Thursday 29 September 2016

Minister: Gardaí must get 'more in control' of latest gangland warfare

Niall O'Connor, David Raleigh and Adam Cullen

Published 10/02/2016 | 02:30

Frances Fitzgerald speaking at the Department of Justice yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Frances Fitzgerald speaking at the Department of Justice yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

Labour Party minister Jan O'Sullivan has stoked tensions with her Cabinet colleague, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, after warning Dublin gardaí must "get more in control" of gangsters who are "outwitting the forces of law and order".

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In surprise remarks, Ms O'Sullivan said senior gardaí in the capital should follow the example set by their colleagues in her constituency of Limerick, where the problem of gangland crime has been tackled.

"While gardaí have got on top of it in Limerick, clearly there is a need in Dublin to get more in control of the situation," Ms O'Sullivan said.

"Policing [of gangland criminals] is very difficult because they protect themselves, and have people around them who clearly are clever at outwitting the forces of law and order.

"Certainly, there are issues that need to be addressed in terms of the protection of the people in those communities in Dublin."

Ms O'Sullivan's warning contrasts sharply with comments made by Ms Fitzgerald, who yesterday launched a staunch defence of gardaí and rejected accusations that intelligence failures preceded the murders of David Byrne and Eddie Hutch Snr.

Ms Fitzgerald - who held talks with Garda Commissioner Noirín O'Sullivan and senior officers yesterday - said the Government was willing to provide every resource necessary to assist gardaí in their investigations but admitted she was concerned about further retaliations.

The Dublin Mid West TD announced that €5m would be provided to set up a permanent armed response unit in Dublin, the plans of which were revealed by the Irish Independent last month.

A permanent armed response unit with 55 officers will also be established in the Dublin area.

Asked why there was no patrol at the Regency Hotel in Drumcondra on Friday, Ms Fitzgerald insisted that gardaí had no intelligence to suggest a hit was being planned.

"The reality is the gardaí work on intelligence. Obviously, if intelligence had been available, clearly the gardaí would have been there. I would be concerned at any intelligence failing, of course," she said. "But what I would say is gardaí did not have intelligence in relation to it."

However, the minister confirmed gardaí would examine why some 999 calls went unanswered.

Violence

The Garda Commissioner, who is under pressure to get a handle on the gang warfare which has erupted, said there would be an "organisation-wide response" to the violence and sought to reassure the public that as well as an active investigation, preventative measures to quell the violence were also being implemented.

These included dedicated armed patrols right throughout the city, which will continue into the coming days.

She maintained intelligence-led operations were also continuing "both nationally and internationally".

"As you know, we have extensive and very good working relationships with colleagues and foreign police agencies and those relationships will continue in relation to these investigations," she added.

Both murders put crime and security on top of the political agenda. Taoiseach Enda Kenny pledged the specialist Garda units would be provided with the kinds of weapons they needed to counter the gang warfare.

"We're not powerless at all. It does show you the level of professionalism and resources that criminal gangs have on the basis of illegal activities, mostly concerning drugs," said Mr Kenny, on the campaign trail in Co Wicklow yesterday.

Asked whether he feared more bloodshed, the Fine Gael leader replied: "Gangland criminals have no respect for life or limb or for law and order . . . I think there's a situation here of very high alert from the Garda Síochána."

Irish Independent

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