Thursday 25 May 2017

'It's more dangerous', Gardaí say Hutch/Kinahan feud has led to riskier operations

Stock photo of armed gardai in Dublin and inset Gerry Hutch and Christy Kinahan
Stock photo of armed gardai in Dublin and inset Gerry Hutch and Christy Kinahan

Robin Schiller

Gardai targeting drug dealers in the capital have said that their work has become more dangerous since the Hutch/Kinahan feud erupted more than a year ago.

So far, the deadly rivalry has claimed 11 lives, with at least 20 more saved by both local and national Garda units.

However, despite the intense feuding, gardai responsible for disrupting drug dealers in the inner city said that the supply of, and demand for, illegal drugs is continuing.

Between February 1 and April 10, the Drug Unit based in Store Street - under the command of Chief Superintendent Pat Leahy - seized a massive €375,650 of drugs and arrested 72 people for drug dealing offences.

"What's happened doesn't stop the day-to-day selling of drugs. It's still about making money. It has got more dangerous," Garda Sergeant Ciaran Whelan of the DMR North Central Drug Unit told the Herald.

His colleague, Garda Sergeant Eric Kelly, added that the increase in firearms in the local area has led to more high-risk operations for the two sergeants and their 14 dedicated gardai.

"Potentially there are more firearms on the street. The [Operation] Spire lads recently did a search as a follow-up to somebody they caught on the street selling heroin," he said.

"They only searched recently and went into the house. They found drugs but also found a loaded firearm in there.

"That loaded firearm was given to this particular person as part of the feud to protect themselves.

"They can't differentiate between a plain-clothed garda and a potential person that's coming to shoot them.

"So they're going to take extra precaution, so we have to take extra precaution... you just don't know what's behind that door and who is in it."

Threat

Sgt Whelan added: "Just the way our lads are dressed and stuff you have to fit in.

"But to someone who has a threat on them, one of our lads is a stranger and he doesn't know why he's there and he might not always take the chance that he is a guard and may react differently.

"It doesn't stop us doing our job, we'll keep doing it, but for me as a sergeant and their boss we have to be conscious of that."

The two experienced officers also said that the work of the Drug Unit has evolved in the last few years, due largely to Chief Supt Leahy introducing a Divisional Asset Profiling Unit to target the proceeds of drug dealing.

Working in tandem with other units has also helped them tackle drug dealing in the area.

Chief Supt Leahy was recently selected to be promoted to the rank of Assistant Garda Commissioner after playing a key role in the investigation of the Hutch/Kinahan feud.

"We have evolved a bit now in the way we target a particular crew or individual," Sgt Whelan said.

"Yeah we look to get as many drugs as we can but we've taken it a step further and we now go after their assets and lifestyle as well. You have to be more patient than before."

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