Victim's father hails anti-gangland laws
The father of a murdered Limerick businessman today hailed the renewal of controversial anti-gangland laws which he says have transformed the city.
Steve Collins said legislation brought in a year ago after his son Roy was shot dead, because his family gave evidence in a criminal trial, was bringing people back on to the streets.
"There's been a huge push of in-your-face policing by the gardai and gangs are starting to break up, and it's all down to the fact they have these powers now," he said.
"These are strong laws and they are going to prove to be the turning point in this gangland problem."
The Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act, brought in last July, allowed gangsters to be brought before the non-jury Special Criminal Court.
It also introduced new offences of directing and taking part in organised crime.
Despite opposition from civil liberties campaigners, it is set to be extended for another year after being passed through a Dail committee during its yearly review today.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said 69 people have been arrested under the provisions since its introduction.
Two people - Galway brothers Eddie O'Loughlin, 26, from Rahoon, and Michael O'Loughlin, 29, from Ballybane - have been charged with directing a criminal organisation and six others have been charged with participating in a criminal organisation.
Mr Ahern said the arrests have also resulted in other charges being brought for firearms offences, drug trafficking, threats to kill, theft and aggravated burglary.
"Let me be blunt about it - the thugs involved in organised crime are desperate people who will stop at nothing to avoid being brought to account for their crimes," the minister said.
"Violence and intimidation are a way of life for these people and we have a duty to make sure that the criminal justice system can hold sway over them.
"To that end, we must ensure that in the most serious of cases, where jury intimidation is a real possibility, the law has a means available to bring serious criminals to account."
But Pat Rabbitte, Labour justice spokesman, said simply enforcing previously existing laws would crack down on gangland criminality.
"I read in the newspapers this time last year about 300 gangland leaders being rounded up as soon as the president would sign this Bill into law," he said.
"Now that hasn't happened. I think that says the solution here may not be more law, that the solution is enforcement of the law we already have through the ordinary courts system."
Mr Rabbitte said not one case in the last year had been referred to the non-jury Special Criminal Court by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
However, he added he would give Mr Ahern "the benefit of the doubt" that more time was needed.
"We'll see in the 12 months ahead whether it will be any more productive than it has been in the last 12," he said.
Mr Collins insisted gangland bosses around Limerick have been rounded up as a direct result of the legislation.
"It is frustrating that it hasn't happened quicker but I know in the next month or so there will be some activity as a result of it," he said.
"It's a matter of waiting for the Director of Public Prosecutions to make sure the cases are watertight, and it does take time."