Finally, gardaí will get a chance to cut the head off the Kinahan snake
Published 03/06/2016 | 02:30
If you want to eliminate a serpent, you have to cut off its head. And now, four months after the Regency hotel murder that brought the Kinahan-Hutch feud onto the streets of Dublin, it has been agreed that the gardaí are to go after the head.
Since the shooting of David Byrne at a boxing weigh-in in February, gardaí have achieved considerable success in terms of arrests and seizures as they chopped off some of the tentacles of the feuding gangs that operate here.
But they cannot be confident they will stop the relentless bloodshed of the leaders of the global Kinahan crime cartel, who orchestrated almost all of the killings from overseas, until they get to grips with the 'top executives' of that international murder machine.
A week after the Regency murder, the Irish Independent began campaigning to put garda "boots on the ground" where it mattered overseas.
It's a tactic that has yielded major dividends in the past - when detectives from the then Garda National Drugs Unit (GNDU) were sent to Spain to liaise with local police under Operation Shovel, and to the Netherlands as part of Operation Majestic.
Shovel did not lead to the results anticipated by the gardaí when they provided the initial information that kick-started that operation after a huge drugs seizure at Clongorey, Newbridge, Co Kildare. It did not secure the convictions of the main targets on the Costa del Sol.
However, it did seriously disrupt the Irish network through the development of personal contacts between the gardaí and their counterparts in Spain, hitting the overlords in their pockets.
This rostered deployment of personnel over a period of around 18 months meant gardaí built up a relationship that allowed officers to make a telephone call to arrange for the monitoring of suspects abroad if they had intelligence. It beat going through the time-costly protocols that govern bureaucratic channels.
- Read more: A huge, huge conglomerate': Gardai target Kinahan cartel and its work with Russian gangs and Spanish mafia
Similar relationships built up with Dutch officers also yielded big dividends when the GNDU, with the help of the Rotterdam organised crime unit, smashed a drug trafficking network responsible for importing over €40m worth of cannabis into Ireland and the UK over the previous year-and-a-half.
But with the recession and cutbacks in budgets, the gardaí eventually had to resort to previous methods of going through an overworked liaison officer in Madrid or Amsterdam.
Now senior gardaí have indicated they are ready to send more operational officers overseas again, and this will be expanded to include exchanges of personnel with the Spanish, Dutch and UK forces - and any other police agencies that could help achieve their targets.
It will take time to build those relationships again and reap the dividends against the top tier of the Kinahan organisation.
In the meantime, the gardaí will step up their focus at home on the second tier - who carry out the commands of the bosses, either through fear of refusal or financial motives, such as paying off drug debts.This will involve extending garda activities from Dublin's inner city and suburbs to the commuter counties where many of the facilitators currently live.
The setting up of a special crime task force will help co-ordinate and streamline the activities of special units such as the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, the Criminal Assets Bureau and local divisional drug units - and also bring together and share the intelligence that is being collected separately at the moment by those groups.
It is understood that about 50 personnel will be recruited initially to form this task force without interfering with the strengths of the other specialist units, including dedicated young officers - undergoing special short-term training for their crime-busting duties - and the group will then be expanded as senior gardaí review its operational value.
Gardaí have been assured by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald that other force budgets will not be raided to cover the additional costs, including overtime, that are incurred by the anti-gangland operations.
An extra €5m was allocated to gardaí in February to fund the initial operations, but the Government now acknowledges that a lot more will be required.