Tuesday 25 October 2016

Bring back internment and show Kenny, not Kinahan, rules the streets of Dublin

Published 26/05/2016 | 02:30

Cartoonist: Ken Lee
Cartoonist: Ken Lee

We feared it could go this way. I was in Cabinet back in 1996 when Veronica Guerin was murdered.

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The nation shuddered in shock and then the gardaí struck back with a massive response. The spiral of murders in the capital in recent months demands a similar reaction.

When we reach a point where it is possible to watch murders on CCTV episodically, the public has a right to worry but the Government has a duty to respond.

We have crossed a Rubicon on law enforcement. The question that will be on the minds of many, given this unprecedented killing spree in the heart of the capital, is: Who rules the streets, Kinahan or Kenny?

Taoiseach Enda Kenny may find himself in charge of the weakest ever Government in the history of the State, but he has an opportunity to show real leadership now.

He must signal that there is zero tolerance and bring a swift end to this spiral of murderous criminality.

Specifically, he must set up a strike force and he must draw on the experience of senior gardaí who have left the force.

The Garda lost far too much of its expertise in allowing a top-tier of management to retire. It could scarcely afford to dispense with such a reservoir of experience and expertise. Somehow, a way must be found to have these senior officers redeployed, if only on a contract or temporary basis.

Secondly, there can be no legal impediment to going after the murderers. If this means a temporary reintroduction of internment to target a specific category of criminal, then Kenny should not be squeamish about doing so. The gangs are staking out their turf, so it is time the State took it back.

The international dimension must not be excluded. It is too easy for Irish criminals to go abroad and amass massive fortunes and live rock-star lifestyles without the law laying a hand on them or their billion-euro assets.

They must not be able to live with impunity on the Costas. Countries like Spain, which is the favoured destination for these killers, must be seen to do everything they can to make even the sunny Costa del Sol a cold place for cash-rich criminals.

There is a proud tradition within Fine Gael of being the party of law and order but the Blueshirts are in danger of falling behind.

When killing follows killing without a massive and effective security and political response, things can only get worse.

Dublin is our capital city and its streets must not become a killing zone where predatory drug gangs can declare open season at will.

The security writers tell us that this is a one-sided affair. The Kinahans have massive resources, with their own murder squad.

They can call in favours from other international drug gangs.

The Hutch family and their friends are being picked off. Sources have said that 10 more could be killed before this particular vendetta will end.

Former justice minister Dermot Ahern has described what was done to take out the gangs in Limerick. A heavily armed Emergency Response Unit, backed up by as many other gardaí and undercover detectives as it took, was dispatched to get into the faces of the killers.

It worked.

If the godfathers are empowered to pull the strings overseas in the Costas, then those strings must be cut.

The gardaí too must call in favours. We must call on our EU partners and Interpol and all of Europe's law enforcement agencies to mobilise against these drug barons.

This is a global virus and has to be tackled accordingly.

Kenny sounded extremely weak when he told Micheál Martin in the Dáil in the aftermath of the brutal slaying of Gareth Hutch that he could not personally put an end to the dispute between the two families.

The buck stops at the top. Kenny needs to get proactive. His Tánaiste and Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, has been anything but a reassuring presence.

Last week, we saw gardaí march on Leinster House over morale in the force, which is said to be through the floor.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan is caught in a growing controversy over leaked transcripts from the O'Higgins investigation.

There are clear discrepancies between Ms O'Sullivan's stated support for whistleblower Maurice McCabe and allegations about her directions to her legal team, which appear to challenge his motivations and credibility.

Even more alarming were the claims about two gardaí threatening to undermine Mr McCabe in a conversation which he taped.

These are grave matters which have cast a cloud over our police force at a time when it is threatened by an escalating drug war and the growing menace of dissidents.

Ms O'Sullivan and Ms Fitzgerald need to deal with these issues immediately. There must be no distractions as all their energies need to be concentrated on keeping our streets safe.

In Limerick, it took the death of civilians to galvanise the government and the gardaí to move.

Innocent people have already been murdered in the Kinahan vendetta, but we are as far away as ever from the kind of coordinated shock-and-awe response that is demanded.

Irish Independent

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