Monday 16 January 2017

Paul Williams: State of Fear - 'Criminals don’t do recession, they’re wealthier, more confident… and more dangerous'

Published 29/11/2016 | 23:01

John Gilligan at Portlaoise prison. Picture: TV3/Paul Williams: State of Fear
John Gilligan at Portlaoise prison. Picture: TV3/Paul Williams: State of Fear

Tuesday night's second part of Paul Williams: State of Fear on TV3 continued the examination of Irish organised crime, from the shocking 1996 killings of Veronica Guerin and Jerry McCabe, to the current turf war between the Kinahan and Hutch gangs.

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Here are eight key moments from the second show: 

1. The film opened with a chilling premonition of the future, as Veronica explained to Pat Kenny in an interview that “I did consider getting out of (crime journalism), but then I realised that would probably be more of a strain than staying in. And it’s my job, it’s what I do and somebody has to do it. I’m not the only crime reporter – and the regrettable thing is that we’re probably all targets.”

2. Tom O’Loughlin was one of the main investigators on Veronica’s murder. He said that their “big challenge was to identify how to get information from the core of this group. A number of them weren’t hard-core criminals – we hoped they would be weak links.” It turned out that Charlie Bowden and Russell were just that, eventually cracking after questioning and becoming, as Williams put it, “Ireland’s first supergrasses”. They were also the first Irish people placed in witness protection.

John Gilligan parties with inmates at Portlaoise prison. Picture: TV3/Paul Williams: State of Fear
John Gilligan parties with inmates at Portlaoise prison. Picture: TV3/Paul Williams: State of Fear

3. Amazingly, we discovered, while four men were convicted of the Jerry McCabe killing, the case is officially still open – as two IRA suspects remain at large.

4. The technology involved in fighting crime has changed significantly in the last 20 years. For instance, during investigations into the murders in Limerick of Shane Geoghegan and Roy Collins, CCTV footage which had been captured and stored could later be retrieved and re-examined, in order to corroborate later witness evidence.

5. The Limerick gang feud, which bedevilled the southern city throughout the Noughties, was described by one local as “urban warfare using paramilitary weaponry”.

6. The most significant development in the last 20 years, Paul said, was the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau within two months of Veronica’s murder. It was the first agency of its kind in Europe – and their first target was John and Geraldine Gilligan and their equestrian centre at Jessbrook, bought and paid for with blood money.

7. Herald crime journalist Ken Foy said, worryingly, that the whole gang scene nowadays is “a lot more violent than it would have been in 1996.” And a big reason for this is “cocaine, which became a lot more prevalent during the Celtic Tiger. Massive profits means a lot more gangs intent on protecting their turf.” The Christy Kinahan cartel is the main supplier of illegal drugs to other Irish gangs.

8. Possibly the most damaging development in recent years has been the 2008 Garda recruitment ban and slashing of overtime. “Crucially,” Williams said, “This led to a reduction of more than 1500 experienced officers – and when they left, all of that corporate memory went with them, resulting in a massive deficit of intelligence. That in turn contributed to what we saw in the Regency Hotel.” The problem, he concluded, is that “criminals don’t do recession. They’ve got wealthier, more confident…and more dangerous.”

(Pat Kenny Tonight will follow up this two-part documentary with a debate on organised crime in Ireland on Wednesday evening.)

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