New garda powers put squeeze on gang crime
MORE than a hundred serious crime suspects have been arrested by gardai since the gangland laws were enacted last year.
And garda files on at least 14 major gangs have been submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to determine criminal charges.
Already, eight suspects have appeared before the non-jury Special Criminal Court on new gangland charges, created under the legislation introduced by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.
Two men have been charged with the most serious charge of directing a criminal organisation, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
It was introduced by the Government as part of a raft of measures drawn up in the wake of the cold-blooded murder of innocent Limerick man Roy Collins.
Mr Collins was gunned down because he had given evidence in court against a member of the feuding gangs in the city.
Six others face trial on charges of taking part in, or contributing to, a criminal organisation and, if convicted, they could be sent to jail for up to 15 years.
Others have been charged with serious offences which range from possession of firearms to drug trafficking, threats to kill, theft, demanding money with menaces and aggravated burglary.
Gardai have made a total of 101 arrests so far following investigations into the criminal activities of gangs not only in Dublin and Limerick, but also into the activities of gangs based in other parts of the country.
Gardai are also targeting suspects involved in ATM robberies in the south-east and in Border counties, a large criminal group involved in a range of crimes in the south eastern region, and another serious crime outfit based in Galway.
It is expected that the DPP will order criminal charges in connection with the majority of those investigations, including a lengthy probe into the activities of one of the gangs involved in the north inner city feud, which has claimed at least four lives since 2006.
This resulted in 33 searches in five counties and the seizure of two fully-loaded handguns in the inner city, as well as a drugs haul in Cork.
The anti-gangland legislation is being operated in tandem with the Criminal Justice (Surveillance) Act and in most of the cases where the DPP has directed criminal charges to date, gardai have been providing evidence obtained by using the surveillance laws to support their overall case against a gangland suspect.
Gardai have also made significant progress recently in their inquiries into a number of murders, deemed to be gangland-related.
This progress has been made despite the reluctance of witnesses to the crimes to come forward because of intimidation or fear.
Gangland links account for about a third of the murders carried out this year, according to official statistics.