The Book Black Mass had as a subtitle “The Irish Mob, the FBI, and the Devil Deal.” The Devil Deal was the relationship between the FBI and its Top Echelon Informants (TEIs). The mob I assumed was the Winter Hill Gang (WHG). The FBI had TEIs in the Mafia but I don’t think that the authors were referring to that as the Irish mob.
Truth be told, there was no deal with WHG. The deal was between the FBI and James “Whitey” Bulger and Stevie Flemmi, one Irish and the other Italian. Two don’t make a mob so we have to look further.
I suppose if the authors of Black Mass were pressed to explain they would agree that the WHG is what they were referring to when they spoke of an Irish Mob. Some have suggested that if we could look into their dark hearts we would see that what they meant by Irish Mob was Whitey Bulger and his brother, Billy, against whom they had an irrational abhorrence. But I’ll assume that’s not who they meant.
You won’t find this out reading Black Mass but there were other gangster groups in the Boston area other than the WHG and Mafia. The meanest was the Roxbury gang. It hung around in Roxbury and the South End (not to be confused with South Boston). That Roxbury group consisting of among others Steve Flemmi, Jimmy Flemmi, Frank Salemme, John Martorano, and Jimmy Martorano, Italians all. They, the Salemme and Jimmy Flemmi excepted, would join up with the WHG at the end of the 1960s Boston gang wars.
When the Roxbury group decided to move over to work with the Somerville group there was no WHG. There was the Winter Group consisting of Howie Winter, German background, Joe McDonald and Jimmy Sims from Scottish backgrounds. Howie was the leader but Joe McDonald was the most feared because of his temper and drinking. When Whitey joined, the WHG consisted of two Scottish guys, a German, and three Italians. How then did it get tagged as an Irish mob? Do you think it may have had something to do with the Brahmin-owned newspaper the authors worked for? Some suggest they were as much afeared of the Irish as the were of Ebola. They thought like Ebola that once Irish entered a body it would take it over.
Then there’s the Boston Gang Wars often called the Irish Gang wars. This supposedly started in the early 1980s allegedly stemming from a fracas that happened on Labor Day in 1981 at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire between members of the Irish McLaughlins from Charlestown and Buddy McLean’s group from Somerville. That year, on October 31, 1981, Buddy McLean murdered Bernie McLaughlin and did two years in jail on a gun charge. After that it was almost three years before another murder occurred so dating that event back to the isolated incidents in 1981 never made much sense.
The real murder spree started in 1964. Most of the killings were not done by the McLaughlin/McLean group but by other groups mainly the Roxbury group, the East Boston group under Joe “the Animal” Barboza, and the Mafia. The biggest killers were Steven Flemmi, Frankie Salemme, Larry Baione and John Martorano. (Whitey was in prison at the time.) Of the fifty or so people murdered in that war, less than one-third were Irish and even a less number belonged to the McLaughin or McLean groups.
The use of the terms “Irish Mob” and “Irish Gang War” all unfairly cast aspersions on the Irish. Just because some Irish may be involved in gangster activities doesn’t turn them into Irish events. Doing this wrongly identifies the source of much criminal activity which may let the real gangsters not of Irish heritage escape censure.
G.K.Chesterton, a Brit, wrote: “The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad, For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.” We may be mad but by God we are not gangsters.