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Thursday 27 October 2016

Fitzgerald in U-turn as she finally accepts gardaí lack resources

Niall O'Connor and Philip Ryan

Published 01/06/2016 | 02:30

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke

The Government has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown on gangland crime after it finally admitted that gardaí are in desperate need of additional resources to tackle the country's most dangerous gangsters.

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Less than a week after claiming that the force was adequately resourced, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald performed a public U-turn and pledged a suite of new measures in response to the "unprecedented" gangland crisis which has led to seven murders in Dublin in recent weeks.

Ms Fitzgerald also bowed to mounting public and political pressure by announcing the establishment of a new Garda task force, as well as measures to beef up the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB).

The measures will see the threshold of money that can be seized from criminals reduced from €13,000 to €5,000.

Ms Fitzgerald is also proposing to slash the threshold for seizing cash suspected of being the proceeds of crime from €6,500 to €1,000.

Officials from the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection will also be drafted in to target the assets of criminals as part of the Government's overall response.

The Cabinet also heard about future proposals to update the law in relation to covert electronic surveillance.

Read More: 'Gardai are working under a skeleton service - more recruitment is needed' - GRA boss

Ms Fitzgerald is due to meet her counterparts from Holland, Portugal and Belgium to discuss a "transnational" response to the gangland crisis next week.

"However long it takes, whatever resources are necessary, we will face down the activities of these ruthless gangs," Ms Fitzgerald said yesterday.

The measures announced by Ms Fitzgerald were welcomed by both Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan and the Garda Representative Association.

It has emerged that several measures were specifically sought by the commissioner during discussions with Ms Fitzgerald in the wake of the Gareth Hutch murder last week.

However, there was confusion last night over how the new Garda task force and proposals for additional overtime would be funded.


Spokespersons for both Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Ms Fitzgerald were unable to say how much additional money was being used to tackle the gangland crisis.

Nevertheless, they insisted that gardaí will be given all the necessary resources.

Fianna Fáil's justice spokespeople Jim O'Callaghan said: "The measures are a start but don't go far enough."

It's understood that the Garda overtime budget has already significantly exceeded targets and that any additional spend will have to be agreed with Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Last night, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said the Government's response was "not the be all and end all".

Mr Kenny declined to take questions on the justice crisis as he attended an event in Dublin city last night.

Speaking at the launch of a book on judicial appointments by the political scientist Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Mr Kenny said the system for appointing judges should have more democratic participation.

He added that the system of appointing judges had been looked on with "interest if not suspicion" by the public.

The Taoiseach said a significant review of the appointment process was under way and there was a commitment in the programme for a complete overhaul of how judges are selected

He added: "At least the people can throw the Government out, when the judges are appointed it is not as simple should things go wrong."

Irish Independent

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