Tom Brady: Sheer madness of Government decision to stop garda recruitment now laid bare
Published 25/05/2016 | 02:30
The latest gangland feud murder has underlined again the sheer madness of the government decision to stop Garda recruitment at the start of the recession and severely curtail resources.
It seems we never learn lessons from the past.
Each time the gardaí have been denuded of resources, the nation has suffered in terms of serious crime spiralling out of control. Now the force has been hit by an intelligence deficit that encourages the gangsters to exploit what they see as weaknesses in the organisation tasked with confronting them.
In previous decades, the focus which was rightly put on the terror threat posed by the Provisional IRA and its breakaway offshoots, also led to resources being deflected away from the fight against serious crime.
This meant that the growth of Ireland's drug problems in the 1970s and 1980s was largely ignored by the garda authorities.
Ironically, one of the young officers to spot the need for a new approach to tackling the drug traffickers was Nóirín O'Sullivan, who help to set up an ad-hoc unit known as The Mockies in the early stages of a career that now sees her in overall charge of the force.
Eventually, sufficient resources were devoted to combating the problem. But mistakes were repeated in the 1990s when few were aware of the strength of the criminal organisation that had been built up by John Gilligan and his associates until the murder of 'Sunday Independent' journalist Veronica Guerin.
The recent five-year moratorium on recruitment left the force with a shortage of personnel that will take another few years to fill, despite the current intakes of fresh blood at the Garda College in Templemore.
But the lack of career advancement through the knock-on clampdown on promotion has also resulted in a loss of experience and corporate knowledge, particularly in some specialist areas.
A cursory examination of the current gangland feud shows it is a very one-sided affair with six of the seven victims shot dead because of perceived links to the Hutch faction, or in the case of innocent by-stander Martin O'Rourke, hit in a gun attack meant to target another Hutch "supporter".
Gardaí say they have made significant progress investigating those murders and have recovered potential evidence that could prove crucial down the line.
But to date most of that progress, in terms of arrests and charges, relates to inquiries into the activities of the Hutch faction.
There seems to be big gaps in their intelligence on and penetration of the ranks of the global crime empire run by Christy Kinahan.
This has prevented the gardaí from gathering vital information on the planned movements of the Kinahan gunmen, culminating in incidents like yesterday.
But it is also a key factor that the Kinahan activities are being directed from the Costa del Sol and more recently Dubai.
Last February, the Irish Independent suggested that the gardaí might return to a previous tactic of putting "boots on the ground" abroad.
Despite the huge amount of work achieved by the gardaí through Operation Shovel, the Spanish-led operation has so far resulted in nobody being jailed.
There is no need for any panic measures such as arming more of the garda force or setting up a plethora of new units.
The gardaí have faced down thugs similar to the feuding gangs in the past - Limerick's criminals are a recent example.
But they need to be in a position to collect the vital intelligence to again put them one step ahead of the criminals.