community hall.