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Thursday 29 September 2016

Minister for Justice: Armed gardai on streets as long as needed

Published 15/02/2016 | 12:19

Frances Fitzgerald said an extra 1,800 gardai will be recruited by a re-elected administration to stand up to ruthless gangs
Frances Fitzgerald said an extra 1,800 gardai will be recruited by a re-elected administration to stand up to ruthless gangs

ARMED gardaí will remain on the streets of Dublin for as long as is necessary, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said.

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She has told the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan that funding will be provided for officers to remain highly visible until the current threat of revenge attacks passes – and then beyond that, if required.

“The resources are there for that level of intensity for as long as she (the Commissioner) deems necessary,” said Ms Fitzgerald.

“The goal in the first instance is to avoid further death or trouble.”

She told the Irish Independent that “every possible precaution is in place to prevent further bloodshed” ahead of the funeral of Regency Hotel victim David Byrne today and Eddie Hutch Snr’s funeral later this week.

She continued: “The context here is that we are dealing with some very ruthless gangs and we’re in a revenge cycle.

“We don’t want any further examples of what has happened. It’s a very challenging situation for An Garda Síochána.”

The minister paid tribute to the hundreds of “men and women of An Garda Síochána who are out there taking risks”, adding: “It’s a challenging and volatile situation.”

There was a substantial garda presence in Crumlin last night for Mr Byrne’s wake, which took place between 3pm and 6pm.

His funeral Mass is scheduled to take place in the Church of St Nicolas of Myra on Francis Street at 12.30pm today.

His remains will then be taken to Mount Jerome Cemetery.

No date has yet been set for the funeral of Mr Hutch as efforts are under way to secure temporary release from prison for his son, Alan Hutch.

Sources said the only comparable event in terms of the number of armed police on the streets of the capital in recent memory was the visit of Queen Elizabeth in 2011.

Ms Fitzgerald said she obtained a detailed update from the Commissioner over the weekend and described the operation now in place as “huge”.

She pointed out that gardaí are now working closely with authorities in Spain and The Netherlands to monitor the movements of criminals linked to a variety of gangs.

Ms Fitzgerald said “no country is immune”, gardaí now have a good network of international contacts and there were ongoing talks in relation to terrorism and gang crime.

These had intensified in recent months and at the last meeting of justice and home affairs ministers there was a significant discussion around better ways of sharing data.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “This is an international crime business. This is their full-time business. They are using every method available and we have to match them.

“Obviously, there is a very big international aspect to this as well. We have liaison officers in Spain, Holland and the UK.”

Speaking about the threats that have been made to a number of journalists from Independent News and Media who have covered the incidents over the past 10 days, Ms Fitzgerald said: “Where there is a threat to journalists, there is a threat to everyone in society.”

But she added: “There is no question, we will stand them down. We have done it before in Limerick and after the death of Veronica Guerin.”

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